Book Review – Carnal Cryptids: East Coast, by Vera Valentine

I picked up a copy of Vera Valentine‘s Carnal Cryptids: East Coast as an Amazon freebie. I read it as part of both my yearly Author Alphabet Challenge (I didn’t have a ‘V’ yet) and my Mothman Challenge.
carnal cryptids cover

Desiderata needed a drink. After a long day of dodging darts and heckling tourists from her balloon game booth on the Wildwood boardwalk, she just wanted to forget her looming housing angst for an hour. When heavy flirtation and a cocktail from a suave substitute bartender shakes up her evening, things are looking up.

Until, of course, she catches him making out with a hot college guy not five minutes later.

In an attempt to forget the sinfully sexy stranger from the night before, Desi agrees to a dinner date with the eyeful of tall, dark and handsome that shows up at her job the next day. There’s just one little catch: he’s apparently already dating the two guys from the bar.

For JD, a shift behind a Jersey shore dive bar was always the same: predictable, boring, a little bit sticky. So what was it about this gorgeous brunette that instantly had him on the rocks? One look at her brought out the beast in him – and a desperate hope that she might be what he and Penn need to save Will for good. After over a century of struggle, they were due for a win – and someone who really believed in them.

One night.

That’s all they’ll need to get Desi to agree to.

But it’s going to be one hell of a night.

my review

I wanted to like this. I really did. Unfortunately, I did not. I liked aspects of it. I thought the writing was pretty good. I feel like I know New Jersey despite never being there; it’s so well integrated into the story. The world of Concepts seemed interesting. I liked that the men were in a healthy and loving triad, and I liked seeing how they related to one another. But despite liking what the book could have been, I disliked what it turned out actually to be for a few big reasons.

One, I strongly dislike fantasy romances based on WHAT a person is as opposed to WHO a person is. You always get a little of this with mate-bond romances. So, I’ve learned to tolerate it. But it is SO STRONG in this book that I couldn’t overlook it. The men in this book are only interested in Desi because she is a Believer that can grant them a permanent power bank. Sure, the author shoved love in eventually, but the damage was already done, and it wasn’t believable.

Even well past the time that they were supposed to be in love with her, we get sentences like this: “It was the whole situation—this was the only Believer we’ve ever run across personally, and we trusted the bond to do our work for us.” In case you missed it, the ‘this’ in that sentence is Desi. Not ‘she,’ no referring to her by name, ‘this.’ It could have been anyone else in the world (or a table lamp); Desi as a person was irrelevant. The whole book felt like she was an object they desired, not a person they were meant to love.

Similarly, the three men had a strong bond, and I never felt like Desi became part of it, such that they became four lovers. Instead, it felt like the throuple had a girlfriend. They were a unit, and she was outside of it. Which, honestly, doesn’t really even feel like a Why Choose romance.

Two, the whole fear plotline made no sense with the Believer plotline. The reader is somehow supposed to believe that there is a magical, sacred, loving bond between Concepts and Believers, but also that Concepts have to terrify their beloved, sacred Believers to survive (and that Believers will love them in return). Make that make sense.

This point exists in parallel to the fact that both were thrown at the reader suddenly, in a drastic change of tone during the first sex scene. One minute everyone is talking essentially about dating her in hopes of more. The reader knows she can provide a needed power boost to one of the characters. But that’s about it. Then, BAM, all of a sudden, they’re terrifying her because they need her fear, enacting ritualized phrases, and chaining her to the bed, waiting for the Believer Bond to set in. As a reader, I was like, wait, what? None of that had been previously mentioned—not the need for fear, not that the Concepts form mate-like bonds, not that there was innate, ritualized wording that has to be said (or why), none of it—and the tone of the whole book changed.

This leads me to the contradiction of chaining someone to a bed until the magic Stockholm syndrome kicks in and overrides her will and makes her want everything while simultaneously ritualistically insisting she has to ask for it (i.e., give consent). It made no sense.

carnal cryptid photoLastly, I thought the whole Dom/Sub dynamic felt entirely shoehorned into the plot and cliched. I could have done without it.

All in all, I didn’t feel any relationship growing here. Sure, we’re told they love her. But all we really see is her getting hurt, them being cruel to her, and then the bond making her unable to live without them. I find nothing about any of that sexy, especially since this isn’t intended as a dark romance!

Other Reviews:

Romantically Inclined: Carnal Cryptids: East Coast by Vera Valentine


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