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Saturday, February 16, 2019

ARC Review: Love's Call by C.A. Szarek

Love's Call is the second book to C.A. Szarek's The King's Riders series and the first book I've read of Szarek's. I was hopeful that coming into the series having not read the first book, that I wouldn't be lost, and I wasn't. I believe whenever they referenced the first book, they explained very well what happened. While this was a good thing since I didn't get lost in the story, it did make me wish I was reading that book instead of this one.

Ansley (I LOVE that name) is a Senior King's Rider. Basically she is a messenger for the king. The King gives her a message that needs to go to one of his Duke's with all possible haste. She leaves immediately with her "bonded" wolf companion, Ali, and she pushes her horse hard. Along the way Ali brings her to a stop because there is a girl in bad shape lying on the ground gasping for help. While she starts to try to figure how she was going to get the girl on her horse to safety, a large group of armored men show up. So far this story has really gotten me interested.

Leargan, the man leading the group of armored men, is the captain of the Duke's personal guard. They were out on patrol when they came across the two women. After cautious introductions, the men help Ansley get the girl back the the Duke's town. One of the personal guard, Roduch, seems intensely drawn to the hurt woman, and immediately considers it his duty to take care of her. He recognizes her as a woman he has seen in dreams and visions. Leargan is also immediately taken with Ansley, and Ansley is amazed to discover Leargan there, as she has been half in love with him for years. At this point I am still very intrigued to see where everything is going.

Upon getting to the Duke's home, they immediately get a healer to work on the poor unknown girl who is in such a rough state. After she has been seen to Ansley is able to deliver her message and find sleeping quarters. The next morning, the Duke shows the message to Leargan, and it says that the king and Ansley's father want Leargan and Ansley to get married. While Leargan admits being attracted to Ansley and a willingness to obey his king he isn't sure how she will take being ordered to marry him. He doesn't let her know about it for the time being. Also, that same morning, the mysterious hurt woman wakes up and tells them all her name is Avril, and starts to tell them the abuses that happened to her. It enrages everyone, and they all want vengeance on the man responsible.

This is where the book starts to die down. It focuses mainly on the romance between Ansley and Leargan while Avril gets more and more comfortable to share what she can of her situation. Ansley is annoying. Her thoughts and actions reminded me of a 13 year old girl in a 22ish year old's body. I also later learned how much of a hypocrite she is. Leargan seemed a pretty good guy, but he makes some bad decisions. The two struggle to communicate. And they go from 0 to 60 with the beginning of a kiss to almost being intimate every time they're together. Roduch and Avril's patient and slow time of learning each other and gaining trust grabbed my attention so much more.

As for the magic, there really isn't very much explaining and it seems used in odd ways not really helping the story as much as it could. No one seems worried about being hurt because the healer will have you back to normal in no time at all, and he even can manipulate your body's functions how he wants. I saw great potential in the bonding some characters had with wolves, but that really never amounted to much after the beginning when Ali found Avril. They just acted mostly like domesticated dogs in every other scene. 

With how much the characters talked about the adventures of the first book, all the action in this book was so anticlimactic. Nothing really was any sort of struggle, and I never felt once that I didn't know how the story would go. It was very disappointing. I do hope that the aversion I have to this book is a fluke in comparison to the rest of Szarek's work, because this story had amazing potential at the first. I am very interested to read the first book in the series after hearing about it from this one. I think I might someday try it out.

**ARC provided by NetGalley**

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