Guest Review by Sammy
Title: Unexpected Demands
Author: Kaje Harper
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon
Rating: 5 stars
When my mind is full of death and blood, when all I can see is the image of a huge grey wolf with eyes frigid as glacier ice and breath like carrion, when my past overruns my present, this man will be there. His arms will hold me, his skin will be warm against me, and his voice will call me home. I am his as he is mine. It is more than I ever believed I could have. He is more. And if these stolen hours stretch to a lifetime, I can live with that.
Death and blood have followed Aaron Tremaine most of his adult life. Beginning with the violent death of his first lover at the hands of his own father, to the rather cold-blooded yet needful death of an enemy, the life of the Alpha Wolf has been bathed in regret and bloodshed.
Unexpected Demands by Kaje Harper is a non-stop, action-packed, romantic thriller from page one on to the end. This book was, hands-down, a thrilling and most satisfying read! Picking up at the end of Unacceptable Risk, the first book in this series, the story now swings its focus away from the mated pair of wolf and human, Simon and Paul, and towards the pack leader. While these two men still play a significant role in the second novel, it is Aaron’s story that is laid out for us in rich detail.
A mysterious presence, Aaron is now pack leader of a band of misfit wolves that have broken off from a larger pack after Aaron himself challenged and killed the leader. They are a unique group due to the fact that two of them are gay and mated. If the “gay” aspect is not enough to warrant the mistrust and anger of other packs, the fact that somehow a human (Paul) has mated with a wolf (Simon) is enough to push even the most affable wolves over the edge. Aaron, however, sees nothing wrong with any of this. Of course, his being gay may have something to do with his acceptance.
However, Aaron is deeply in the closet. He understands that coming out in the current climate—an atmosphere of distrust and hatred for anything but traditional mating—would be disastrous. For years he has kept his desires under lock and key until he is thrust into the position of babysitter over Zach, one of the young men in his pack. Zach, who bears the mental scars of abuse at the hands of his grandfather, is an alcoholic as well. It is during his detox and recovery that Aaron begins to fall in love with this young man who is half his age.
While all this sexual tension is bubbling beneath the surface, we are aware of a twofold dilemma within the small pack and the larger wolf population. First, there is still a real threat to the safety, indeed the life of both Paul and Simon, with Simon bearing the brunt of other wolves’ homophobic hatred. On top of that, there is a real threat of exposure for the wolf nation as a whole. Someone wants their DNA and will torture, maim, and even kill to get it.
After Aaron asks all the packs to send witnesses in an attempt to convince them to accept Simon and Paul’s mating, we are privy to the extraordinary abilities of tracking and the emotional connection that their mating bond gives to Paul and Simon. To say that this demo ends well is to say that sitting a can of gas next to a fire pit is safe—as long as no one strikes a match. While not getting the desired effect he was hoping for, Aaron must concede that it will take more than a few demonstrations of Paul and Simon’s incredible bond to change the homophobic beliefs of most of the other packs.
Right on the heels of the demo, Simon is kidnapped and what ensues is perhaps the most suspenseful and gut-churning search and rescue scene I have ever read. It had me literally on the edge of my seat page after taut, action-packed page! And lest you thought you could relax at the end of this emotionally battering section of the book, the clean up and take down of the mastermind behind Simon’s kidnapping is both fascinating and, simply stated, terribly sad…a true loss of innocence for Zach and a nightmare-inducing memory for Aaron.
But the final pages…the final moments in this novel…when Aaron considers that he must be content with a happy for now ending to this chapter in his life…where Aaron once again grapples with the fact that he cannot yet reveal his sexuality and, thereby, must condemn his lover, Zach, to a furtive and hidden relationship at best…this was both hopeful and oh so heartbreaking!
Unexpected Demands elevates the paranormal romance/mystery genre to a whole new level of excellence. Gone is the sometimes cheesy, over the top reactionary wolves that seem little more than fantastical at best. In their place, Harper gives us living, breathing men…who just happen to be wolves. I cannot say enough about this novel. From it’s remarkable, in-depth and fascinating characters, to its first rate, edge-of-your-seat mystery elements, this novel starts with a bang and rockets you along until it slams you home with the force of tornado! Toss in some of the hottest man on man sex and tender romantic moments ever written and you have a top-notch novel that will not fail to excite, inspire, and delight!
I highly recommend Unexpected Demands to you! It IS a 5 star read!