Monday, February 25, 2013

Review: Taming the Bander

Taming the Bander
Taming the Bander by Summer Devon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Bander is Jake’s last name, but it’s also what he is. Banders are rare; for all he knows, Jake is the last of his kind. Which, as he tells himself, is just fine, he likes being on his own best anyway. After all, he needs to protect the secret of his dual nature in order to be able to live his life in peace. So he cultivates the grumpy misanthropic image he has copied from his friend and mentor Walton, avoiding to form bonds of any kind to anyone, and has built walls around his heart as thick as Fort Knox’s ever since the only man whom he ever trusted turned out to be more interested in the bander than in Jake.

It works for Jake.

Until he meets Vaughn, that is, a man who looks like the spitting image of the man who betrayed him once and yet couldn’t be more different.

Vaughn used to live for pleasure, traveling the world for fun and only doing what catches his fancy at any given moment, his only care in life avoiding boredom. He was born rich and thought he’d always be. But one day, all his wealth is gone, and suddenly Vaughn needs to earn his living. By chance more than anything, Vaughn gets a hold on a job as a manual laborer at the Ark, the animal sanctuary run by Jake, and he’s determined to do anything in his power to keep it. For one, he finds to his surprise that he likes the physical work. And for another, the Ark is where Jake is, and that’s where Vaughn wants to be.

Vaughn and Jake have met before, mutual disconcertment rapidly turning into equally mutual fascination. But while Vaughn throws himself wholeheartedly into the novel experience of working hard and getting under Jake’s skin, Jake shies away, along the lines of once bitten, twice shy. However, Jake can’t resist Vaughn’s charm for long.

This story in and of itself followed many oft-walked paths of (m/m) romance , but it was told in such a lighthearted tone that it flowed easily and smoothly, and yet never turned fluffy or trivial. It was a delight to see Jake interact with the teenage volunteers, the animals and with his mentor Walton, all gruff and bristles and golden heart. And with Vaughn, of course, who was just a breath of fresh air. Sparks started to fly between those two almost right from the beginning, but once they got to know each other (and got over the obligatory cross-purposes-talking-induced misunderstanding) there was a lot more between them than mere physical attraction.

Both main characters were nicely drawn. Vaughn, on first sight a quite superficial never-do-well, turned out to be courageous, surprisingly resourceful and faithful to both his airhead cousin and of course, to Jake. And Jake, whom Vaughn initially calls a sourpuss, and quite appropriately so, shows undreamt-of devotion to Vaughn and emotional depths that motivate him to go out of his way in order to make Vaughn happy.

The actual plot was a bit far-fetched, but imaginative and consistent… and really, it was a fun story where everybody got what they deserved in the end. Well, almost everybody.

This was a refreshing change from the usual shifter fare, and not only for the fact that Jake turned into something a lot more original than a wolf, and there wasn’t a fated mate in sight.

Plus, no one growled “mine” during sex, another nice bonus point.

Instead, I got a wonderful pairing of tall, dark and silent with bright, vivid and chatty. Flintstone and spark. Rock and wind. Jake and Vaughn complement each other beautifully, even though it takes both of them a while to see that, and I had a great time being a fly on their wall. Warmly recommended.

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