REVIEW: The Druid Next Door ( Fae out of Water #2) by EJ Russell
Professor Bryce MacLeod has devoted his entire life to environmentalism. But how effective can he be in saving the planet when he can’t even get his surly neighbor to separate his recycling? Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick doesn’t think his life could get any worse: he’s been exiled from Faerie with a cursed and useless right hand. When he’s not dodging random fae assassins in the Outer World, he’s going toe-to-toe with his tree-hugging neighbor. And when he discovers that the tree hugger is really a druid, he’s certain the gods have it in for him—after all, there’s always a catch with druids. Then he’s magically shackled to the man and expected to instruct him in Supernatural 101. All right, now things couldn’t possibly get worse. Until a mysterious stranger offers a drunken Mal the chance to gain back all he’s lost—for a price. After Mal accepts, he discovers the real catch: an ancient secret that will change his and Bryce’s life forever. Ah, what the hells. Odds are they won’t survive the week anyway.
Dear EJ Russell, I quite liked the first book in this series (as evidenced by my review here) which dealt with the older of three Fae brothers, Alun, finding love with David and having some dangerous adventures in the Faery Land. As a result of such adventure, Alun’s middle brother, Mal, lost the use of his right hand. The Faery Queen told him that the curse will disappear if they would be made whole, but the way Mal interpreted this was not too hopeful for him going back to his magical life anytime soon.
So now we see Mal living full time in the human land in the house that David, kind and grateful guy he was. bought for him. Mal is also bickering with his new neighbor on a regular basis. Bryce Macleod is very conscious about the environment and Mal being a Fae even in the temporary exile sometimes does things that may seem reasonable to Mal, but annoy Bryce a great deal.
One day after another face to face altercation, Bryce accidentally hurts Mal a little and this leads to David and his aunt Cassie appearing in Mal’s house to help him. Well, David appeared at Mal’s house before, but his aunt hadn’t.
Surprise! As we know from the first book, Cassie is a powerful druid and can recognize other druids. Apparently Bryce is one too and his love for nature was one of the indicators of that. As we also know from the first book, Cassie is a woman of action, so acts she does. She offers Bryce the internship with her (and when I say offers I mean insists that he should take it) AND decides to bond Mal and Bryce together so Mal could give Bruce a crash course in all things magical before he starts learning all things druid .
I want to be very clear here – the bond Cassie imposed on them was not sexual *yet*. To be quite frank I was puzzled as to why the bond was needed in the first place. However as the book proceeded I interpreted the bond to be an artificial and highly irritating plot device needed to make sure the second bond between the characters would happen.
It was just so weird to me. I am usually very hesitant to use the expression “lazy writing”, because I usually start questioning myself right away, thinking my writing skills and knowledge would never be strong enough to have a right to call writing professional’s writing “lazy”.
However, sometimes this is just how I feel and this is one of those times. Let me expand on what I mean by “lazy writing” in this book. I feel like the writer could not be bothered to write an actual development of the relationship and instead imposed that weird bond on Bryce and Mal which did I am not even sure what it did.
So after Cassie bonded them, they have sex and ended up wanting each other more and more and it became some kind of D/s bond when Mal who never bottomed wanted to bottom and kneel for Bryce all the time and Bryce who never topped wanted to. Okay, I am perfectly happy to read about D/s relationship if it is executed to my satisfaction but both men instead constantly questioned whether what they want is the consequence of the bond or their own desires. I could not understand how we got from Point A (we find each other hot) to Point B (we cannot live without each other). I could not understand how the relationship was developing?
And while on the publisher’s page the book warns of dubious consent, it is not as if Bryce even wanted to force Mal to do anything. I mean the first two times he did not know that the bond was activated, but then he constantly fights the desire in his mind to give Mal *any* orders, so I could not even read the book as having any true dubcon/ non con scenes that may work for me sometimes. It was just very weird.
““Our bond is different. You’ve never used the power voice on me, and trust me, I’d know. Maybe you have to pass your druid O levels before you qualify, or some shite.” “Are you positive? Have you behaved that way before? Begged someone to allow you to blow him? Begged to get fucked? Promised a guy anything? Everything?” Mal wouldn’t meet his eyes, and if that didn’t tell Bryce what he needed to know about consent, then none of Mal’s glib words would hide the truth. “No,” he muttered. “You’re the first.”
“A first time for me too.” Bryce was suddenly too hot in the sun, despite the cool breeze on his back. He ripped his hat off and threw it on the grass. “Aren’t we just so fricking special?” “You’ll not convince me you’re a virgin.” “Hardly. But I’ve never—” Why was this so hard to admit? “I’ve never topped anyone before.” Mal’s mouth fell open. “You’re joking. Nobody can aim like that. Not their first time.” Bryce sat down on the grass, facing the slough. “Guess I’m a fucking prodigy.” He let his arms flop over his knees. “What the hell are we doing, Mal? I’m so turned around and irritable this morning, it’s as if my clothes are lined with sandpaper”
Cassie behaved weirdly from the beginning, because guess what? She could have told Mal to tutor Bryce without bonding them and Mal would have done the very same thing. Then after she started all that she lectures them how to mitigate effects of the bond or not mitigate the effects of the bond. It was just bizarre.
Same as in the first book, in this book the men also have to go on the quest in Faerie land and I enjoyed it more than in the first book because the story was more suspenseful and at the end made more sense to me than in the first book. However the storyline was also a major disappointment to me because I felt that it was a a missed opportunity for the men to actually work together and get to know each other better instead of one of them trying to get some information out of Mal and Mal constantly sabotaging himself and lying to Bryce as to what was going on.
I was not mad at Mal, because he did not have much choice, but I was still disappointed. I am not trying to grade the story that was not on page, but let me be very clear that what was on the page did not work for me at all, even if it was well written and as far as I could notice the copy editing was pretty good.