Secret ChemistryRating: 4.25 stars
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Eighteen years ago, 13-year-old Tim Evans stood with his siblings as something major was going on in his pack.  A group of fox-wolf hybrids had been found and some members of the pack wanted to destroy them, filled with hatred for the non-pure bred wolves.  Realizing a fight was brewing, Tim’s mother sent him and his four siblings home to safety.  But Tim was restless and unsettled, drawn out into the woods by an intoxicating scent and something calling to him that he just couldn’t resist.  So against his family’s wishes, Tim took off to follow its path.

There he encountered a young fox-wolf cub named Jay and his mother, desperately trying to escape the rogue members of Tim’s pack who were trying to hunt and kill them.  Tim immediately realized that the young cub was his mate, and felt an instant emotional bond he couldn’t even imagine breaking.  Yet Jay was only 3 years old, and with Tim only 13 himself, they were clearly in no position to mate. Not only that, but with the pack hunting the hybrids, there was no way Jay could be safe with Tim. Yet the mating bond was so strong within them, the separation would be incredibly painful, even after such a short time together. But Tim had to see Jay to safety even though his loss was devastating.

Now even though it is almost two decades later, Tim still feels the ache from his missing mate every day, and can not wait until they are reunited.  And one day his dreams come true, as Jay and his father come to Tim’s family’s farm to buy one of the horses they breed.  Now that he is an adult, the connection Tim feels to Jay is even stronger — not just a partnership, but dizzying lust and a need to claim his mate.  But it is soon clear that Jay knows nothing about shifters, or even that he is one. Yet he clearly feels the same emotional and sexual pull as Tim.  But although they are finally reunited, things are not smooth sailing.  Tim needs to explain to a shocked Jay that werewolves exist, that they are mates, and even more overwhelming, that Jay himself is a shifter.  And even once he accepts that, the pair must deal with the real fact that some pack members still want to see Jay dead.  Yet now that he has finally reunited with his mate, Tim is determined to do whatever it takes to keep him by his side.

Ok, so first can we talk about this cover? My word is it gorgeous, and honestly this is what drew me to read the book in the first place.  Anne Cain really knocks this one out of the park and I immediately wanted to know more about the book after seeing the cover. And I am happy to report that this was more than just a pretty cover, and I really enjoyed this shifter story.

So first off, sort of an interesting start in the way that so much of the book is taken up by the guys meeting in childhood and both the thrill of finding one another and the horror of the situation they find themselves in.  I would say about the first 30% of the story covers this first night, setting the stage for the rest of the book.  At first this bothered me a little, because it seemed like a lot of time focused on the past versus the present story.  But after I finished the book I think it really works.  Seeing them develop that bond and spending time understanding the background and the connection these guys made emotionally as kids helped make the later parts of the story work for me.

I mean, this book is pretty much the text book definition of instant love and fated mates.  As adults these guys are practically in heat around each other and ready to declare partnership for life within hours together.  I mean, I can almost get Tim’s feelings given that he has known for years about Jay and has felt that mating bond daily.  But Jay is 22 years old and pretty much is like, “So hey, I met you two hours ago (that I remember), found out a few minutes ago that we are mates and I’m some sort of hybrid wolf-fox shifter thing, and now am ready to commit to you for life. Done and done.”   So yes, this is total instalove insanity, I get that. I can’t really explain why it worked for me, it just did. If you hate that stuff, this book will probably make you crazy, but for some reason I didn’t mind it.  I guess because although they clearly don’t have romantic or sexual feelings for each other as children, they have such a strong emotional bond and such a loving and nurturing connection that I could see how they could fall in love so fast when reunited many years later.  And yes, this is a shifter story so I accept these things much more readily that I ever would in a different subgenre.

Maybe I am just a softie but I loved these guys together.  I mean first off, when I say these guys are practically in heat, I am not kidding. The sexual tension oozing off of them as they are fueled by lust but forced to keep it together until they can be alone is just insane.  And they are explosively hot when they finally get together.  But they are also sweet and mushy and so needy for each other, I found them quite adorable as well.  A few times towards the end Tim’s mating instincts go a little haywire and he acts like somewhat of an ass. But I liked how little Jay is not a pushover and puts Tim in his place.

I also adored Tim’s younger brother Robin, and honestly, Robin almost steals the show here. He is funny and witty and incredibly snuggly and loving.  Robin provides the comic relief as the pesky little brother who Tim totally adores.  I loved Robin and am thrilled at the hints that there may be more to come for him later in the series.  I wish a few of the other side characters had been a bit more fleshed out.  Tim’s father Ralf didn’t quite seem fully formed to me. For all the major role he has in the end of the book, I never really felt I got to fully understand him or what he was about.  We also see one of Tim’s sisters set up as this horrible person and I kept expecting that to come into the story as things get heated up, but it didn’t quite seem to go anywhere. Maybe there is more planned for her as the series continues, but for now it felt like a lot of set up with no real pay off.

So yes, instant love, yes some over-the-top drama, a real quick resolution that comes almost out of nowhere, and a lot of mushiness here. But for some reason this one worked for me.  I really liked the relationship between Tim and Jay and found them a nice mix of sweet and hot.  I enjoyed the world building and I really found myself caught up in the story.  I finished the book feeling happy and satisfied and looking forward to how things continue as the series progresses.

P.S. This didn’t bother me at all, but I will point out that there is a scene where the guys have sex in animal form and one scene where one of them gets off alone in animal form.  It totally works in the story and the guys feel fully human despite their animal bodies, but just wanted to mention it.