My Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Science Fiction Romance/ Science Fiction Gamer Romance
Age Category: Adult
Type of romance: MF
In the game of love, sometimes a little spell is needed.
When Mercedes isn’t turning wrenches for her family’s classic car restoration business, she’s logging into her favorite MMO and losing herself in adventures with friends. With no luck on the dating scene thanks to a cybernetic enhancement, she’s ready to throw in the towel and focus on her passions.
But her closest friend, Takashi, keeps her from quitting on love just yet. Could he be the one to look past her artificial flaw and show her what it means to be cared for?
Family and the most popular MMO in existence are Takashi’s life. He’s found his business calling in the in-game economics that seamlessly meshes with the real world. But after meeting a fiery blonde named Mercedes through a guildmate, he found his interests slowly broadening.
Can he convince her he can look past her cybernetic and see the real her, or will he lose her for good when life tries to sabotage his efforts at every turn?
I loved the sound of this series and knew I had to read it. A scifi romance novel with gamer elements sounded exactly like the kind of book for me. And in a way it was and at the same it wasn’t. This is going to be one of those confusing reviews about a book that I really liked at times and other parts didn’t work for me at all. It just leaves me sad that the parts I liked less made me like the whole book as a whole less. I did enjoy it enough and am curious about the other characters stories that I’ll definitely be continuing this series and I hope future books have less of the things that didn’t work for me.
While this book is marketed as a scifi gamer romance it is actually quite light on both the scifi and gamer aspects. If you enjoy a good friends to lovers contemporary romance and don’t mind some futuristic tech I think you might enjoy it. I think it’s very accessible to those who aren’t big scifi readers, which is great. I personally would’ve loved to have more scifi aspects and more about the game in this book though.
Spellbinding His Ranger follows the story of Takashi and Mercedes. The two have been friends for a long time and met through a virtual massively multiplayer online game. They are great friends and they both wish they could become more, but they’re afraid to lose what they have. I love friends to lover stories and the author handled it so well. There was the doubt on both sides on whether to take their relationship further, then that slow progression where they grow even slower and then the resulting romance. I liked how these two already knew each other very well and that only helped them as they progressed into romance territory.
There were some small things about the romance that didn’t work as well for me. I thought the focus was very much on Takashi wooing Mercedes and rarely anything the other way around, except for her dressing up nicely. And later when they hit a bump in their relationship it is again up to Takashi to grovel and make things right, even though he didn’t do anything wrong. I think that’s what bothers me most, he didn’t do anything wrong, but everyone (even his family) still blamed him. I thought it was really unfair and didn’t make sense. I guess it’s because of his personality that he took the blame and he didn’t blame Mercedes for what happened, but everyone blamed him, while neither of them was to blame. It really rubbed me wrong.
While I am on the topic of the big bump in their romance, that’s probably the thing that bothered me the most of this book. I was really enjoying the book up till then. I just knew this was going to be a solid 4 star read and then we hit that bump, the romance drama, the obligatory break-up scene. I really hate badly done obligatory break-up scenes and this one fit that mark. I don’t want to give too many details away, but I thought it was unrealistic and out of character how they responded, especially Mercedes. It also is something that could’ve been so easily solved if they had tried this one other obvious method they only think of after the damage is done.
I know Merecedes has some self esteem issues and I didn’t blame her for doubting for a bit, but she didn’t even worry about Takashi or give her friend of multiple years the benefit of the doubt. I thought that was just very rude on her part and I also thought it was out of character, she even basically admits as much later in the book. And ofcourse then Takashi has to grovel and do everything he can to proof himself and apologize, while he didn’t do anything wrong. I also didn’t like how long it took to resolved this and how weird the relationship between them felt, but as soon as they resolve it they instantly fit back into the romance they had before. It was just weird. I hate to say it, but that part ruined the book for me and I couldn’t go back to that state before this happened where I really enjoyed the book.
There also is a bit of a suspense side plot line if I can call it that. There is some vandalism, hacking attempts and more. It just felt like whenever was extra inconvenient for the characters something like this happened. There didn’t seem a rhyme or reason behind it that made sense realistically, just whenever was bad for the characters. And even at the end when things get resolved and we find out who was behind it, it still didn’t make sense to me. It was easy to guess who was behind it all, but I was thinking in a totally different direction for the motivation as a way to explain what happened. I thought the person’s current motivation didn’t fit the actions they took. It just felt like a convenient way for the author to bring some drama in the characters lives and the explanation didn’t fit what happened well in my opinion.
Let’s go have a look at one of the things I did really like about this book: the characters. Both main characters were likeable, they both had a clear personality, hobbies, habits etc to make them feel alive. I have to admit that I like Taskahi more than Mercedes, but that’s mostly because of her behavior in the bump in their romance as I mentioned beforehand. Takashi was so sweet and caring, always coming up with surprises and gifts for Mercedes and going out of his way to show how much he cares. And I liked seeing Mercedes slowly letting down her walls and letting him in. I do wish at times we would get an even closer and more in depth look at their emotions, there was something with Mercedes her arm and I didn’t even realize how big of a deal it was to her until she told Takashi.
Then there were the side characters. There are quite a few side characters, but it was easy to remember who was who. And you can easily spot some of the pairings for future books. I like how much the side characters were part of this story and I hope that continues to be the case in future books. I liked Narissa and I am curious for her story. And then there’s Shira, I am really looking forward to her story as it will be great for her to find happiness after what she’s gone through. We get a less good feel for the guys, but that makes sense given how Mercedes is good friends with the two women, so we see most of them. Then there is Takashi’s family, Takashi’s ex who makes an appearance and some other side characters at places they work or visit.
There are some parts of the book that take place in game, which was fun. I liked the game aspect, I just would’ve liked a bit more of it. Early in the book it’s quite high on the game scenes, but later on it’s more out of game scenes. I also would’ve liked to learn more about the game and how some things worked in game and with the virtual reality thing. But maybe that will come in future books. There also were a few things game related that didn’t make sense to me.
Besides the game there is also the out-of-game world building. As this book is set in the future, the year 2117 or so I think, there are some differences with the current time. Although for how far in the future it was, I thought the world was surprisingly similar and we don’t see as much of the differences and what has changed. There ofcourse is the virtual reality game, which is much more advanced than what we have now, there are cybernetics, they also have self driving cars and everyone has a very handy personal AI, but those four things are what we see most of. I liked the AI’s and how they all had their own personality. We mostly meet Tasha, Mercedes her AI and Ochi, Taskahi’s AI, I liked both of them. I wouldn’t have minded a more sci-fi feel and more futuristic technology, but like I said before it does make it accessible for those who aren’t big scifi fans.
To summarize: I love the concept for this series with the scifi and games elements and I am glad I picked this one up. It’s quite light on both the scifi and gamer aspects, which makes the book accessible for those who aren’t big scifi readers, but I personally would’ve liked to see a bit more of those. I liked the friends to lovers romance between Takashi and Mercedes and I liked seeing them grow closer. Taskahi was so sweet and I liked seeing Mercedes slowly open her heart and lower her walls. There is a bump in their relationship or what I call the obligatory break-up scene that didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t like how everyone blamed Takashi while it wasn’t his fault and how Mercedes jumped to conclusions because of her insecurities and didn’t give Taskahi the benefit of the doubt. Then it was all up to Takahi to grovel and fit it, which I didn’t like as the focus seemed way too much on him having to do everything. He was awesome about it tough and handled it well. There also is a sort of suspense plot line involving hacking attempts and vandalism, which I didn’t care for. It just seemed to pop up when inconvenient for the characters and then fade to the background again. I also thought the motivation from the antagonist who was behind it didn’t fit the actions, it just didn’t make sense to me. I liked the main characters and the large group of side characters. I am really curious about Narissa and Shira’s stories and already have a guess of whose stories might be next after that. I liked the scifi and gamer aspects, but would’ve liked a bit more focus on it and see more world building both in and out of game.