Title: Warders: Volume One
Author: Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 326 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy
At a Glance: Badass demon hunters looking for true love.
Reviewed By: Caer
Blurb: Most humans live in blissful ignorance, never dreaming of the frightening surprises and paranormal danger that lurks in the night. Most… but not all. These few who stand against the darkness are the Warders, men who fight demons and square off against all kinds of creatures from the pit with only their brothers-in-arms and their lovers—their Hearths—to strengthen them in the unending battle of good versus evil.
Review: This title is a collection of three previously-published novellas: His Hearth, Tooth and Nail, and Heart in Hand. Each novella follows a different Warder (aka demon hunter) as he finds/keeps his one true love.
Finding that one true love is more of a challenge for a Warder than it might seem on the surface. Finding a partner isn’t based on love alone. Warders have the unfortunate side-effect of draining the life force from almost everyone they’re intimate with. A one-night stand leaves their partner feeling sick and weak, and the more the Warder is around after sex, the weaker their partners get. Because of that, life partners–or “hearths”–have to be someone a Warder can fall in love with and someone a Warder cannot drain.
An interesting conundrum.
In His Hearth we meet Julian first, an advertising/marketing genius who literally just found out his boyfriend was cheating on him. The problem with that, even beyond the cheating, is that he’s supposed to be celebrating his recent promotion with the higher-ups. Who wants to show up without their plus one on such an occasion?
Luckily, Ryan is there to save the day. Ryan is a local TV host who had previously worked with Julian on various professional projects. Unbeknownst to Julian, Ryan is also a Warder. Ryan has been attracted to Julian for quite awhile, but he doesn’t trust his own instincts and doubts himself. When Ryan takes a leap and Julian is receptive, Ryan then gets to introduce Julian to all things that go bump in the night. Can they trust each other enough to see them through?
I liked this one well enough. It was an easy read, laid out the bare bones (and I do mean bare bones–details are scant) of the Warder world, and introduced two likeably flawed characters. One detail I really enjoyed was the way the dynamic between the two develops and changes over the course of the story. It’s not something I see all that often in paranormal romance, and I always like to celebrate when I find it.
The second novella is Tooth and Nail, where we get two completely different characters. Malic is a gruff guy in his 30s with a life to lead and no time for nonsense. He’s drinking with friends at a bar when he breaks up an attempted rape in the men’s room. There he rescues angelic–and barely legal–Dylan, who immediately latches onto Malic as his knight in shining armor.
Malic is completely resistant to the idea, of course. He sees Dylan as entirely too young and too beautiful for someone like him, and decides it’s better to stay far away. Dylan is beyond stubborn, though, and determined to have Malic as his very own. Finding out about Warders just sweetens the pot as far as Dylan’s concerned, and he sets out to win Malic by any means necessary.
I have to admit this is my very favorite of the three stories in the book. It’s rare to see the sassy twink character as the aggressor, and yet that’s exactly what we see here. Dylan might be nineteen, but he knows who he is and what he wants, and he has no shame in pursuing it. I also love that big gruff badass Malic is complete putty in Dylan’s hands. His confusion at this switch in circumstances is palpable and endearing. Add in the nice balance between romance and action, and I loved it to pieces.
The we come to Heart in Hand, where we get to know Simon and his Warder Leith. They’re an established couple going through a rough spot. Leith needs more openness from Simon than Simon is able to or ready to give, and it creates distance between them. At the beginning we see this distance, and then something happens to get Simon to give a little.
Once that happens it’s like we start a completely new story, complete with a drastic setting change. While Simon stays the same character, Leith is practically unrecognizable. I don’t want to spoil it, so I can’t give too many details, but it was incredibly jarring to read. I also found my interest in the story nose-diving the further I got into it. Leith doesn’t even speak for the majority of this book! He’s certainly able to have sex, though. There were four sex scenes in a novella.
Of the three stories, this one was my least favorite. We get some interesting world-building details here, but Leith honestly wasn’t around as a speaking character long enough for me to really develop an attachment to him. The story also seemed to focus more on sex than character development or plot, which is not a balance I tend to enjoy reading.
Overall, the first story was interesting enough to keep reading, the second was a “hell yeah!” with a fist pump, and the third completely fell flat for me. Characters were (aside from story three) interesting and engaging, but the world-building was a little light for my tastes. I’d still recommend the book, but have some wine when you tackle the third story. Then get Volume Two! There’s more Dylan and Malic in there!
You can buy Warders: Volume One here: