Black Gold by Vivian Arend, narrated by Madison Vaughn

black goldWhy I read it:  I received a review copy via the author.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Their wolves are howling at the moon. Their human halves are on different planets.

Lone wolf Shaun Stevens’s automatic response to the words “happily ever after”? Kill me now. Yet with all his friends settling down he’s begun to think there may actually be something to this love-and-roses crap.

One thing’s for sure: his dream mate will have to out-cuss, out-spit and out-hike him. So he never expected the one to push his forever button would be a blue-blooded Southern debutante with a voice as dark and velvety as her skin.

When Gemmita Jacobs steps off the plane in Whitehorse, Yukon, it’s about more than her caribou research project. It’s her declaration of independence from an overprotected upbringing. Except there’s something in the air she can’t quite define—something that unexpectedly rouses her mating instincts.

Moments after their eyes lock, the deed is done—and done thoroughly. When the pheromone dust settles, though, all the reasons they don’t belong together become painfully clear.

It’s enough to make a wolf learn a whole new set of cuss words…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This is the first Vivian Arend shifter book I’ve read or listened to. I have a few on the TBR of Doom (TM Shannon Stacey) but haven’t gotten to them yet.  I have a feeling that Evan, the Takhini Alpha and Shaun, our hero, may have appeared in a previous book/series, or at least the context in Black Gold seems to indicate that’s the case. I suppose this made me feel a little bit lost at times but it wasn’t a major drawback.

Shaun is a lone wolf who has recently rejoined the Takhini pack. I gather he has a reputation of breaking the rules and pleasing himself. He’s nice enough but not terribly reliable in the sense that he will do what he wants to do and what suits him rather than what might be good for the pack or for others. He is feeling dissatisfied however. He longs for a mate and for deeper connections. He is ready for a change.

Gemmita Jacobs is a pampered Southern belle shifter. Her father is one of the most powerful shifters in Georgia and she has been protected all her life. She struggles against these loving bonds and wishes to stand on her own two feet. She knows she is capable – if only her daddy would let up and let her prove it. She has been doing a degree in environmental science and needs to complete her research project in order to graduate. In a deliberate attempt to create a place for her to “go it alone” she chose a project studying Porcupine Caribou in the northern Yukon.

This is, of course, where she meets Shaun and they are both pretty surprised to discover they are mates.  The fated mate trope has a bit of a twist here though. Although they have sizzling sexual chemistry and their wolves clearly like each other, it is very quickly identified that they are quite different people and for them to have a successful relationship, they are going to have to get to know one another and learn to compromise. Gem expects Shaun to up stakes and move to Georgia and work for daddy. Shaun expects Gem to move to the Yukon and live with him. I liked that things weren’t just easy for the pair – they had to work at it.

When Gem shows herself to be far more than the pampered princess, when she stands up for herself and proves herself very capable indeed, Shaun is not only surprised he is also very pleased. He loves that she won’t back down if she feels she’s right and he relates to her fierce independence.

Trouble with the bear shifters creates some flow on problems for the happy couple near the end of the story, but, again, they work together, each using their own skills and talents to create a solution and again, they show themselves to be a formidable team.

I enjoyed the Yukon setting and the humour of the story and I liked that Gem was far more than a pretty face. There was also the beginnings of a nice little romance between Evan and his human assistant, Caroline.

What else? Madison Vaughn narrates this series. I haven’t listened to her before but I was impressed. She didn’t have a very deep voice for the male characters – they were differentiated more by tone, pitch and affect, but I had no difficulty in working out who was speaking. She delivered the sarcastic humour of the story and her pacing and characterisations were very good.

Black Gold is novella length and necessarily, there’s not a lot of time for a deep interrogation of character but it was an entertaining way to spend my listening time.

Grade: B-

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