Okay, this review is going to be a long one. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and kick back.
This story is set in the same world as Gentlemen Don't Bite. In fact, our heroine, Miranda is the offspring of Luke and Nat from Gentlemen Don't Bite. But you wouldn't know that if you hadn't read the previous book and nowhere does it state the books are related. As a side note, I'd have loved to see Luke and Nat again. I remember them fondly.
Cat Called is set approximately 20 years after Gentlemen Don't Bite. It is still illegal to be a supernatural creature, with their natural tendencies or "magic" suppressed by a drug called Comadine. Except you don't know this if you hadn't read Gentlemen Don't Bite. That said, I think you can read Cat Called as a standalone. Sort of. You understand the world a little bit better if you've read Gentlemen Don't Bite but I don't think it's a huge deal given what I'm about to say about the world building next.
I want to say the world building is very subtle, but the reality is you kinda get thrown into a world with little or no explanation. You pretty much need to make your way through the book to discover what is going on and try to fill in the world building gaps. This is a problem for me because I like solid world building. I do not need everything spelled out for me from the get-go but I do need to see world building as the story progresses. There is very little of it here.
All that said, let me give you a little back story. In this world, being a supernatural is illegal. You are not allowed to shift if you are a shifter. You are not allowed to perform magic if you are a magic wielder of any sort. Any deviation from that is punishable but it does not say how it is punishable, only that it's illegal. The fact that it is illegal seems to cover a multitude of things in this world, of what we are not told.
This time there seems to be some sort of resistance, an underground movement against the government, if you will. We do find out a little bit more about what the government has done to suppress magic and there's a little bit of grumbling and dissatisfaction about it being illegal to be supernatural. However, we do not get any information about what the purpose of this underground is and what are they resisting? Are they trying to overthrow the government? Is there an ultimate "big bad" who needs to be eliminated? Are they out to ban the use of comadine and regain their freedom to be supernaturals? Who's the bad guy here? Is it the government? We do not know. Even in this story, where Vergil is planning on using Miranda for "something" we don't find out what that something is till the very end and frankly, the whole reason for it is trivial, IMO, considering the previous consequences of Vergil having tried the "something" before.
I would like to think there is an idea of an overarching story arc that's being built, but I can't tell what it is. Usually, if there is a bigger story arc, you will be made aware of it fairly early on. We are now two books in and I have no clue.
Aside from me being disgruntled about the above, I must congratulate Ms Grayling in creating a great heroine. I tend not to like 20-something year old heroines who are in college and young as they tend to be immature. Miranda might be both of those things but she is not your typical, silly college girl. She's actually very resilient considering she gets kidnapped (twice!) and quite a strong character. She was also very level headed for a college girl and had a great deal of common sense. I liked her a lot for all those traits. When push came to shove, she proved herself to be a lot smarter than the people who were out to get her and even managed to save the day. Yay her!
The blurb of Cat Called sold this as a menage story with Damon and Ajax being the heroes. Damon and Ajax are you typical protective, dominating alpha shifters. There's not much to be said about them besides the fact that they were protective and dominating. I liked that when it came to Miranda and her safety, they put her first and even put aside their differences for her welfare. I would have liked to see more character development in Damon and Ajax, and have them be a little more multi-dimensional. As it were, I thought they were a tad shallow, if a nice kind of shallow.
Now about the sex. *sigh* What is it with not having the safe sex talk? They may be shifters and may be immune to disease and can tell when a woman is fertile, but still ... the basic, do they, don't they need to have protected sex should warrant a mention. I'm not a huge stickler for the whole safe sex thing, I've mentioned it in my previous review, but in today's world safe sex is a thing, and preventing unwanted pregnancies is a thing, unless you are writing the whole secret baby trope. It deserves a passing nod in its direction and safe sex should not be taken for granted. I'm not saying you need to repeat it ad nauseum before every sex scene, but minimally the people involved should have a basic conversation about it at the beginning because not everyone wants a baby as a result of their first sexual encounter together. And yes, I know there's a general assumption you can't catch diseases with a paranormal partner. Still, it's careless not to.
And finally, the menage. It's not really a menage. Yes, there are two shifters who are the mates of one lucky woman. They have to share her. That's about it. I would have preferred more of a true menage story with Damon and Ajax having less of an adversarial relationship when it came to sharing Miranda - those two dominating werepanthers were not into sharing. It made for an interesting dynamic.
For the most part, I did enjoy the story of Cat Called even though I seem to experience mild frustration each time I read Ms Grayling's work. I was curious enough to finish the book to find out what happened. The world Ms Grayling is building (if she does build it) has a lot of potential. I understand it's not easy to pack a lot of it into a short book but it can be done. Juliette Cross does a phenomenal job in her Nightwing series and packs in a heap of world building, sexual tension and an emotionally satisfying story into a hundred pages. I'll probably give her next book one more shot before I decide what I'd do moving forward.
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