Earth and Water by J.L. Gribble

Facing torture, being captured, and thrust into a journey to rescue a friend is not the way Kane thought the start of his first mercenary contract would go. Archer gets swept up into Kane and Toria's mission, in his own bid for escape and unwilling to abandon the warrior mage pair. But Archer and Kane both have their own paths to follow, so if they survive how can they ever plan for a future together.

From the Earth and Water blurb:

A life with no room for distraction

Earth mage Kane Nalamas may be on his first official contract as a mercenary, but his years of experience and training don’t prepare him for immediate betrayal. Within days, he loses both his client and his freedom.

A prison of his own creation

Water mage Archer Sophin would not wish his half-life as a human magical battery on anyone. Especially not the sweet mercenary who has no idea he’s stumbled upon one of the greatest secrets in the magical world: magic is dying.

An unlikely partnership

Kane will take any help he can get from the intriguing water mage, even if he’s not sure whether Archer’s role is villain or fellow victim. Drawn further together by an unexpected voyage, what begins as a temporary arrangement turns into the potential for so much more.

To live free in a world that craves their power, the elemental mages will have to use earth and water in ways never seen before. And for a chance to build a future together, they’ll have to escape the chains of their past.

Earth and Water is an M/M paranormal romance featuring a broody pansexual water mage, a stubborn gay earth mage, forced proximity, meddling best friends, and magic as an accidental aphrodisiac. It is set in the same universe as the author’s Steel Empires series but can be read as a standalone novel with a happily ever after and no cliffhanger.

SNik's review:

First in series (Steel Bonds), this is a spin-off from the author’s Steel Empires series. Paranormal. Close proximity. Dual POV. 

Kane is an earth mage on his first mercenary contract with his partner when they run across an old acquaintance that needs help. Water mage Archer ends up helping Kane while they escape one situation and are thrust into a rescue mission, unable to deny their connection but knowing it can’t last. 

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment Archer and Kane were together on page, their attraction, the steam, their individual doubts about the future, and the yearning for something more with each other. There were plenty of supportive characters as well as some evil ones, with Archer and Kane (along with Toria, Kane’s partner) seeing plenty of action and adventure in hopes of saving a friend. Reading the author’s previous works may help with a better understanding of the world build. Overall an entertaining read.

Molly Otto's review:

This is the author’s first attempt at romance and I thought it was a good one. The characters are well-thought out and well-written, though I wanted to shake them a few times with the denial and way they went about getting together, or not getting together in this case.

Kane and Toria are on their first assignment as mercenaries, and they run into Archer as part of the case. Archer and Kane are attracted right away, but their circumstances have them denying what they want. The connection between them can be seen right away, but these two rather be idiots than admit they like one another. It leads to frustration but also a satisfying HEA once they figure things out.

Miki J's review:

This one does stand-alone from the main series....and there's enough details & background to understand the back-story of the characters in the first few chapters. Once that's passed, you're straight into the action..... I will say that the "alternate" world didn't quite gel for me. There's magic and modern world, which some things worked and others didn't..... And the characters are well written but I kept thinking I was missing something. Bit of angst and toing'n'froing with the characters as they wonder whether they should or not...... does end on HEA.

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