Rating: 4.75 stars
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Mercenary Jed Walker and his wolf shifter boyfriend Redford Reed are ready for a much needed vacation. After rescuing some wolves from a group of bloodthirsty vampires in Cairo, the pair are due some relaxation and Jed has been dreaming of fishing by the ocean for years. But just as they are about take off, their plans are interrupted by a visit from Victor Rathbone.
Victor knows Redford and Jed through his former boyfriend, David, and was part of their adventure in Cairo. Although he and Jed mostly just tolerate each other, Victor comes looking for help for Randall Lewis, one of the wolves they rescued from the vampires. Randall’s brother Anthony is suffering from canine Parkinson’s, so he needs medical treatment but can’t see a human doctor. Randall wants Redmond’s help finding a way to meet the Gray Lady, leader of a huge wolf pack, and one of the original wolf shifters. She is old and powerful and hopefully can help Anthony. The Gray Lady is looking for wolves like Redford who were abused by Filtiarn, and Randall hopes that Redford will be able to help provide access to the pack for them.
The unlikely group, which includes Jed and Redford, the Lewis brothers (Randall, Anthony, and their younger brother Edwin), and Victor, sets off to find the pack. At first the Gray Lady is wary about getting involved with them, especially since Randall’s parents had separated from the pack years before. And the Gray Lady is not so thrilled to find that as a wolf Redford is partnered with Jed, a human. But eventually she agrees to let them stay and try to help treat Anthony.
While there, Redford gets his first real introduction to pack life. After being kept in near isolation by his grandmother, Red barely had any social interaction before he met Jed. He has come a long way, and become much stronger and more confident, bolstered by Jed’s love and support. But he still is often led by primal wolf instincts he can’t control, and shifting is still difficult for him. Being out in the wild with a pack helps him strengthen the wolf side of him. Jed is thrilled that Redford is thriving in this environment, but worries that perhaps he has been harming Red by them living in his small apartment and with Red having little access to other wolves. While Red knows being with Jed is exactly what he needs, Jed worries that Redford might be better off without him, living among the wolves.
Randall and Victor are finding challenges in their relationship as well. Randall has had a crush on Victor for a while, and is a big fan of his research on the supernatural. But Victor has never really thought of Randall that way. It is clear that Randall craves family and domesticity, things Victor never imagined for himself. As a medusa half-blood, Victor has a curiosity and craving for adventure that he knows is incompatible with Randall’s needs. Not to mention that when Victor accidentally looks into Randall’s eyes, his medusa blood allows him to see a host of possible futures for Randall, including some that feature Victor himself. And even as Victor begins to open himself up to the idea of being with Randall, Randall’s responsibilities to his family and his ailing brother still loom large.
Although Anthony’s health is what brought the men to the pack, and both couples are dealing with some relationship issues, the group soon realizes there is a much bigger problem going on. The pack is being hunted and wolves are being taken and no one knows why. This is where Jed thrives, and he begins to dig into who is financing these hunters and what is behind them. It is clear that someone is waging war on the shifters, one that the wolves have little hope of winning. They must decide if they will flee to safety, or attempt to stand up and fight. But even if they manage to avoid the hunters temporarily, all signs indicate that a war is brewing, whether they want one or not. And this group of wolves and their partners may find themselves caught up in the battle and the plight of the wolf pack, no matter how hard any of them try to avoid the war.
So wow, this is a totally epic story that really takes this series in new and exciting directions. Blood Howl, the first book in the Sanguis Noctis series, introduces us to Redford and Jed. Jed had been hired to kidnap Red, but instead falls for the innocent, isolated man and protects him from the bad guys instead. In Blood in the Sand, Redford and Jed are officially partnered up, both romantically and in Jed’s mercenary business. Joined with Victor and David, they travel to Cairo to deal with the vampire problem there. Both of these stories are linked with some connecting plot points and key characters, but essentially they are stand alone adventures. Here we really see the series take a different turn with Bloodlines, a much longer and more involved story that deals with the looming threat of war that appears will carry over more than one book.
So obviously this is a complex story, and honestly my description just barely covers all the different things that happen here. It is a long one, as I said, and a lot of things are going on. My favorite part of the story (and this series), continues to be Jed and Redford. I seriously adore them beyond words. They are such a fascinating couple, totally different in personality but somehow absolutely perfect for each other. Redford was raised by a grandmother who taught him to fear and hide the wolf part of him. She kept him isolated from everyone and locked him away during the full moon. When they first meet, Redford is painfully naive and has no idea how to deal with the real world, let alone with his inner werewolf. And Jed is all piss and vinegar, as they say. Bold and brash and fond of the “blowing things up” method of problem solving, Jed is prickly to just about everyone. But somehow he totally fell under Redford’s spell and adores the man beyond reason. While Jed can barely deal politely with anyone else, he pretty much thinks Red hung the moon and there is nothing he would not do for his man. I just love the juxtaposition of this tough, hardened guy who is the softest touch when it comes to the man he loves.
Here we really see how much growth both of these men have had since being together. Red has come into his own; he is stronger and more confident and has found a place as Jed’s partner. He is still on the timid side, but much more able to handle himself than in the past. And Jed has learned to open up his heart. While it is only fully to Redford, he is definitely softening a bit despite himself and we see that in the way he interacts with Victor and the Lewis brothers. Jed thinks of himself as only cold hearted, but it is clear in the way he protects the wolf pack and the others that there is a loving side to him as well. He and Red run into trouble here because Jed is just so determined that he take care of Redford. He can’t stand the idea that their relationship is somehow cutting Red off from his wolf side. At times I felt like Jed should step back a little and stop treating Redford like he needed Jed to handle everything, that Red couldn’t make decisions about his own best interest. But mostly I can see what is driving Jed, this deep need to take care of Redford, and I really can’t help but love him. They are so sweet and sexy, constantly touching and checking in on one another. They are just a fabulous couple.
The story also focuses on Victor and Randall, another really interesting couple. In an unusual move for a series, Victor is with David in the previous book and their relationship is a big part of that story, though it is clear by the end they are not good for one another. Things end for them in that book and here we get details of his developing relationship with Randall. There is a lot of complication here for these guys, starting with Randall’s brother Anthony’s illness. Anthony raised his two brothers alone from age eight when their parents died. He dedicated his life to caring for them and now Randall is determined to take care of Anthony when he needs it. Having a relationship with Victor in the midst of all this is something that is difficult for Randall to handle, or even contemplate much of the time. At the same time he is totally crushing on Victor, and has to deal with the fact that Victor isn’t sure he shares Randall’s feelings. Not to mention that Victor is a half-blood medusa, a species prone to madness later in life from seeing into too many futures. And even worse, that Victor has seen their future, and must figure out a way to reconcile what he sees as the potential roadmap for his own life, one that he isn’t sure he actually wants. They have a complicated relationship that builds slowly throughout the book. I found them both likable and interesting, though I did wish for more time with Jed and Redford. These guys didn’t quite have the same spark for me, but they are a great couple nonetheless.
Bloodlines also gives us fabulous side characters in Anthony and Edwin. As the story develops, these six men become incredibly close, basically like a pack of their own. I loved Edwin, the youngest at age 20, who is like a playful pup. He constantly wants to be outside and running around and has such a fabulous spirit, so free and open and loving. I just adored him, and the authors do such a great job of bringing him to life in the story. Then we have Anthony, used to shouldering all the burdens in the family but now suddenly the one in need. He is still the one the brothers look to for guidance, but at the same time they are determined to take care of him. I think Saxon and Kidwell do a great job in creating all these characters, each distinct and unique and with a lot of depth. I loved the way we see them all grow throughout the story and become a makeshift family.
The biggest conflict of the story centers around the attacks on the wolves. At first it seems like isolated attacks, then a more concerted effort, and soon it becomes clear that there are some powerful people behind this plot. As the story progresses, the pack faces multiple attacks and they must decide to fight or flee. And although this book has a nice resolution, it seems clear at the end that we haven’t heard the last of this conflict and that there are more battles to come. I loved the idea behind this and the way the authors weave the larger plot together with the smaller issues surrounding this particular group of men. I do think that at times things could have been developed further with the larger conflict though. For example, we learn about a man who is preaching about the superiority of half-bloods over humans, and it seems like this is somehow related to the hunters attacking, but it is dropped midway through the book. I am assuming it will connect up again at some point, but it felt a little unfinished. I think I would have liked just a bit more development or clarity with this whole battle plot line, but again, I presume that will come in the next book.
Other than these small issues, my only other tiny complaint is the length. And honestly, I am not 100% sure how I feel about it. This is along book at almost 450 pages. I think most authors would have split it into two stories at the midway point and left us with a big cliff hanger. So honestly, I am really glad that didn’t happen and I would much rather have the whole story (or I guess most of the story) here in this one book. I was never bored, and found myself totally engrossed and unable to put it down. But it is a lot of book and definitely an undertaking, and I think there are probably aspects that could have been trimmed down to keep in more under control.
But honestly, I loved this book and I continue to love this series. The characters are fabulous and well developed. Jed and Redford are one of my all time favorite couples, an amazing mix of sweet and super sexy. The authors have created a wonderful world here filled with shifters, vampires, medusas, half-bloods, and more. It is rich and detailed and clearly well thought out and they carry it through so nicely over the series. Each of the books have both wonderful relationship development as well as lots of excitement and suspense. And this book really sets us up perfectly for more in the series. You will want to read these in order because there are major plot points that carry over from one to the next. If you are like me you will tear through them all. I absolutely adore this series and highly recommend all of them.
Cover Review: I love this cover (and all of them in the series). It is lovely to look at and really captures the feel and tone of the story perfectly.