Rating: 4.5 stars
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For the past 11 years, Quade Danas has worked as a bodyguard for the wealthy Roman Howell. At age 17, Roman was burned and scarred in a terrible fire, and since then Quade has been his constant companion, the two spending virtually all their time together. Over the years, Quade has come to care for Roman deeply and he can tell that Roman shares his feelings. But Quade is sure getting involved with Roman is a bad idea. He wants Roman to end up with a wonderful young man, not someone much older like Quade with a bad past and a big secret. Quade is pretty sure that Roman has just picked up on Quade’s affection and internalized it, and that is the reason he seems to want Quade. But Roman is an adult and has finally gotten fed up with Quade pushing him away, and is now determined to get his man.
Just when it seems like Quade might finally be able to open himself up to a relationship with Roman, things are even more complicated by a sudden appearance of someone from his past. Quade is a jackal shifter, and as a young man, Quade was kicked out of the pack by his father for being gay. But Quade is a strong shifter, a true alpha, and now his pack is in trouble. The current alpha is running drugs, prostituting out the young girls, and a whole host of other horrific crimes. His family and his pack need Quade, and he is determined to help them.
Quade must return home to face pack problems and the dangers of a fight to the death with the current alpha. He and Roman are finally ready to be together, but Quade is in the midst of a dangerous situation and will have to risk his life before it is all over. Now that Roman and Quade have accepted their love for one another, they must hope that Quade’s past and his responsibilities to his pack don’t prevent them from being together.
Old Loyalty, New Love is a wonderful shifter story, one that I really enjoyed. Calmes has created two fabulous characters in Roman and Quade and they are really my favorite part of this story. First off, I love the set up with these guys. Roman is wealthy and beloved in his small town. He is generous and involved in town life, sort of a benefactor to everyone. As a young man, he was a star swimmer, but a terrible accident changed his life, leaving him badly scarred as well as with some other injuries. Six years ago, Roman’s parents died, leaving him in charge of the corporate empire. Roman is not only generous, but also funny, strong willed, and determined. He has grown into a wonderful man, but most people don’t really see the person he is down deep. He is the wealthy benefactor, or the scarred man, or even the rich, good catch. The only person who really sees him is Quade.
Quade loves Roman, but he is unwilling to let himself be with the younger man. Quade started out as a caretaker when Roman was in his late teens. Quade can tell Roman has feelings for him, but is sure it is transference from his own feelings, or maybe hero worship, but not real love. Quade has had a difficult past with a lover who cheated on him with his best friend and a family and pack who abandoned him. He is sure that despite his feelings for Roman, that Roman would be better off with a younger man more suited to him. I think Quade’s inability to accept Roman’s feelings could have gotten annoying, but Calmes handles this so well. First, because it doesn’t drag on throughout the whole book. But also because Roman is such a fun character that he doesn’t take no for an answer. He wants Quade and is determined to have him and he wriggles his way right in despite Quade’s attempts at keeping him at bay. There is a playfulness to Roman, and in turn with his relationship with Quade, that makes this interplay fun rather than frustrating. I love how Roman is the only one who can ruffle Quade and keeps the powerful man on his toes.
What is so interesting about this book is that Calmes doesn’t leave it there, but adds a whole other element to the story, that of the shifters. Roman has tried to keep being a shifter a secret from Roman. He was kicked out by his father for being gay, but no one else in the pack came to his defense. Now years later, suddenly they need him and he can no longer hide it from Roman. Quade is a true alpha, a seer who is born to be an alpha, rather than one who just becomes alpha through challenge or inheriting the pack. So he is much stronger, a much more natural leader. And when the pack is in trouble, Quade is the one they call. I love the way we see how the parallels between the way Quade is with Roman and the way he is with the pack, even before he and Roman become lovers. There is a protectiveness and an instinct to nurture and care for Roman that we see carry over to his family and his pack.
I think Calmes does a nice job with the world building here, creating the distinction in the alphas and the various rules around the shifters. We can see the connection the pack has to Quade clearly, and I think we get a good foundation on the shifter lore and an interesting world.
I had a few small issues here. First, we get introduced to a lot of characters, especially early in the book when Quade and Roman are running around town. Many of them had no real role in the book beyond being colorful characters, and I had a bit of a hard time keeping up with them all. There is also a small side element in that many of the folks in town want to hook Roman up with someone so they can have access/influence to his vast funds. So there is some interplay early on with a bunch of people maneuvering, and honesty I couldn’t really keep them straight. I am just not sure if being introduced to all these townspeople on the street, or party goers, or other background characters added enough to make it worth trying to keep track of who everyone is when they played such tiny roles in the story. There is also a fairly significant side plot with Quade’s ex boyfriend and former best friend. Again, this takes a lot of page time and I am not sure it really adds a lot to the story. Yes, we get to see that Quade is not a man interested in sharing someone in his life and that he can forgive but he will never want his old life back. But I think that could have be illustrated more simply that this big side plot that didn’t seem to really add a lot but took a lot of page time.
There was just one more tiny thing. Roman and Quade are both kind and generous to a fault as well as pretty much universally adored, at times almost unbelievably so. The people in the town adore Roman and fall all over themselves to talk to him or interact. He buys them everything they need, he solves virtually every problem everyone has (mostly with money). The pack members instantly love Quade, despite no one speaking up years before when he was kicked out. They can’t get enough of him, and want to touch and be with him all the time. Even his ex and his former best friend are dying to be with him. I am all for sweet and syrupy sometimes, so this wasn’t a major problem. But I do wish there was just a touch more realism to all of this.
But overall I really loved this one. Roman and Quade are the type of couple I totally love. A bit of opposites, strong willed, pushing each other’s buttons, and totally hot for one another. I loved the combination of the traditional contemporary story of these two working out their relationship combined with the paranormal shifter plot. Calmes really blends them both together nicely, making the story well layered and interesting. So I thought this one was lots of fun and really liked it. Definitely recommended.