Review: Midnight Rodeo: Belonging (Midnight Rodeo #2) Anthology

What happens when rodeos start to get too tough for humans to compete in? Midnight Rodeo, of course, where supernatural creatures work for the prize money, and for the awe of their audience.

Light a Rocket by Julia Talbot
Rocket is probably the worst rider in Darque and Knight rodeo. This cheetah shifter is fast, but he only has so many lives in his cat body, and he spends more time injured than not. Raven Walkingman is the number one cowboy, at the top of his game. The two seem an unlikely match, but Raven enjoys doing things no one expects him to, including Rocket. Raven likes his relationships casual and when Rocket starts talking mates as shifters do, Raven pulls up the stakes. He has his animal spirit guides, his good friends, and his fancy trailer. He doesn't need a ragtag cheetah falling for. His spirit guides know better. They adore Rocket and are more than happy to support him, and abandon Raven, until the stubborn fool does the right thing. 

Freaked Out by Kiernan Kelly
Gargoyle-shifter Killian has spent his life living and working with all different sorts of supernatural folk, but because he had three forms instead of two like most other shifters, he feels like a freak. His habit of minding his own business has been his shield against being hurt, and to aid in that endeavor, he's adopted a stony personality. When a troupe of sideshow performers are hired by Darque and Knight to augment the rodeo, he's forced to redefine his ideas of what constitutes beauty and what defines a freak. Meanwhile, the hard, protective shell he's erected around his heart threatens to crack wide open under the tender touch of Micah, the sideshow's hideous Snake Man.

Tails and Whiskers by BA Tortuga
Tiger shifter Dmitri loves the rodeo. Darque and Knight has become his home, and he adores all of his new friends. His past as a circus animal makes him hate injustice, so when he meets a trick rider and fox shifter, Dmitri is appalled to find that the hot little kit isn't allowed inside the rodeo unless he's working In fact, none of the entertainers are allowed in, all being contractors and thus bound to a greedy goblin. As Dmitri and Isaac fall in love, they find growing dissatisfaction with the status quo, and they go to their friends for support in forcing a policy change. Too bad there's a certain goblin who doesn't want to give up control of his workers. Can Dmitri and Isaac find a way to be together, and to make a change for the better of everyone at D&K?

Midnight Rodeo Belonging is the second in the series set in the shifter world of the Midnight Rodeo. I actually hadn’t read the first in the series, Midnight Rodeo: Homecoming when I snatched this one up for review, and you really don’t have to, but now, after reading Belonging, I want to. While the first book is more focused on the key players in the Darque and Knight Midnight Rodeo world, this installment looks at the characters who, may not draw the crowds and sell the tickets that the riders and main performers do, they are just as integral to the running of the show. What I really appreciated about the three stories was the uniqueness of the characters. These aren’t just wolf and bear shifters, these stories have spiritwalkers, foxes, all kinds of kitties, vampires, demons, and my personal favorite, a gargoyle (insert purring sounds here).

Light a Rocket by Julia Talbot 
Remember how I said the Midnight Rodeo: Belonging is about the secondary characters at the rodeo? I lied just a smidge. Light a Rocket has a major player as an MC, Raven, the King of the Cowboys and a spiritwalker. Firstly, how cool is a freakin’ spiritwalker? So freakin’ cool! Raven is kind of like a shifter who doesn’t shift, but he does have the souls of spirit animals that he can call upon to help him, guide him, etc. Rocket is a cheetah shifter who is a terrible bull rider, but he’s determined to make it on his own no matter how hungry he gets and how many injuries he sustains. Raven is attracted to Rocket, but in a ‘convenient, hot-piece-of-ass’ kind of way at first and Rocket is star struck by the King of the Cowboys.

At first I was not real fond of Raven. Sure, he was cool and what not, he offered some help to Rocket when he needed it, but it was not for altruistic reasons, it was for boner reasons. His sense of entitlement was a little off putting and I think to me it was annoying because I really liked and respected Rocket. BUT, Raven has his redemption when he sees Rocket for the strong and truly heroic character he is. While Rocket spent a good portion of the story trying to be worthy of Raven, Raven’s spirit animals put Raven in his place and taught him humility in a clever and meaningful way. The author did a great job of resolving Raven and Rocket’s relationship in a way that gave them equality regardless of how the story started in a really believable way.

Freaked Out by Kiernan Kelly 
Soooo, GARGOYLES. I’m going to take a moment to say, there are not enough gargoyle characters out there. You don’t get much more protective than a gargoyle so they make great fiercely defensive MC’s, plus they can have that whole, rugged hot-ugly thing going on that I love. So, more gargoyles ok? Okthanksbye.

Soooo, Kiernan Kelly wrote a story where a gargoyle, Killian, was one of the MC’s and I was smitten from the beginning. Gargoyles are interesting shifters in this one because they have three forms rather than two, human, gargoyle and stone. When a gargoyle is in a stone state it’s like he’s sleeping, but he can be vulnerable then and when a character is as protective and strong as a gargoyle AND has a vulnerable side too, it makes him even more appealing to me.

Darque and Knight have contracted a traveling ‘freak show’ to add to the entertainment value of the Midnight Rodeo. Killian is uncomfortable with the whole idea from the beginning, the thought of objectifying other paranormal characters does not set well with him. When he goes to inspect the tent he’s met with an extremely defensive manager and a man/snake hybrid, Micah, who looks as if he’s been caught and stuck in mid shift. Killian investigates further, gets to know the folks under the tent and makes it his mission to release them from the oppressive and abusive manager Emmet.

Micah is not what he seems and there’s a bit of a sci-fi element introduced to explain his situation and why he’s stuck in this limbo. Emmet abuses Micah terribly, but Micah is still has a good heart and will do anything to divert Emmet’s abuse away from his friends under the tent. Killian’s gargoyle is having none of that nonsense and takes on Emmet to save Micah and the others. There’s an epic good vs evil battle and a resolution that was hopeful and sweet. It was a little quick compared to all the build-up, but was still satisfying.

Tales and Whiskers by B.A. Tortuga 
Tales and Whiskers is the story of Dmitri, a tiger shifter that, along with his feline friends, feed all of the Rodeo folks. He’s a former circus animal who was terribly abused and is so thankful for his lot in life now. His English isn’t the best, but his grasp of what’s important makes him a favorite character. His large size is rivaled only by his large heart. The circus has contracted with another entertainment group and one of the acts is an acrobatic troupe of fox shifters that Dmitri quickly becomes smitten with, especially little Isaac.

These two are adorable together and go straight to the insta lust on it’s way to insta love. For some reason it really worked for them, I think it was Dmitri’s straightforward personality and appreciation for the good things that come his way. He’s not going to waste his time with angst when he can get all up in a sexy little fox shifter that he really likes. You have to respect that.

This story has a similar vein to it as Freaked Out in that the manager of the troupe of entertainers is oppressive and abusive to his acts. It wasn’t at all like rereading the same story, it was just a similar theme that just made me want to tell Darque and Knight that they really start needing to run some background checks. Dmitri rounds up the troops and goes after the evil in order to free his fox and all the others and it was pretty cool how they all rallied together for what they believed was right and needed to happen for these characters to be able to get their HEA’s one day too. There are a lot of personalities that would be great for future episodes of the Midnight Rodeo. Isaac has himself a lot of brothers who need to find their mates too.

While the stories all have the “need” and stunted sentence thing that many shifter stories do. Those familiar with the shifter genre know what I’m talking about. Where the word ‘need’ almost turns into a noun with how it’s used. You know when the heat turns up and one character gets a case of the “needs”. “He felt almost blind with need” and “hot drops of liquid need”. Then the stilted sentences, “Silly kit. His silly cheetah.” Y’all know what I mean. But, it worked for the feel of the stories, these were horny, otherworldly cowboys and such looking for their mates (or stumbling on them as the case may have been for a couple of them).

The Midnight Rodeo is a really fun shifter diversion with a unique take with writers that obviously complement one another well. They were different enough from one another to keep me curious as to what would be coming next, yet familiar enough to keep me invested in the world they’d built. I hope there’s more to come because the Midnight Rodeo is too fun of a ride to stop now.

For more info on Midnight Rodeo: Belonging, head over to Goodreads.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

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