Book Review: Set Adrift by D.S. Kenn (Series, #1)
Terric, nickname T, a half shifter half demon, and his girlfriend Jordyn, full vampire, have decided to move from New York City to Provincetown, Massachusetts. T has an opportunity to work as head of security at a nightclub and bar that caters to the supernatural, and he thinks the move will be good for he and Jordyn. Jordyn had a nightmarishly abusive past, and T has been helping her heal through a safe, consenting BDSM relationship. But his love for Jordyn is not one of a mate; it is one of a friend. He intuitively knows that his mate will be a man but he struggles to accept this, due to suffering he has endured in the demon realm. When Jordyn decides it is time for her to stand on her own two feet and move out, she also encourages T to confront himself and grow as well. But all T feels is set adrift.
Every November/December I open up to submissions for books to review in the upcoming year on my blog. When I saw this one in the submissions, I was excited. Not very much paranormal romance is submitted to me, and paranormal romance with a bisexual main character is nigh on impossible to find. Plus, I love Provincetown. This paranormal romance features a unique set of characters and a wide variety of sex scenes but its world building struggles some.
The strongest aspect of the book is that its main character Terric is so unique in paranormal romance. Terric actually describes himself perfectly:
I’m an anomaly. A fucking bisexual demon shifter. Not really all of any one thing…. I don’t really fit in most categories, you know. (page 33)
First, I love love love the fact that the hero of the book isn’t just bisexual, but he actually uses the term to describe himself as such. This may not seem like a big deal, but it is quite rare to have a character self-identify as bisexual and simultaneously have that character be one of the good guy leads. I really applaud the author for going there. Terric struggles with his sexuality but not for the reasons the reader might expect. Provincetown, for those who don’t know, is known for being a small town with a large accepting queer community. T’s community would accept him for who he is, but he struggles with accepting and loving himself. The reason given for this is that when he is summoned to the demon realm (as a half demon, he is subject to hell’s dominion), he is sometimes subject to punishment that consists of rape by other male demons (or half demons). The reason he has trouble imagining being mated with a man is due to this trauma. Bisexual men experience a higher rate of rape than straight or gay men (source), and I think it’s a good thing that the author works this into T’s past within the context of his supernatural world. The rape is not misrepresented as causing his bisexuality but rather as a trauma he must get over to fully embrace his sexuality for what it is. It’s not a storyline seen very often, and it’s handled well.
Similarly, the BDSM subplot in the first half of the book is also handled well. The BDSM is completely presented as something both partners have consented to with pre-agreed upon boundaries that are respected. It is also shown as something that is therapeutically used to help Jordyn overcome her past trauma. This is a use for BDSM that some readers may not know but it is clearly well-understood by the author and well presented in the book. Plus, the BDSM scenes are well-written and just the right level of steamy.
Unfortunately, the world that T and Jordyn live in is not as well fleshed-out as they are. In particular, the workings of the supernatural world are never fully explained and can be a bit confusing. For instance, vampires can apparently have children (as in, conceive and give birth to them, not as in turning humans into vampires), but it is never explained how. Also the logistics of mixing different supernatural races are unclear. For instance, there is one character who is 100% shifter, but his parents are both half vampire and half shifter. Even the character himself doesn’t know how that worked out to him being pure shifter. Some readers probably wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of details and world building regarding the supernatural and just how it works in this world, but others will be.
There are a few minor editing mistakes, the most startling of which is that the book on page 142 suddenly changes from indenting new paragraphs to having a line space between them (like how paragraphs appear on this blog). I have no preference for one over the other, but consistency throughout the book is preferred. There is also one plot point that bothered me. At one point a character is established as being tipsy. He then kisses someone and, freaked out about it, decides to leave and states that he can because he is “sober as a judge,” and the other character agrees he is fit to drive (page 152). Unless that kiss lasted an hour or two, there’s no way he went from tipsy to sober as a judge in the span of one kiss (unless something supernatural was going on that was not explained). Similarly, sometimes the book veers too far into telling rather than showing, particularly in the scenes that are not sex scenes. For instance, in one scene, this occurs:
He told Kevin a little bit about his own upbringing, just the basics. (page 144)
At this point, the reader does not know much about this character’s upbringing. Why not write out the dialogue in which the character tells Kevin about it, rather than telling the reader that the character tells Kevin? The sex scenes never veer into this telling rather than showing zone, and it would be nice if the plot points didn’t either.
There is also a chapter that is called the “epilogue,” which kind of bothered me since it is a direct continuance of the plot in the previous chapters. No significant time is skipped, nothing in the future is explained. It is basically the last chapter in the book. I am uncertain as to why it is thus called an epilogue. I was expecting it to update me on the future of these characters, not simply continue the story in a direct linear fashion from the last chapter.
Sex acts in the book include: anal sex (male on female), BDSM (male dom, female sub), and M/M kissing/touching. Rape is mentioned as an occurrence in the past but is not depicted. Those readers looking for more in-depth M/M scenes should keep their eye out for the next book in the series, as it appears that a M/M relationship will be building to greater intimacy in the next book.
Overall, this is a welcome addition to the paranormal romance genre, featuring a unique cast of characters, including a bisexual half-demon, half-shifter male hero. The book contains a wide variety of sex scenes, including M/F BDSM and M/M kissing/touching. Readers interested in in-depth world building may be disappointed by the lack of explanation of the supernatural world these characters inhabit. Those looking for a quick, steamy read will enjoy these characters and the development of them that goes on in-between their well-written sex scenes.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review