Rating: 4.5 stars
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Jed Walker is a mercenary. He’s good with explosives and guns and handling whatever needs doing. When he is hired by a man named Fil to retrieve “something valuable” from an old house, he isn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. Until he gets inside and realizes that the only item of value in the run down home is a man, Redford Reed. Redford is shy, naive, and clearly not used to being around people, blindly letting Jed march right into his house. But something about Red just tugs at Jed. He is so vulnerable and sweet and achingly naive. Jed has no idea what Fil wants with Redford, but he does know he is not going to let Fil have him.
Knowing that if he doesn’t do the job, Fil will not give up on coming after Redford, Jed convinces Red to come home with him where Jed can keep him safe. Jed is determined to find out who this guy Fil is and what he wants with Red. But as they begin to investigate, it is clear Fil isn’t taking no for an answer, escalating the threats to both Jed and Redford. At the same time, Jed finds himself falling for Redford, although he can barely allow himself to think about it that way. Jed tends to like his men older, dominant, and interested in nothing more than a quick, hard, one off. The idea that he might have feelings for this shy, sweet man, and that Redford clearly has feelings back, totally terrifies Jed.
Oh, and did I mention that Redford is a werewolf? Yeah, so as if things weren’t complicated enough, Redford shares with Jed that he is a werewolf, bitten as a child and changing into a wolf each month. Jed doesn’t even believe him a first; werewolves are things of fairy tales and Jed lives a hard life grounded in reality. But when the full moon comes, Jed is forced to face the surprising truth, especially when the men realize that Fil’s threats are related to Red being a wolf. Fil’s attacks on the men continue to escalate, risking both their lives. And as he battles to protect Redford and keep him free from Fil, Jed realizes he may already have lost his heart in the process.
This was a really neat book, a great combination of paranormal and action/suspense merged into one story. On one hand the authors give us the tale of poor Redford, secluded away from the world by his grandmother, taught that he and his wolf were a threat. He rarely went outside, never interacted with people, and was completely separated from both human and wolf society. His grandmother told him that he was dangerous and needed to be chained and caged each month. But with Jed’s help, Redford finds that his wolf is much tamer, just needing freedom and to feel safe and secure. That his violence was a reaction to being caged, and that with help, he can shift safely. I liked this bit of a different take on the shifter lore as the idea of a threatening, dangerous wolf is almost universal. So I thought this was a neat twist.
The book also gives us a thrilling suspense story, filled with explosions and attacks and near death experiences. Jed is a seasoned mercenary, trained in the military and now hiring himself out for dangerous jobs. The book is quite exciting with action almost from the beginning that only picks up speed as the story goes on. I really liked how these two elements were combined and both really held up well with a few plot quibbles.
Ok, first I need to mention the similarities in the opening of the book with Zero at the Bone, another story of an assassin after an innocent who decides to save him and go on the run together rather than make the hit. This seemed surprisingly close to me, and especially odd given that the books have the same publisher. I also had to suspend my disbelief that Red not only so readily goes with Jed, but that the two seem to be hiding in plain sight in Jed’s apartment. Even if the bad guys don’t know where Jed lives, they track them down often and are clearly able to find them reasonably easily, yet no one thinks to look there for so long? Not to mention that the guys seem to wander all around town fairly casually despite killers after them. But even though I feel like I must point these issues out, I really liked the story and enjoyed it enough that I could note these things and let them go.
My favorite part of the book was Jed and Redford and I just loved them together. You guys know I love my geeky heroes and poor Redford is just so socially inept that I adored him. When the story starts, he barely has any experience interacting with other people. His grandmother kept the house nearly silent and kept Red inside and virtually isolated. When we first meet him, Red is painfully shy, shockingly naive, and spends most of his time trying to sink inside of himself and avoid attention. Jed, on the other hand, is bold and brash and confident. He is good at his job, has few attachments, and lives however he wants. Jed picks up men easily, but wants nothing more than to be used, get off, and go. So a great opposites attract set up with two guys who couldn’t be more different, yet end up being completely compatible. Jed helps Redford open up, gain confidence, and feel safe and protected. And Redford gives Jed his heart, so warm and trusting and open in a way Jed doesn’t think he wants but soon realizes he can’t live without.
At times these guys drift a bit too far into their extremes to be believed. Jed is virtually indestructible, good with every weapon, expert at detecting threats, skilled at finding out information. I personally liked how, WHILE DRIVING, Jed is able to kick Redford’s passenger car door open and shove him out to safety. And Redford is so shockingly naive that at times it is hard to believe, even for one so sheltered. So yeah, at times a bit over the top. But as with the plot issues, I enjoyed these guys so much and loved them together, so I was willing to accept it.
Overall I was really excited by this one and it was such a pleasant surprise for me. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I grabbed the next book in the series, Blood in the Sand, right away because I couldn’t wait to read more about their adventures. So definitely a great read and one I would really recommend.
P.S. I was excited to see that the authors live in South Bend, Indiana, as that is where one half of my family is from.
Cover Review: Oh, and pretty cover! Maybe I was just drawn to the colors here, but I thought this was really nicely done.