After being turned into a werewolf by his former lover, Dylan Warner has pretty much given up hope for a happy ending or any kind of meaningful relationship. Although he is managing to contain his wolf impulses and keeps himself locked up during his change, Dylan has had too many close calls and knows he is too dangerous to ever hope for real romance. In fact, even being in the city and around other people each month has gotten risky, so Dylan takes his brother’s suggestion to move out to the country where he can let his wolf run more freely.
Dylan finds he loves life out in the country, with acres of land to explore and an old house to renovate that excites the architect in him. The remote living means he doesn’t have to lock himself in a spare bedroom each month, but instead can let his wolf out to hunt and roam.
Although Dylan is mostly isolated, he does have one close neighbor, Chris Nock. His first glimpse of a drunken, pantless Chris peeing off his back porch makes Dylan initially assume Chris is sort of an eccentric redneck. And to a degree he is. But he is also smart and brave and caring and Dylan finds Chris to be great company, especially when Chris offers to hire himself out to help with the renovations.
The two men become close friends and lovers, and soon Dylan realizes he is falling in love with Chris. But he is terrified to tell Chris the truth about being a wolf, sure the man will want nothing more to do with him. Things are further complicated by Dylan’s ex, Andy, who wants Dylan back and believes they should be a pack. He gets increasingly threatening and doesn’t want to back down. As Dylan falls more in love with Chris, the stakes get higher as both Andy’s aggression and Dylan’s secrets threaten to tear them apart.
This was a really interesting werewolf story and a bit unusual in that it had little of the usual shifter focus on a pack. Instead the book is quite relationship centered, focusing primarily on the growing feelings between Dylan and Chris. As the story starts, Dylan is basically alone, figuring out how to move forward after his life was turned upside down by being bitten. He wishes for a future where he can settle down with someone he loves, but sees no way for that to happen. He is sure that Chris will reject him if he knows Dylan is a wolf, and even scarier, Dylan worries that he might unintentionally hurt Chris.
I could really feel for Dylan as he is pulled in two directions. He loves Chris and enjoys the friendship and companionship they have together. Although he is close with his brother and sister-in-law, he doesn’t have a large social circle and never dreamed he had any chance at a real relationship. But he is so scared about really pursuing things with Chris and doesn’t believe they have any hope for a future together. Yet even so, he can’t bear to give Chris up.
I thought Chris was a really interesting, nicely developed character. Our first impression of him is a bit of a redneck, a little odd with his empty beer cans stacked up all over the porch. But soon we come to see how much more there is to him – he is an excellent cook, skilled in construction, and a good mechanic. Although he has little formal education, he is well read and quite smart. And Chris is vulnerable too. Raised by a negligent mom and with an absentee father, Chris doesn’t expect or feel worthy of much love. He needs Dylan’s reasurance that there is more to him than just his looks and Dylan makes him feel loved and wanted.
So I really loved the relationship between these two guys, and enjoyed watching it build as the two of them work side by side on Dylan’s house. They seem like a mismatched pair at first. Dylan is the more highly educated architect, used to the city and his green, well controlled Portland life. And Chris barely has any formal schooling, living out in the middle of nowhere, no real job and content to just take each day as it comes. Yet they find something that works between them, an easy friendship that turns into more. I also really liked Dylan’s brother and sister-in-law. Although they are a bit meddling, they are sweet and supportive and are there for Dylan as he tries to work out his feelings for Chris and figure out if there is any way he can have the future he really wants.
I was less thrilled with Alex, who felt a bit cookie cutter villain to me, especially early on. He sort of jumps in and out of the story, threatening Dylan and trying to pressure him to agree to be together. We know he wants to be Dylan’s alpha, but beyond that I wasn’t really clear. It seems that Alex had backed off when Dylan told him to stay away once before so why is this coming up again now? Does he want Dylan to be his boyfriend again, or just a member of his pack of two? I think there was a lot of potential here, and we can feel for Alex with his loneliness and his wolf’s instinct to be part of a pack. But I wish he had been developed in a more nuanced way rather than just jumping in and out of the story to stir up trouble.
I was also a little confused by some of the issues surrounding Dylan’s job. He gets handed a difficult project that could affect his future and we are given some initial indication that his boss is setting him up on a project where he won’t succeed. But that doesn’t really go anywhere and it ended up being a little confusing for me as to what this issue was all about. No to mention my slight disbelief that despite working from home, Dylan can spend long hours every day working on his house renovations rather than his work, especially in the middle of a big project.
Despite that, I found this a really enjoyable shifter story. I liked that it stepped out of the more traditional pack tale and focused on the relationship between Dylan and Chris. I found them both likeable and well developed, especially Chris, and they make a really well matched pair despite their outward differences. I really liked this one and would definitely recommend it.
Cover: I am not so sure about this one. The graphics give it sort of a youthful Hardy Boys feel to me and the guys almost look like teenagers. I like that it is a bit different from your normal romance cover, but the vibe just feels odd to me.