Copper King started off as something that’d be right up my catnip alley. Billionaires in Vegas, bear shifters, a no strings attached arrangement that turns into something more.
Yes, please. I’ll take two!
For a quick rundown, Jim Halcyon, is in Vegas for an annual competition. He and his friend, Damon, have a yearly contest and the winner gets to keep a lucky coin they both bought when they were younger. Our heroine, known as Lillie for most of the book, is in Vegas for a “last hurrah,” though the reasoning behind why she wants/needs one is kept a relative secret until the end. The two experience some animal magnetism (harhar) and they plan on enjoying the rest of the week together. They both know that come the weekend, Jim will be doing his weird contest thing and Lillie will be leaving Vegas.
In the world of paranormal romance, I definitely lean more towards the shifter camp than vampires. Maybe because I find the latter subgenre a bit oversaturated. With shifters, wolves definitely get all of the glory, so if an author goes a bit unconventional with it – lions, tigers, bears (oh my!) – that’s an easy way to win me over.
But in Copper King the fact that people legit turn into animals isn’t central to the plot. The story would have worked without it. Even the twist towards the end. I do realize that with a novella, the ins and outs of a story are scaled down to a neat, digestible chunk, but when you have a limited amount of space, details and plot devices should be poignant and essential to the story.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Lillie. We don’t really learn much of her background and that’s probably due to the plot twist later one. However, we do get hints that she’s a numbers girl, a bit of techie. At first, I was excited because I love female characters that dabble in hobbies or exist in occupations that are normally male dominated. And, being in Vegas, this could have added a great splash of counting cards…maybe the hero and heroine battle over a game of poker.
Instead, Lillie falls into the trope of the oblivious, tech girl, but it’s not quite a balance, and her character development rests too much on the former and no enough on the latter. Her knowledge of technology, odds, and ratios is only mentioned a couple times and rarely does she do anything with it.
Over the course of the novella, Jim and Lillie spend a few days together, but there interactions aren’t meaningful enough to me to warrant falling in love, which of course they do because…hello, romance novel. They had sex a bunch, watched movies, wandered around a park in their bear forms, but that’s it.
And then there are the word choices. Example the first: “Nicely packaged ladies.”
WHAT MAKES A LADY “NICELY PACKED”?
Curled ribbons? Fancy paper that you buy at those stationery stores (they’re awful on my wallet, by the way, because of course I need my own personalized stationery)? Does he pick them up and shake them to find out what’s inside?
Then there’s this:
“Her nipples were the first to go, like an early-warning system, this one of lust, the nubs springing to full attention.”
I hope you’re picturing what I’m picturing. Car alarms, sirens, her nipples springing forth like one of those boxing glove jack-in-the-boxes.
Most of the book is spent just hanging around Vegas. Seeing shows, doing striptease classes, having sex on baby grand pianos, you know…the usual. Until Lillie realizes she’s in love and needs to skip town to handle her business real quick.
If you’re interested in the big plot reveal, SPOILER (Highlight to read):
Lillie is arranged to be married to another bear shifter and the “last hurrah” makes sense now. As bears are more of a solitary shifter race, it’s not uncommon to use marriage services. So she hacks some airport database to get a plane to get her to her betrothed’s house to call everything off. They’ve never met. Jim is all panicky because Lillie is gone, having left a vague, cryptic note. He gets a new phone (his previous one having been confiscated by his buddy, Damon, to get him to stop working and enjoy the weekend. When he turns it on, he has a voicemail from a matchmaking company, saying they’ve found him a wife.
GUESS WHO IT IS?!
He doesn’t know it’s her because he only knows his sexy, bear lady as Lillie (a nickname of her middle name). So then he flies out to his house to meet his new fiancée and call off the engagement. And lo and behold, the two are reunited and everything is cleared up.
Of course, they get their HEA and all is right with the world. Cue hours of sex in the kitchen. And no, I’m not joking. Hours. Someone’s got to start chafing at some point.
Were there pluses to the book? Yes, it wasn’t an awful reading experience by any means.
I will admit that this is my first foray in Vivan Arend’s shifter novels and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the world-building (everyone does shifters differently). On her site, she mentions that this can be read as a standalone story and it can! I’m always gun shy about spin-off series because of that very reason.
I did like Jim a lot. Maybe that’s because we get to know more about him as readers; more of his history is divulged to us, like how he spent his summer vacations and his relationship with his parents. Shapeshifters are also integrated into normal surroundings, though their existence isn’t known to humans. From my understanding, there are shifters in certain positions of power (like owners of glamorous hotels) to enable quiet, separate areas for them to relax, and I enjoyed the imagery of minks and jaguars dog-paddling around a giant infinity pool.
Aside from some character tweaking, I probably would have liked the idea better in a full-length novel setting and ditched the shifter idea, since it wasn’t integral to the plot for me. A somewhat bored billionaire doing some thrill-seeking before starting an arranged marriage. A woman looking to throw her inhibitions to the wind in Vegas. It’s got contemporary erotica written all over it.
That being said, I may take a break from novellas for a while.