backwoods asylumRating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novella

Skylar is awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of crying wolf shifter pups. He finds the two babies abandoned on his property out in the cold.  While he can smell that another wolf was recently there, the puppies are freezing and clearly abandoned so he takes them home with him.  Sklar quickly realizes that it wasn’t an accident that the pups were left on his land.  As a snake shifter, and especially as one who was “lost” as a child and lived alone in snake form until age 12, other shifters tend to hate and fear him.  Clearly the pups were intentionally abandoned by someone who wrongly assumed Skylar would do them harm.

There are no wolf packs anywhere around Skylar’s home so he can’t figure out to whom they belong.  Not to mention that Skylar has no intention of giving up the pups without finding out who was trying to hurt them and why.  So Skylar decides to call Brady, the only wolf shifter he knows well enough to contact. Although in college Brady hated Skylar, at this point Skylar doesn’t know where else to turn.

Brady immediately recognizes the urgency of the situation and tells Skylar to keep quiet about the pups until they can figure out what is going on.  With a whole host of shifter politics currently throwing the community into upheaval, it looks like someone might be using the pups as pawns to further their agenda.  But Brady is finding himself more and more attached to the young wolves.  And as he spends time with Brady, more attached to the grown man as well.  But before they can pursue anything between them they must figure out who is trying to harm the pups and how to best protect them.

So I was drawn to this story immediately by the idea of the snake shifter. I love unusual shifters and think Derr did a great job incorporating the snake-like qualities into Skylar, from his discomfort in the cold, to his love of lounging on a rock in the sun.  And I loved the contrast of Skylar as the snake compared to Brady as a warm, cuddly wolf.  They make an interesting pair and an unusual combination.  I also enjoyed the detail on the Lost Shifters organization and the idea of a group that cares for orphan shifters and helps them assimilate back into shifter society.  I actually would have loved even more about this in regards to Skylar and how he adapted to the human world after living exclusively as a snake for so many years.  And of course, the wolf pups are totally adorable. If you love a man and his dogs, this one will totally melt you.  The puppies are so sweet and loving and Skylar is as cute as can be with them.

Unfortunately, I did run into some problems with this one as well.  The biggest issue for me is that the story really doesn’t have much action and fell kind of flat.  Just about the whole story takes place in conversation between Skylar and Brady or else the action is off page. As a result, we get lots of telling but little chance to really experience things for ourselves.  For example, the whole conflict with figuring out who abandoned the pups and pinning down the guilty party happens totally off page.  We hear about it after the confession but don’t see it at all, even though Brady and Skylar are actually there is the same place when the confession happens.  Also, I would have loved to be in on the action of one of the political rallies or debates, as these seem to be key to so much of the suspense element in the story. But we really just hear about all these political goings on through Brady, and don’t ever really see any of it play out in real time. I just feel like if the book is going to set up this sort of mystery/suspense element, as readers we want to be part of it, not hearing about it all second hand.

The second issue is that I found the political elements of the story very hard to follow.  There is upheaval in the shifter community, some want more openness with humans and some don’t.  And then there were some other conflicts, and rallies were happening, and other stuff I can’t even exactly tell you.  Unfortunately I really had a hard time following what was going on and so understanding people’s motives and who was in favor of what became really difficult.  Even now, less than a day after reading the book, I really can’t pin down exactly what the issues were, yet they were very important to the story.  So maybe it is just me not getting it, I’m not sure, but I had a hard time keeping track of it all.

And my final issue is that as much as liked both Brady and Skylar, their HEA felt way fast for me.  Basically they spend about a day together dealing with the abandoned pups, and then have one date.  That is all we see of them together throughout the whole book, but they are basically picking out china patterns on that first date. It is not even the standard instalove we so often see, especially in shifter stories. In this case these guys aren’t even in love with one another before they are planning their lives together, literally on their first date.  It just seemed way to fast to be believable or for me to really get invested in them as a couple.

So great set up, adorable puppies, and likable characters.  I loved the idea of the snake shifter, especially with a wolf partner, and especially loved the concept of the lost shifters and how they were integrated into shifter society.  But unfortunately there were other elements that didn’t work as well for me and so I was left with mixed feelings.  I think there is a lot to like here, but not a total hit for me.

Cover: I really like this cover and especially the little wolf pups. Overall it is a bit dark (which is something I have noticed before with this press), but I do think the art is really nicely done.


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