Yeah the thirteenth book in the Love at Stake series, by Kerreyln Sparks, is out and I finally had time to read it! The new year is looking up. This story features Howard Barr, the were-bear, who is the security guard that we have known and loved throughout the series.
So I have to say this before I say anything else - if you have not read this series previously read on because this is one of the few books, that is part of a lengthy series, where that will actually benefit you.
Elsa Bjornberg is a tall, above average women. She has never felt fragile or feminine, especially not when she is at work as a host for a home renovation show. She works in what would typically be the male's role of doing the demolition work leaving her feeling less than dainty and misunderstood as a women. But from the moment she meets Howard Barr, this bear of a man makes her feel like a woman. And the way he looks at her, as if she was a pot of honey he’d like to lick…
Howard is not like most men. For one thing, he’s a shapeshifter. From the moment he first saw Elsa's show he and his inner bear were drawn to her. He hoped that one day he could turn his crush into more but never dreamed the opportuity would be hand delivered curtousy of his meddling vampire bosses wife. And the timing couldn't be worse. In the previous book we learned that Howard's long time enemy is still alive and it is in this search for revenge that the story picks up. Howard has returned from his home land where he set the wheels in motion to take down his long time enemy. But in doing so he was reminded of how much his family line is dangerously close to extinction. After 20 years of exile he is forced to face the fact that his line has been dying out even if he hasn't been there to see it. His grandfather is convinced that it is due to a ancient curse placed on their ancestors but Howard doesn't believe in allowing a fairy tale to have control of his destiny.
That is until he returns to work and meets Elsa for the first time. His simple touch ignites a searing pain in her birth mark. They quickly realize that her family has a similiar legend and that there may be more truth to the stories then either of them have wanted to believe. But can they break the curse? Can Howard destroy his long time enemy without it getting anyone else hurt? Can his family finally be saved and have a chance to once again thrive? And most importantly if they can break the curse can they build upon this attraction between them and make it something real?
So now that you have the plot...on to my thoughts. As I mentioned earlier if you haven't read the series fear not - I wished I had read this as a stand alone. Don't get me wrong I'm a huge fan of the series and this was a great addition and continuation of the over all story line. However, in previous books Howard is potrayed as a older man with thinning hair and a over all honey bear personality. So after many, many books describing him as such it is hard to shift gears to how he is portrayed here - a hunk. She gets around it by saying that while working for Roman he was free to take his bear form more often which allowed him to regain his healthy, youthful appearance. OK fine - but this is just thrown in to the beginning of the book and the reader is expected to except it. I would have preferred this evolution to have taken place as part of the series or even over the first couple of chapters so that our perceptions had a chance to catch up. My second issue is that she had a ton of development in the beginning of the book about Howard loves to stratagize his battles and that life is a game of chess with the greatest lesson that you have to protect the Queen at all costs. Although he takes great care to come up with a strategy to take on his enemy and to court Elsa when it matters he falls a bit short in the strategy of protecting her. I wish Ms. Sparks had thought that last bit out a bit more. So now off of the cons - overall this is a really fun read. I actually had to go back and look up how many pages it was because I could not believe that I knocked it out in one day. It is that good. The 384 pages will fly by. Howard is a very likable character with a great sense of humor. The overall plot was a nice change up for the series and it has a fresh story line avid readers will love. This was a another great read from Kerrleyn Sparks!
RATING: Four Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries