by Christine Warren
Published on February 7, 2017 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genres: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Romance
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A SEDUCTION STRONGER THAN STONE
The only male among four sisters, Michael Drummond is no stranger to women’s strength and formidable will. His Dublin pub, the Skin & Bones, is his refuge, a reassuringly masculine retreat. Until a fierce woman warrior from another realm bursts into his life, bringing with her a battle between good and evil…and an explosive dose of desire.
The first and only of her kind, Ash is a lone female gargoyle, a creature destined to protect mankind from Demons determined to unleash their darkest forces. But her arrival on Earth is more confusing than she expected: her bone-deep instinct to do battle is matched only by her untamed attraction to stubborn, stalwart Drum. If they manage to keep the world safe, can they turn the passion crackling between them into a love that will withstand the test of time?
I never expected to read a gargoyle romance.
Thankfully it wasn’t as weird as that sounds. Hard to Handle is the fifth book in the Gargoyles series and although, most times, romances can be read as standalones even when listed as part of a series, I think I definitely could have benefited from reading the previous 4 books for background (if you’re thinking about picking any of these books up, start with the first).
Drum is a bar owner and middle child surrounded by 4 sisters. His life takes an unexpected turn when the gargoyle Ash, a Guardian, appears and saves him and his sister from the evil Order (there was a lot of capitalization going on in this book). Big bad threatens to destroy the world while Drum and Ash strike up a lusty romance, ending in love.
And no, I didn’t put spoiler warnings on that because this is a romance. Happy endings are fairly standard here.
From a paranormal aspect, I thought the whole concept of gargoyles was really original. This is the first book I’ve read that used them as more than a background monster. The excessive capitalization was a tad annoying. There’s the Order and Guardians Wardens and and the Darkness, and demons are different from Demons, and so on. I would have liked to see these entities named something, versus just capitalizing a word? But that’s just a personal preference. Other than that I wanted to know more about the Guardians (gargoyles) and how that all started which, I’m sure, was covered in a previous book that I just need to go back and read.
Now the cast is somewhat large for a romance as this series builds on previous books so not only were past characters introduced about halfway through, but we have Drum and Ash, plus Drum’s family.
I liked Ash in that she was cool and level-headed; having never really experienced human emotions, it was interesting reading from her perspective. You can see how her thoughts and initial lack of emotions changes over the course of the book.
Drum got on my nerves after a while. He was constantly being put down by the other characters and became whiny at times. He just didn’t strike me as hero material but it’s clear he was supposed to fill that role in the story. Honestly, Ash showed him up tenfold.
And then there’s the romance.
It’s an important part of a romance novel and it just wasn’t there for me. They lacked serious chemistry in any sense of the word. Ash is described as being Drum’s perfect woman, essentially, and Ash has no concept of human emotion so she’s just going with it all. They’re constantly at war with themselves mentally as to whether they’re developing feelings for the other or not, which grew tedious. And the ending note on the relationship felt like a rushed decision to build the tension prior to that scene.
It matched the pacing that was all over the place. Hard to Handle started out well, moving at a good clip, and then about halfway through it just dragged. I think part of that was because the romance was lacking and the second half had a LOT of that going on.
I think I would have enjoyed this book more had I read the first four books in the series beforehand but I still think it a decent paranormal romance overall, especially in terms of the “paranormal” aspect.