Spirits Duet by Julia Talbot and B.A. Tortuga
Spirits is a duology featuring two stories by authors Julia Talbot and B.A. Tortuga.
Moonshine and full moons, two things that don’t necessarily go together. It’s hard enough to get by making moonshine — not only is it dangerous, it’s also not strictly on the up and up — but the timing gets even more tricky for Jenson when he has to start keeping track of the moon, as well. He hadn’t expected to get anything more than a good night from the blond twink at the bar, but now he’s a werewolf. While Jensen is still getting used to that, David barges into his site, snarling and growling and snapping at him as if, somehow, the whole werewolf thing (which David also seems to have got caught up in) is his fault.
Between all the fighting and fucking, Jenson and David decide to go looking for the brat who bit them both, only to have him come running into them! Hot on his heels is yet another werewolf, this one bigger and meaner, who also wants to have a good long and hard talk with blondie. The hunt is on.
Jenson and David don’t have the friendliest of introductions, but as a meet-cute goes, it’s charming enough. Something about Jenson seems to draw David to him like a moth to a flame. The two of them can’t seem to get enough of one another, whether in human form or wolf, and Jenson is soon thinking words like mine and mate.
This first story is far more about lust and animal attraction than romance. It’s two men who meet, who are drawn together, and end up finding their fated mate with one another. It’s so quick and predetermined that there isn’t much there beyond the sex scenes. While the characters come across well enough, nothing really happens and David goes from an angry man wanting revenge to an obedient young man doing as he’s told, while Jenson doesn’t actually either change or do anything beyond reassuring his pup that he loves him. It’s fine for what it is, and well written; I just wanted more.
Bartholome (Barthe, for short) belongs to a pack, and it’s sizable one. The pack found a young shifter and took him in. As it turns out, that young man, Rene, is Barthe’s mate. Rene is a good ten years younger, though, and Barthe has no interest in babysitting, so he pushes Rene away until, at last — after one cruel joke too many — he finally gets what he wants. Rene leaves, off to find love somewhere else, with anyone else, leaving Barthe to chase after him … or give him up forever.
This second story has a bit more to it. There’s a hint at a larger world, at packs, solitary wolves, more hints of the mystic moon, but much of the focus is on Barthe knowing he screwed up by allowing peer pressure and his own embarrassment at having a young mate encourage him to hurt Rene. Thoughtlessly rather than maliciously, but the harm was done all the same. While there’s more character to the story, I’m not a fan of the idea that one good, hard fuck is all it took to fix everything wrong between them.
The world building is what I call “hand wavy” in that there aren’t any real rules or answers, just blithe confidence that things will somehow work. However, given the brevity of the two stories, it does almost work. I really enjoyed the writing and the steady voice of the characters, but I would have preferred a bit more story to fill in some of the cracks. For a light, steamy shifter read, this duology is definitely something to pick up.