“Soulmates” by Erin M. Leaf explores the connection that forms between Guy, a mature widower and Theo, a male empath who knows that Guy is his soulmate, despite his previous heterosexual relationship. I love stories that explore psychic phenomena and I enjoyed this m/m paranormal story. Guy’s backstory was touching and watching him grapple with both his guilt at moving on after his loss as well as the confusion about his attraction to Theo kept me invested in the story. I enjoyed his son’s mature attitude and I hope there will be a story featuring him as well, as I was fascinated by him being an animal Healer. The instant attraction that forms between Guy and Theo was a little tough to believe although the soulmate bond made the concept a little more palatable but I had a little trouble suspending disbelief about the villain since it was telegraphed so clearly and a certain person’s abrupt turnaround casts doubt on the efficacy of Theo’s power. I’d love for there to be a longer story that provides more information about the world and society and the types of powers other folks have.
Guy Keaton doesn’t want a hookup or a soulmate or anything in between. When he lost his wife to cancer, he knew he’d be alone for the rest of his life. He has a grown son, and his woodshop, and in a world where those born with powerful gifts are few and far between, that’s all that really matters.
Theo Fraser’s empathic gift is rare and strong. He isn’t looking for love, but when he meets Guy, everything changes, because he knows that when you find your soulmate, you hold on tight and don’t let go. The only problem is that Guy thinks he’s straight, and Theo doesn’t know if he can convince a man already set in his ways to change his mind.
Will Guy be able to give up his grief and accept Theo’s love? And what happens when a terrible betrayal forces them to fight to keep each other alive?
Be Warned: m/m sex
“You seem very sure I’m bisexual.” Guy put his hands in his pockets.
Theo paused on the trail. He could see the trailhead just up ahead. “Aren’t you?”
Guy looked at him. “I was married for a long time.”
“That’s not an answer.” Theo took a risk and stepped closer. “I know a great way for you to find out for sure.” He ignored the little voice in his head that was telling him not to be an impulsive idiot. He looked back down the trail and waved a “wait” signal to the two bodyguards trailing them. Julio had already reached the trailhead, and Theo knew he was checking out the car. They were as alone as they were going to get right now. And it’s just a kiss. It’s not like we’re going to have sex in the middle of a hiking trail.
“How?” Guy asked, sounding wary.
“I kiss you right here, right now. If you like it, you’re bi. If you don’t, you’re not.” Theo waited, knowing even as the words left his mouth that nothing in life was as simple as what he’d just suggested. He knew that even if Guy enjoyed the kiss, there would be some serious questions for his soulmate to wade through before he came out the other side. Guy had just spent most of his life thinking he was straight, and denying the feelings that were buried deep all along. And I know firsthand that it isn’t easy to change beliefs you hold onto too tightly, Theo mused, thinking of his parents. He shook off the bad memories. Now was not the time to dredge up that emotional shitstorm.
“That’s crazy,” Guy said, half smiling, and half looking like a man about to run for the hills. “You could be a shitty kisser.”
Theo smirked. Guy hadn’t said no. “I’m an Empath. I’m incapable of being a shitty kisser.”
Guy laughed, as Theo had intended. “So the rumors about Empaths are true? They’re great in bed?”
Theo didn’t reply. He let his silence speak for him.
Guy ran a hand over the back of his neck. “This is crazy,” he muttered, repeating himself.
Theo’s cock swelled as he sensed Guy’s tentative arousal. And fear. Don’t forget the fear, he thought, as his power instinctively reached out to his soulmate. Guy was the one person in the world he would never be able to block out. He sensed Guy’s attraction to him, and his anxiety, as well as his bone-deep weariness with being sad. The relaxation he’d felt just a little while ago on the trail lingered, too.
“Yeah, okay. What the hell,” Guy said, stepping closer. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Theo grinned. “You sound like a man trying to decide if he should try out a new taco, not a kiss.”
“It’s just as terrifying,” Guy replied instantly. “You never know when a taco could be harboring one of those insanely hot peppers. I could get burned.”
Theo reached out and put a hand on Guy’s shoulder, willing him to relax. “I’m not a habanero, Guy,” Theo murmured.
“You might as well be,” Guy said, his voice catching.
Theo moved his hand from Guy’s shoulder to his cheek. “Shh.”
Guy’s eyes widened.
Theo put his thumb on Guy’s lips and sensed a sudden spike in the older man’s arousal. Here goes nothing, he thought, just before he leaned in and kissed his soulmate for the first time.
Guy froze as Theo’s lips touched his. Theo’s mouth was soft and expressive, and so damned hot he thought he might go up in flames if he moved even an inch. He stood there, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with him, when suddenly his Craft power lit up through his body. Energy rushed through him, and he reached out to grab Theo’s arms. He meant to push him away, but he found himself clutching at the younger man as if he were a life raft and Guy was drowning.
“Easy,” Theo murmured against his mouth.
“Fuck.” Guy kissed him back, searching for … what? He had no idea. All he knew was that he’d never felt so damned aroused in his life. His cock shoved against his pants, hard and hot and insistent. He groaned when Theo slid his hands into his hair and kissed him again, licking into his mouth with intent. They were the same height, so Guy didn’t have to crane his neck down the way he’d had to in order to kiss Pamela. It was strange. Hot. More than that, though, he felt unbalanced. Confused.
Theo gentled the kiss and pulled back. “There.”
There? Who was the man kidding? Guy stared at him. Was Theo as stunned as he was? The younger man’s mouth looked red and slightly swollen. I did that to him, Guy thought, and then, But I’m straight.
“Dammit,” Theo muttered, and then he stepped closer and kissed Guy again.
This time, Theo pressed himself up against Guy’s torso, and for the first time in his life, Guy felt another man’s hard-on against his hip. “Jesus,” he gasped, unable to stop his body’s instinctive thrust forward. He grabbed Theo’s arms again, absently reveling in the man’s strength, and pulled him closer. “What the fuck is happening?”
Theo answered by biting Guy’s lower lip.
Guy moaned into Theo’s mouth, and walked them back until the younger man’s body hit the sturdy oak tree at the edge of the trail. Guy’s Craft flared again, and the tree shuddered as his energy hit it, but then Theo slid his tongue into his mouth and he didn’t care about anything except the younger man coaxing him to open himself wide. He did, and Theo bit him again. Guy’s erection swelled, and he gasped. He slid his hands down Theo’s arms to his hips.
“Oh, God,” Theo said, head thunking back against the tree as Guy pushed into him.
I had no inkling from the description how very interesting the worldbuilding was going to be in this first book of a new series. I shouldn’t have been surprised as I’ve read this author before and she has a wonderful talent. In ‘Soulmate’ only about one percent of the population has any Craft power and within that percentage very few on them can do more than sense the energy of their particular affinity, they lack any active talent. Soulmates are people who each have a Craft, who are bonded together which extends their lifespan and increases their Craft power, but finding a soulmate within that one percent is very rare. Guy is a WoodCrafter with a very strong Craft in wood – feeling it, working with it, manipulating it – although he likes to do most of his work by hand and without using his power. He lost his beloved wife a few years ago to cancer and even though she was not of the Craft, and they were not soulmates, he loved her very deeply and grieves still. He doesn’t want a soulmate and he certainly doesn’t want to remember his bisexual feelings long ago before he met his wife. Theo is very powerful with an Empathy Craft and at the age of thirty he is already a council delegate. The council mostly mediates disputes between Crafters and handles public relations with the much larger nongifted population. Theo is fairly new to the council but he has already begun to sense underlying issues going on that he’s struggling to decipher. When Theo meets Guy his empathy tells him immediately that they are soulmates but it also tells him Guy is very sad and he has no clue that his soulmate could be a man. Because they’re soulmates Guy and Theo can’t stay away from one another for very long and once they’ve bonded both of their Craft powers increase substantially. Guy will now be able to make the powerful soulmate rings that are so valued. Unfortunately, Theo’s gift of empathy being stronger is going to make returning to DC and the council even harder as he’ll really struggle to control his gift. The majority of the council is made up of older men with a bit of a bigotry problem. Theo is the first empath to serve on the council in fifty years - mostly because people of power are becoming fewer and fewer - and he constantly has a battle on his hands not to mention his worry about the secretive business he suspects the council head is involved in. What an extremely intriguing beginning of a series. I suspect that more worldbuilding will be exposed in future stories and I’m excited to see what it all comes to. The plot of a deviant group of Crafters isn’t a new trope but I believe this author will make the most of it. I adored Theo and Guy and I hope their story continues. If a new couple is to be introduced next, then I hope I get to see these two men I came to care for. I’m super jazzed to see what the future brings!
People with the power to Craft are small in number. Guy Keaton has the power to manipulate wood, though he refuses to use it in his woodworking business. Theo Fraser has the power to feel others’ emotions, which he hopes will stabilize the Council—a body responsible for governing the use of Craft powers. When these two meet by chance in the woods, there is a charge in the air. Theo knows exactly what the thrum of energy means: he has found his soulmate. Guy, on the other hand, is still nursing a broken heart for having lost his wife to cancer a few short years prior. Not to mention Guy doesn’t even know he’s attracted to men and never wanted a soulmate in the first place. Guy and Theo’s brief meeting in the woods is sweet and friendly, but ends with a bang when Guy accepts Theo’s offer to ‘test’ if Guy is at all interested in men. Rather than a deadfish nothing, Guy’s WoodCrafter power goes berserk. This is all the confirmation that Theo needs about their soul-deep connection. For Guy, however, it’s another complication in a life he feels is complicated enough. He feels like he’s betraying the memory of his wife, whom he loved deeply. He feels like he has no control over the situation. Yet he also feels an undeniable need to be with Theo. Just as Guy begins to process this whirlwind of changes, an anti-Crafter attack hits far too close to home. On top of that, Theo’s father, the man who disowned Theo for being gay twenty years ago, appears causing trouble. Soon, Guy and Theo must deal with Theo’s power-hungry father while trying to stay alive. I picked this book because I was intrigued by the idea of an unwilling soulmate. I think Leaf did a great job painting Guy as a good person, devoted to his deceased wife and his grown son, and not ready to “move on” just yet. This gave Guy wonderful depth. It also made his meeting with Theo rather bittersweet and not a little bit angsty from Theo’s point of view. That said, it was also clear from almost the moment they lay eyes on each other (and definitely the moment they shake hands) that there is some major attraction. It was almost comical how aroused these two were in each other’s presence. There was sort of an innocence on Guy’s part because he thinks it’s just rando-raging erections at the most inappropriate time. The meeting scene between Guy and Theo covers a lot of ground, but doesn’t really resolve their relationship status. It takes Guy quite a lot of waffling around and lots of encouragement from his son to even entertain the idea that he can bond with the man who is his soulmate. There is a strong thriller aspect to the last third or so of this story and it all ties into Theo and his involvement with the Council. Theo has been newly elected as a Delegate—the specifics of what this Council do, how much authority they have, how out in the open they are, and what tension there may be between Crafters and non-crafters isn’t exactly well developed. This made it hard for me to appreciate just what kind of role Theo has in this Council and why it’s so important that Theo is a empath. This actually ties into one of my criticisms of the writing. It seems like Theo explains that he is an empath—the first on one the council in 50 years—every time a new character appears on page, even if they are a character Theo would know. The result came across like making a mountain out of a mole hill because I never really understood the depth of this importance. For that matter, I didn’t understand why the combination of Guy’s WoodCrafting and Theo’s Empathy would be THE “power couple” pairing in this world. Even though there is some justification because Guy the WoodCrafter meeting and bonding with his soulmates allows Guy to create the soulmate rings worn by bonded pairs, it still felt like a contrivance for the powers the two MCs had. On the whole, I thought the balance between Theo and Guy was a bit skewed, too. Guy has a backstory that gets a lot of on-page attention and provides some major hurdles. I liked how Guy’s decease wife was not just something Guy had to come to terms with, but something that we see Theo processing on-page, too (albeit in sometimes weird ways…like how a conversation about the dead wife lead to a bout of phone sex). All we get to know about Theo is that his parents kicked him out and disowned him for being gay. This dynamic figures prominently into the machinations leading up to an attack on Theo, but I felt like it fizzled on page. Overall, the ending of the story is a bit too fast paced to really satisfy as a thriller type story, but I thought the characters’ interactions were compelling enough to keep things interesting. The main story here is about Guy and Theo coming to terms with the power of their connection as soul mates. There is a lot of sexual tension, dabs of angst on many levels, and delicious consummation of their relationship. If you’re looking for an easy summer read that highlights relationships and throws a bit of action (albeit somewhat rushed), you’d probably enjoy this book.
SOULMATE is the first book in the Soulmates series, and already I find myself reading about a world that I love! Guy is still grieving for his wife. She may have died of cancer three years ago, but the emptiness he feels inside hasn't diminished with time. Theo is in his thirties, a Council member, and openly gay. He is also one of the few Empaths around. When these two meet, sparks fly, and I was desperately hoping Guy would realise what he had before it was too late. There is so much to enjoy in this book - political machinations, assassination attempts, trees being re-shaped, soul-rings, I could go on. This is a gorgeous gay-for-you (sort of) story that absolutely fulfills my sappy romantic side. There were no editing or grammatical errors that disrupted my reading, and the scenes flowed nicely from one to the next. This is only the first book, and I can't wait for more. Absolutely recommended by me!
'Soulmate' is set in a world where a fraction of the population has a gift, very few with strong ones, but as a group they're known as crafted. They get along with humans yet there's unrest amongst some fractions. This story reminded me of Robin Owen's 'Celta' series with finding your fated mate. Guy is a widower of three years, still in mourning as he lost his lifelong love. His adult son encourages him to step outside his life and on the one time he did, he meets Theo, his soulmate. Theo is an empath, extremely strong, and newly elected member of the leading council. There's some behind the scenes plots and plans and while a lot was explained, it sounds like something deeper is going on. Amidst all this is a reluctant widower dealing with his conscience, his broken heart, and if he's willing to embrace life once more. Theo knows what's at stake and is doing all he can to help Guy. The courtship was clumsy and endearing. Theo's mindset remided me a lot of how Jeremiah Brent handles Nate Berkus's past love in Fernando. Yes. Theo, as an empath, has an inside track on Guy. He handles the situation perfectly, you couldn't ask for a better soulmate in Theo. 4 Stars. - Dan's Wife
Editing errors at a certain point drove me nuts. At a crucial point in the plot, both Jonathan and Guy were Theo (while the real Theo was out of commission, poor guy). This happened twice with Jonathan's name and one with Guy's in the space of a few pages, and after that third time I wanted to throw my Kindle against the wall in frustration. Did no one check this book before it was published?! Aside from those errors, it was a good book, which is why I'm still giving it 4 stars (really 3 1/2). This should be an interesting series.
I liked the promise of the blurb; an age-gap romance with some angst. The book mostly delivered on its promise and I much enjoyed the paranormal romance element of it. So cool to be able to reshape trees as a supernatural ability! Grumpy widower and enthusiastic younger lover were both characters I enjoyed spending time with. I found the on-page grief to be more sweet than angsty, which was somewhat disappointing to me. I like angst! And I would have preferred to read more about how they meshed their everyday lives together after the insta-bonding, rather than the suspense plot in the second half of the book. But those are my personal preferences, and nothing I fault the book for.
This book is so emotional that I had to stop and swipe away tears multiple times. The premise, dealing as it does with a still-mourning widower, would not have worked if handled improperly. As written, it has a major emotional punch as Guy deals with his conflicting feelings about finding his soulmate after his beloved wife's death. Heartfelt and beautiful.
It's been a long time since I've read an MM pairing but I really enjoyed Soulmate. I felt for Guy, mourning the loss of his wife and then meeting his soulmate, who is a man. And to his credit, Theo was patient (somewhat) letting Guy adjust to his new circumstances. Soulmate was emotional and sexy - Guy and Theo make a great pair. A must read!