KINSHIP AND KINDNESS by Kara Jorgensen (BOOK REVIEW)
Content warnings: (from the author) sexual content, violence, ableism (including internalized), foreshortened future/PTSD, epileptic seizures, remembered child abuse, remembered death of a lover. I’d also add that this is not a queernorm world and the MCs (one trans, both MLM) are sometimes scared of discovery of their identities.
Bennett Reynard needs one thing: to speak to the Rougarou about starting a union for shifters in New York City before the delegation arrives. When his dirigible finally lands in Louisiana, he finds the Rougarou is gone and in his stead is his handsome son, Theo, who seems to care for everyone but himself. Hoping he can still petition the Rougarou, Bennett stays only to find he is growing dangerously close to Theo Bisclavret.
Theo Bisclavret thought he had finally come to terms with never being able to take his father’s place as the Rougarou, but with his father stuck in England and a delegation of werewolves arriving in town, Theo’s quiet life is thrown into chaos as he and his sister take over his duties. Assuming his father’s place has salted old wounds, but when a stranger arrives offering to help, Theo knows he can’t say no, even if Mr. Reynard makes him long for things he had sworn off years ago.
As rivals arrive to challenge Theo for power and destroy the life Bennett has built, they know they must face their greatest fears or risk losing all they have fought for. With secrets threatening to topple their worlds, can Theo and Bennett let down their walls before it’s too late?
I don’t read a lot of paranormal/shifter romance, but I can usually be persuaded if a book is either historical or queer, and this is both! Kinship and Kindness, as the name implies, is a very sweet story that focuses on two men, who’ve both learned to put up enormous walls around themselves, realising that they can find comfort and acceptance with each other. It’s a book full of gentleness and healing, but it also tackles some darker subjects like familial abuse and transphobia, so do be mindful of the content warnings above.
While the paranormal elements are central to the plot, this is definitely more on the romance end of the scale, which makes for a really cosy, intimate feel to the book as a whole. Bennett’s goals to get non-wolf shifters included in the wolves’ union are very interesting, and throughout the book there are hints at tension in the world beyond the borders of the Bisclavret estate, but for the main part this is rather a quiet, localised story, and we only really see the very small part of the world that affects the main characters. I would perhaps have liked a little more of the world-building to show – for the first few chapters I was a little surprised this was the first book in the series, as I felt like I was expected to know some things about the world already. But on the whole, it just feels like there’s space to tell a lot of stories in this world, particularly in the queer magical corners of New York, which we hear details of in Bennett’s backstory.
The story that we do get is a very warm one, as full of baking and gardening as it is shifter politics and recovery from trauma. The developing relationship between Bennett and Theo is lovely, and watching the two of them start to open up to each other is really rewarding. Both Theo and Bennett have painful personal history and internalised self-hatred they need to work through, but I think it was handled very sensitively and their conversations are really well-balanced. I loved seeing how kindly they handled each other – they are always respectful, even when they’re challenging each other’s beliefs! We get both their viewpoints, so we can really see what each of them considers their weak points, and I always enjoy when you switch viewpoints and see that the other character loves them in spite of and because of the things they’d change about themselves. The quiet moments they can snatch alone are wonderfully cosy, and there’s plenty of that here – not to mention lots of really nice food moments that feel very homey (and hunger-inducing!) to read.
If you’re in the mood for a sweet, affirming story that focuses on the wonders kindness can do in a dark world, this is going to be right up your street. I recommend it to fans of Ophelia Silk’s Spellbound, which has similar vibes of slow character healing, queer acceptance, and the power of gardening – or to anyone looking for a really warm queer romance.