RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Diamond Dust by Vivian Arend

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Title: Diamond Dust
Author: Vivian Arend
Publication Info: Samhain Publishing August 2013
ISBN: 978-1619219519
Genre: Paranormal

Book Diamond Dust This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Syaffolee. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

She can’t shift, but she can shake their world.

Caroline Bradley is having one hell of a week. Her wolf lover has sniffed out his mate, making her an instant free agent. Not only that, Takhini territory has been overrun with aggressive bear-shifters electing a clan leader, and the wolf pack is feeling the effects—pushing her diplomatic skills to the limit.

Tyler Harrison is a grizzly on a mission. If he’s going to win the majority of the bears’ votes, he needs one final thing: a female companion. The only woman in town with influence over wolves, humans, and more bears than he’d like to admit, is Caroline.

Despite the sexual pull between them, though, Tyler’s not seeking a permanent relationship. And Caroline isn’t looking to be anyone else’s political pawn. But she should have remembered that when shifters are involved, changes happen in the blink of an eye.

Warning: Billionaire bear hero plus kick-ass human heroine equals a sexually volatile power struggle. Get ready for what might be the naughtiest game of tag that’s ever been played in the great outdoors.

And here is Syaffolee's review:

I have not read the other books in the Takhini Wolves series by Vivian Arend, but I found Diamond Dust to stand well enough alone that I was able to get what was going on without getting very confused. 

Caroline Bradley has grown up with wolf shifters, making her one of the few humans privy to the existence of shifters. However, her lover, the Takhini wolf pack alpha, Evan Stone, dumps her as soon as he scents his mate. Caroline is philosophical about the break up—she understands that due to wolf shifter nature and culture, her relationship with Evan was only temporary and the two part, still good friends. While I understand that this clean break was necessary to move the story along, I found the break too clean. Caroline and Evan clearly care about each other and are compatible in many ways, so I don’t understand why the sudden appearance of Evan’s mystery mate doesn’t cause more angst and complications.

Meanwhile, a number of bear shifters are moving into the territory to meet in a conclave to decide on a new leader. Tyler Harrison is a grizzly shifter hoping to impress some of the other bear clans to back him on the vote. The only problem is, many of the other bear shifters don’t think he’s an ideal candidate because he doesn’t have a mate. When Tyler arrives to stay at the wolf shifter-owned inn, he discovers Caroline unconscious in the hot tub after an accident while trying to clean his room. After Tyler comes to her assistance, Tyler’s friend Justin notices the attraction between the two and suggests that Tyler should take Caroline as his companion to the conclave to help solve his problem.

I thought Caroline and Tyler worked well together with very few protracted misunderstandings. While Caroline may have been leery about jumping into another relationship with an alpha shifter so soon, it was obvious that her personality was too easy going for her to moan about this too much. Her understanding of shifter behavior and ability to roll with the punches, so to speak, made her a good match for Tyler.  Tyler quickly sees the advantages he would have with Caroline by his side, but also realizes that things become a bit more complicated as he falls in love with her amidst the political turmoil.  On the whole, Caroline and Tyler’s courtship was very fast (only a week) with very few speed bumps. I enjoyed their banter, but the lack of conflict and obstacles in their path made it very hard for me to believe that they could form a connection so easily.  Bear shifters don’t even have the excuse of wolf shifters for sniffing out their mates, which, in some ways, made the quick pairing even less plausible. Both Caroline and Tyler have practical personalities, and it would have made more sense for them to take some more time getting to know each other without the political threats hanging over their heads.

Much of the conflict was external, concerning the conclave and the bear clans. Despite the veneer of civilization presented with the bear shifters agreeing to vote for a leader, there was still an undercurrent of wildness and violence that was the root of many of their problems.  Every time the bear shifters met, they would find any excuse to brawl.  Even worse, parts of bear shifter culture are still male dominated, with females deemed the weaker sex, put up for arranged marriages, and even becoming victims of spousal abuse. So it was up to Tyler, Caroline, and their allies to drag them into a more enlightened age. I thought adding this struggle would have made things more interesting, but I found myself a bit dissatisfied with this aspect of the story as well. It was wrapped up much too quickly and conveniently. I would have wished for more conflict and uncertainty between all of the different bear clans.  Having all of the clans throw their support behind Tyler after the epic showdown at the end seemed a bit too pat.

As for the world building aspect of this novel, I have not read any of the previous books, so I do not know if I’ve missed any unique details which would have made me see any of this in a different light. If there is such a thing, I would call this a light wallpaper paranormal. The portrayals of the wolf shifters and bear shifters in this story didn’t have a particularly different spin to them compared to other books about shifters. I don’t think it would have made much of a difference if the shifters had been genies or trolls instead.  The thing is, it isn’t so much that Caroline is interacting with bear shifters, but that she is interacting with a different culture. Here, the paranormal is a metaphor rather than a structural part of the world building, standing in for another society, a society trying to tear itself out of a destructive patriarchal mindset. And while it is great that the bear shifters are trying to do that, I find it troubling that it takes Caroline—a human and a foreigner to their culture—to save them.

On a superficial level, Diamond Dust is a light and fun read.  I was not a fan of the beginning—which started with a wedding and made me feel like I was cheating and reading the end of the book first. However there are many funny moments, ranging from Caroline’s rather unorthodox methods in diffusing a shifter fight at a restaurant to the outrageous endgame at a poolside party. Not only was the chemistry between Tyler and Caroline combustible, but I felt that they genuinely enjoyed each other as people outside of their biological urges. Unfortunately, looking any deeper in this book’s world and conflicts makes the edges unravel.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Lindsay says:

    I am a huge fan of Vivian Arend’s shifter series(es) and it’s a shame that this is the one that a lot of people will be introduced to her with, as I think it’s the weakest to date. Her previous books, especially Black Gold and Silver Mine, are fantastic, as well as the shorter books like Wolf Signs and Wolf Nip. I think that reading Silver Mine makes a huge difference before Diamond Dust as it sets up all the bear worldbuilding. I wasn’t huge on Copper King or Moon Shine, but I honestly think Black Gold is hard to top and Silver Mine is one of the books that has stayed with me in terms of steaminess—it has a scene I go back and re-read every now and then and I do that with like, TWO other books. Total. One is another one by her.

    All of that said, Carolyne is awesome and it was finally nice to see her get her happily-ever-after, and she doesn’t disappear from the series.

  2. 2
    Erin Burns says:

    I agree with Lyndsay, this probably isn’t the strongest book in the series (though I liked Moon Shine better because I love a devious alpha heroine), but her shifter series as a whole are typically pretty fun and, dare I say, quirky. They don’t often make my re-read pile, but I definitely enjoy them while they last.

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