Until two years ago, Deputy Roman Charsguard was a K-9 dog for the Army. After years of an incredibly close bond with his handler, James, Roman became “quickened” and turned into a human/dog shifter upon James’ death. Now Roman live and works in the small mountain town of Mad Creek, a town populated mostly by other dog shifters.
Matt Barclay is a DEA agent who has been assigned to work in Mad Creek keeping an eye out for illegal pot farms. The town’s sheriff, Lance, has made it clear he doesn’t want Matt there and acts awfully suspicious. But Matt has been partnered up with Roman for the investigation and really likes the sweet man. Roman isn’t like almost anyone he has met. On one hand he is smart and disciplined and a hard worker, making clear his military background. But he is also strangely naive and innocent, with a very sheltered background and often an awkwardness that is unusual for such a strong, attractive, and well respected man.
As the two men work together, Roman begins to fall for Matt and it seems like Matt feels the same. But Roman is very uncertain, having basically no experience romantically or sexually, and still barely used to being human. Plus, Lance has made it very clear that Roman can’t tell Matt anything about the town or the shifters. If their secret gets out, it could lead to danger for everyone. For his part, Matt is still not out about being gay, especially to his military father. Yet he can’t help the strong feelings he has for Roman and the sense that things between them might be growing into something more.
When Matt and Roman find evidence of drug traffickers trying to set up a farm in Mad Creek, they are determined to bring the men down. But these men are dangerous and will do anything to stop anyone who gets in their way. The men risk their lives to help bring down the bad guys. And all the while Roman must figure out how to keep the canine part of himself hidden from the man he has grown to love.
How to Walk Like a Man is the second in Eli Easton’s Howl at the Moon series. I absolutely loved the first story, How to Howl at the Moon, and went crazy for the incredibly creative world building. Shifter stories are pretty common in romance land, but Easton’s take on them here is so fresh and creative. While some shifters are born from other quickened, many of them turn from animal to human after intensely bonding with their owners. It is such a sweet idea and one that leads to a really fun and clever dynamic for these characters. While Lance, our hero in the first story, was born human, here we see Roman who is just newly turned. He lived the vast majority of his life as a dog, and Easton has done such an incredible job with his character and developing his story.
Roman acts human for the most part, but he is still new enough that he has to remember not to revert to his dog instincts or to behave in ways that would seem strange to an outsider. He is very naive about the world, especially about relationships. And very much about sex. In fact, he is really only just coming into his human sexuality, a point Easton conveys with a hysterical scene as Roman gets his first erection and has no idea what is going on. Easton does such a nice job of getting those little doggy quirks and showing how Roman’s mind works as he tries to reconcile how he would approach something as a dog versus as a human. It is just fascinating and so well carried through the story. We also get flashbacks to Roman as a dog. We learn about how he was trained for the military, his relationship with James, his devastation at James death, and the shock and fear he experienced when he suddenly turned human. It is sweet and poignant as we feel Roman’s sorrow at the loss of James and the bewilderment he experiences while he tries to get his footing as a new human. It is all just so incredibly well done.
Easton develops the relationship between the two men very well. We can see Matt’s confusion at times as things Roman says and does, but he is accepting and loving of Roman’s weird behavior. The guys are super sweet together, with a lovely tenderness to go along with the sexiness between them.
I only really had a few small quibbles here. At times there was a bit too much childlike about Roman that felt a teensy bit weird when it got to the sexual stuff. The guys jump from first kiss to full on sex in one night, which seems hard to imagine for a guy like Roman who didn’t even know the slightest thing about human sexuality before a couple of weeks prior. I guess I wanted to feel like he had more of a handle on things emotionally and intellectually before jumping into sex. Roman also describes Matt’s sex smell as like a “musky tangerine” and that description is repeated so many times I actually counted, as it became jarring and noticeable.
But I really loved this story and continue to enjoy the series. There is a nice bit of fun and humor built in, like when Matt is shocked to see a newly quickened guy peeing on a fire hydrant, or Roman’s repeated attempts to talk to a mortified Lance about sex. That all mixes really nicely with the romance end of things, as well as the deeper issues of Roman’s past and how he is adapting now. I really like these characters and this town and hope we are getting more of them. I would definitely highly recommend both books in the series, especially to fans of more unusual shifter stories.
P.S. The cover here is gorgeous and perfectly captures the beautiful landscape that plays a big part in the story, as well as Roman’s beautiful dog form.