Disclaimers: while my blog post itself does not contain any graphic sexual content, this book does. This is a review for a book that is meant for mature audiences, and therefore is unsuitable for minors.
Thoughts at a glance: **** (I really liked it)
This is my review for the remaining currently-available books of Dannika Dark's Seven series. (It looks like there is one more yet-to-be-announced book, plus one standalone that fits in chronologically between books 6 and 7.) I kind of marathoned through them all, so I decided to review them all together. You can find my writeup for the first book, Seven Years, here.
*Spoilers for the first book as well as the rest of the series below*
Quick overall summary: The Seven series is about a family of shapeshifters - specifically, they are wolf shapeshifters, so they live in a pack, in Austin, TX. This universe also contains other types of supernatural beings, like vampires (but they are different from other vampires in other books), beings that can transfer emotion, etc. Shapeshifters themselves can be all sorts of animals. All together, these supernatural beings are referred to as Breed. The title of each book figures into the plot (or at least gets mentioned) somehow. Not all members of the Weston pack are Cole brothers, but all the Cole brothers are (amusingly) named after the cities in which they were conceived. Breed can live for hundreds of years, but they age very differently from humans, so while decades separate the Cole brothers, they all look like they are in their mid-20s to mid-30s. The novels are told in shifting perspectives - the female perspectives are presented in first person, while the male perspectives are presented in third person.
PS - They are called the Weston pack because Austin (in book 1) wanted to name their pack after Lexi's late brother.
Six Months is about the eldest Cole, Reno, who is a private investigator and kind of has that brooding, super intense look about him. He falls in love with Lexi's human friend/coworker, April, who is hardworking, bookish, and in a lot of danger because of her late grandmother's debts. This book also introduces April's friend Travis, who is out about being gay but who is in denial of his Shifter-ness.
Five Weeks is about Jericho, who is the rockstar party dude of the family. Seriously, if he were human, I have no doubt that all his drinking and drugs would've landed him in a hospital already. Izzy is the fiery, strong-willed redheaded wolf who, for a time, was his best friend and then ran out on him. Now their paths have crossed again, but her latest boyfriend, who runs with a dangerous crowd, proves to be trouble.
Four Days is about Ivy, who was recently added to the Weston pack. She's half-Native, lovely, and wise. Lorenzo Church, also Native American, is the Packmaster of a neighboring pack - he is powerful, ruthless, and fascinated with Ivy. When a near-tragedy brings her to his doorstep, he finds himself drawn in by her serene yet strong personality.
Three Hours is about Wheeler Cole. He and his twin Ben are total opposites, and it has been mentioned several times that they apparently have some sort of contentious relationship. Ben is the smooth, outgoing one that everyone likes, and Wheeler is one ornery bastard. In an earlier novel, he meets Lexi's neighbor/friend, Naya, who is an exotic dancer and a Shifter herself, though not a wolf. He and Naya absolutely despise each other, but they are also super attracted to each other. When he is assigned to protect her from someone who is going after other dancers at her club, they clash in all sorts of ways... but all that clashing leads to sparks flying.
Two Minutes is about Denver Cole. This story takes place yearrrrrs after the first book, so while this may sound squicky, I guess it really isn't?: Denver has been the "watchdog" for Maizy, Lexi's little sister, for years and years - she was six when they first moved in with the Weston pack. But Maizy's mother eventually decides that she needs to go spend some time with actual human people, so she gets sent away to boarding school and then to study abroad in London for a while. When she finally returns home for good, she is now 23 years old and definitely a woman now. And the feelings that exist between her and Denver? Well, they've definitely changed too. But when another Packmaster makes an offer for her hand, she has a difficult decision to make.
Okay... man, that was a lot of books. So, as with the first book, I enjoyed the world-building, and I think I will read Dark's other series (which is about a different Breed race, but is in the same universe) after this, because I'm curious about them. I like how fleshed-out (that's not a pun) all the societal rules are, and I like how much care went into setting up this hidden society.
I liked the distinct personalities of each of the characters. I could see how each Cole brother fit into the family. I didn't feel like I was just reading the same story over and over with different names. Austin is the Alpha; Reno is the super serious one; Jericho is the rocker; Wheeler is the black sheep; Ben is the douchey a-hole (who I'm glad gets his comeuppance); Denver is the funny one. And the female characters were interesting too. In particular, I liked Naya, and I liked how exotic dancing isn't presented to us as dirty or shameful. There are definitely characters in the book who give her grief for it, but Naya herself is so bold, unapologetic, smart, and strong, and she is a great character to hear from about the world of exotic dancing because she loves what she does and she doesn't care what other people think. All of the characters have some sort of trademark expression that they say constantly - since I was reading all of the books in a row, this got to be kind of annoying. I suppose if I had read them as they were being released, it wouldn't have been such a big deal, so fair warning to anyone else thinking of marathoning these - it's cute at first, but it'll wear on you a bit.
I definitely enjoyed Naya and Wheeler's pairing, because they start out hating each other and bickering all the time, and I also liked Denver and Maizy, because you kinda feel like they are destined to be together. Though, their story made me think of Jacob/Renesmee/imprinting.
Things I didn't like: I don't know if it was just me, but I felt uncomfortable with the amount of racial stereotyping? I could be wrong, but Ivy and Lorenzo both felt (to me) like stereotypical Native Americans, in their style of speech, their highly-emphasized connection to nature, and the fact that Ivy sleeps with a dreamcatcher nearby? And Naya is, I assume, Latina - she's extremely voluptuous, dark in coloring, quite sassy, and quite overtly sexual. I mean, all three of those characters are "good guys," but I still felt like their characterizations read like a racial stereotype checklist.
In general, the characterization left something to be desired, especially with the males. I did write in my review of book 1 that I liked how Austin didn't behave like an animalistic male even though he technically is an animal, and I still feel like that's true. While the Cole brothers in general are quite amorous (well, they are romance novels!), I never felt like they inappropriately mishandled their women, like in other books I've read.
However, outside of the "good guys," that was totally the case. It's like the entire world was divided into "good guys" and "bad guys," and there was absolutely no in-between. The good guys were heroic and gentlemanly and excellent lovers; the bad guys were abusive/rapey/murderous. Even Ben, who ends up being the only Cole brother to be kicked out of the pack, seems to think it's totally okay to put the moves on Naya by pretending to be his twin brother. There's really no complexity involved here. Maybe it's a cutthroat world they live in, but it's quite IN YOUR FACE how depraved and awful all the other dudes are in this world, and it makes me wonder how the women in these books even leave their houses sometimes. But then again, the bad guys didn't just go after the women either, I suppose. *shrug* These are, after all, supernatural dramas and not comedies, so I guess danger and suffering are par for the course, for any gender. (Or species.) At least Dark did not try to make any of the good guys abusive/rapey/murderous and then try to pass them off as desirable qualities in a male hero. That's my dealbreaker right there.
But anyway... they're not all bad. I mean, actually, I enjoyed these books quite a lot. I chuckled at a lot of moments. There is some raunchy humor that I found amusing. There is not a large amount of sex in them, but there is a large amount of sexual tension and FEELINGS, which I sometimes think is actually more fun to read about - it's all about the drama, right? And again, there is a lot of worldbuilding. There are numerous mentions throughout the books of a possibly-brewing Breed war, and I'm curious whether that's actually going to happen, considering how we're near the close of the series. And I'm also curious what other pairings are left.
So yeah... totally fluffy "junk food" books. Fun/compelling to read when your brain needs a little break. They serve their purpose :)