Let me start by confessing that Jen Wright, the author of Pavarus, is a good friend of mine. Furthermore, I received my copy of the book as a prize in a giveaway at her blog. So of course, I am predisposed toward offering a positive review of this M/M paranormal romance, the first volume in Jen's Finding Home series.
If I hadn't liked Pavarus, I wouldn't have taken the time to review it. However, I did enjoy the book, quite a lot. I'm quite certain I would have felt the same way even if the author had been a total stranger.
Wesley is a short, cute, definitely urban gay man. Despite his youthful and innocent appearance, he's had plenty of sexual partners, but he still hasn't found a guy he wants to settle down with – certainly not Tony, his current boyfriend. Nevertheless, Tony manages to convince Wes to join him on a camping and canoeing trip. Wesley's canoe tumbles over an unexpected falls. The next thing he knows, he's in the middle of a battle between men who look like medieval warriors and honest-to-goodness fire-breathing dragons. He knows he's not in Kansas anymore, but he's not sure where he has ended up. His view of the world is warped still further when he discovers that Remus, the broad shouldered, muscular hunk who saves him from one of the dragons, is a vampire.
Remus, commander of the realm's warriors and second in power only to the vampire sire Keddrick, doesn't understand why he's so drawn to the fair-haired human. It's more than the sweet smell of his blood, though all the warriors seem to find Wesley's scent intoxicating. When Remus is forced to claim Wesley as his mate in order to save him from being ravished by the other vampires, the connection between the two of them only becomes stronger. But Wesley wants to return to earth and Remus has sworn to help him – even if he breaks his own heart in the process.
I'll admit that when I first read the blurb for Pavarus, I had my doubts about the premise. An alternate reality, populated by vampires and dragon shifters? Jennifer Wright makes it work, though. One reason is the vividly drawn characters – not just the heroes Remus and Wesley but also the ancillary characters: charming, nurturing Eveen and her valiant mate Aliam, Remus' loyal second in command; tortured half-breed Zane, fighting to prove he's as tough as any full-blooded vampire; Zane's close friend Larken, desperately in love with Zane but suspecting that his feelings will never be returned; wise, mysterious and regal Keddrick, who rules the vampires with discipline, courage and compassion. They're all very real, and I gather that many of them get their own stories (and loves) in later books of the series.
Then there's the sex. (You knew I'd get to that, right?) Pavarus isn't awash with sex scenes. Remus and Wesley don't actually experience intercourse until two thirds of the way through the book. The tension between them, the near-irresistible attraction, builds gradually, torturing them both, since both men are convinced (for different reasons) that they should not be lovers. When they finally do get around to doing the deed, the results are predictably but deliciously incandescent.
One fun aspect of writing paranormal romance is that you add a bit of magic to the sexual connection. Paranormal lust can be more powerful and all-consuming than real world desire. You can toss in some telepathy, so that sex becomes a joining of minds and spirits as well as bodies. The extrasensory aspects of making love to your destined soul mate serve to heighten and refine the physical sensations. Of course one can have an experience of communion even in a realistic novel, but a paranormal setting makes the whole thing more believable. When Remus and Wesley finally come together, you can't help but believe they're fated to be lovers.
The book does have a tendency to repeat words during the clinches. I'm sure that as an author, I notice this more than the average reader. Aside from this minor flaw, the sex scenes in Pavarus are intense, both emotionally and physically. Also, despite my comments above about magical license in paranormal novels, the sex in this novel has some delightfully realistic touches. I particularly enjoyed Remus' reluctance and confusion the first time he and Wesley have penetrative sex. Normally, Remus plays the dominant role in their relationship, but in this scene the tables are turned. Remus is afraid and unsure. The far more knowledgeable Wes, on the other hand, is self-assured, even a bit cocky (no pun intended). The whole scene felt extremely plausible. A man who has never had any homoerotic experience is naturally going to be nervous, just like any other virgin.
Possibly the best aspect of Pavarus, though, is its vivid portrayal of Remus' and Wesley's suffering when they are parted. I don't want to give away the ending. I'll just say that I really felt the agony of their separation. Which of course made their ultimate reunion all the more satisfying.
If you like M/M paranormal romance with complex interactions and authentic emotion, I think you'll enjoy Pavarus.
Now I'm going to have to read the next two books in the series.