Today's book review is Gentleman Takes a Chance by Sarah A. Hoyt.
This is the sequel to Draw One in the Dark. The situation from the earlier book is somewhat explained but it would make more sense to read Draw One first.
I really want to like this book. I have a lot of affection for the main characters. I want them to be my friends; I want to spend time with them. But the plot in this book makes it tough. Even in a book about dragons and were-panthers, there needs to be a level of verisimilitude about the mundane world that's just missing. Stuff seems to just happen because it's the next place the plot is supposed to go, and too many characters do too many things that are just too dumb to swallow. And the next to the last thing that happens in the book leaves a mess that can't possibly go unnoticed, but somehow the last thing is a couple of weeks later and hell doesn't seem to have broken loose. I can't say I didn't enjoy it -- I love the characters -- but it was terribly frustrating. Skip this one unless you really loved the first book.
6 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
A human arm has been found in the shark tank at the Goldport Aquarium. (The setting, Goldport, is a lot of the trouble with believing this book. Sometimes it appears to be town small enough to only have a half dozen people in its police department -- which is necessary, or Rafiel couldn't get away with the crap he does as an officer -- and some times it seems to be a major city, like when it turns out to have an aquarium as big as the Shedd and endless numbers of residential neighborhoods to wander around in.) Rafiel is investigating and finds shifter scent. Then Tom hears the voice of the Great Sky Dragon, which scares him into shifting while he's in the bathroom in Kyrie's house. Small bathroom. Big dragon. Ex bathroom. And this happens just as a huge blizzard is coming. Eventually they learn that Great Sky Dragon was calling Tom, mentally, to warn him, and the danger is that there's a bunch of shifters called the Ancient Ones who've sent Dante Dire, a dire wolf, to avenge the deaths of the hundreds of offspring of the bugs our heroes killed in the last book. (The beetles in the last book preyed on shifters, but for some reason this shifter vigilante group thinks that killing the brood of shifter-eating were-beetle grubs was an unacceptably large slaughter of innocents.) Dire is a sadist and sociopath who wants to find someone to blame the thing on so he can go back to his playboy lifestyle. And we just incidentally find out that shifters live pretty much forever if they don't die by violence, and their powers increase as they age, so our heroes are weaklings compared not only to Great Sky Dragon but also to Dire and the other Ancient Ones. Our heroes would be toast, except that for some reason that's never actually explained, Great Sky Dragon has decided that he likes Tom. Only that means that he's claimed Tom as one of his, and Tom violently rejects the notion that he can belong to anyone. Great Sky Dragon sends Red Dragon, one of the ones who had tortured Tom in the previous book, to "guard" Tom. It turns out that Red Dragon's name is Conan; he's a major wimp but turns out to be a sort of OK guy. Apparently he was injured so badly in the previous book that he only just managed to recover, and the only reason Great Sky Dragon didn't kill him for fucking up is that he decided to send him to guard Tom. But when Tom learns that the guarding involves Great Sky Dragon hearing with Conan's senses, he wants to get rid of Conan. And it turns out that Dire, too, has the power to cloud men's (or younger shifters') minds. Characters keep going off by themselves and getting in trouble that they only barely get pulled out of. More people die. They figure out that there is a shark shapeshifter in the aquarium. Conveniently, only land based shifters give off the distinctive shifter smell that Rafiel uses to track other shifters.
Eventually, we get to the big finish. Rafiel has arranged a date with Lani, the were-shark, except that she's drugged him with her pheromones or something. Dire wants to have it out with Tom, despite the protection. He has the hots for Kyrie. Kyrie tries to protect Tom, but then Tom challenges Dire to protect Kyrie. Before he can get himself killed, Great Sky Dragon takes over Conan's body. But it turns out that Conan will die if he does this for more than a moment. Just when it looks like Tom and Kyrie are going to get killed, Old Joe, the alligator, who has seemed to be mentally deficient, shows up, along with the crab that lives in the aquarium. They turn out to be ancient shifters as well who refused to join in with the Ancient Ones, and they kick Dire's ass. Kyrie and Tom manage to rescue Rafiel, but Tom kills Lani in the process, and incidentally had to use dragon fire on the door to get in to rescue him. Exactly how the police are going to overlook the fact that the door has been torched with thermite heat, there's blood and chaos all around, and the remains of another body in the shark tank, is apparently left as an exercise for the reader, because in the final scene, Dire returns to challenge Tom, and Tom, using the mystical power of his love for Kyrie and the life he's made for himself, manages to shrug off Dire's mental powers and beat him in the fight. He's still too much of a pansy to *eat* Dire's body, so he hides it in two different caves under the lake.