John Charming doesn’t know exactly what he is. Well, he knows he’s a descendant of the Knights Templar, a group that’s under a geas to slay supernatural creatures who violate the Pax Arcana (a secret treaty the Knights made with the elves), but when his mother was pregnant with him, she was bitten by a werewolf. The werewolf blood gives John supernatural powers, something that’s anathema to the Knights. They trained him when he was young, but when his powers manifested, he was ostracized, and now some Knights are even hunting him, so he has to hide.
That’s how John Charming ended up as a bartender in a backwoods bar in a small Virginia town. He was satisfactorily flying under the radar until a beautiful six-foot-tall blonde showed up one night. John reluctantly gets pulled into her ragtag team of monster hunters who are trying to flush out a nasty nest of vampires in John’s town. Suddenly John’s life is full of danger, death, and betrayal, but also camaraderie and romance.
It took me a while to warm up to Charming (2013). At first it seemed like just another one of these contemporary fantasies with a plethora of supernatural creatures, brutal (and too-detailed) fight scenes, and a wisecracking hero. I didn’t think John was charming or funny; I thought he was annoying.
But, to my surprise, by the midpoint of the book I had changed my mind. It may be that John actually got funnier, or it may be that the audiobook narrator became more adept at the delivery (or possibly the fact that I sped up the narration after I got familiar with the characters), or it may be that after a time author Elliot James succeeded in convincing me that John is actually a great guy who uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism to cover his loneliness and vulnerability. Whatever, I found myself rooting for John and wanting to find out what happens next. As soon as I was finished with Charming, I picked up its sequel, Daring. (There are currently five novels and several novellas in the PAX ARCANA series.)
The audiobook is narrated by Roger Wayne, someone I hadn’t listened to before. He was a great choice for this book and he really made me believe in John. Charming is 10.5 hours long and produced by Tantor Audio. I recommend Charming to readers looking for an exciting contemporary fantasy with a strong but vulnerable male protagonist. (Actually, there’s a strong but vulnerable female protagonist, too.)