Rating: 4.25 stars
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As a young child, Noah fell from a balcony, cracking his skull and causing permanent damage to his legs. The only reason Noah survived at all is because his shifter blood helped him heal, but even that was not enough to cure him completely. Some members of the pack advocated a mercy killing, destroying Noah because he would never be strong like the others. So Noah’s family fled the pack and made a life for themselves out in the country.
Now at age 20, Noah spends almost all of his time on the family farm and working as a web developer, since it isn’t a good idea to be near any of the city shifters who might still want him dead. He uses crutches and a leg brace to walk, suffers from debilitating migraines, and must have extensive medication and physical therapy to deal with his health problems. But he has made a life for himself and is happy, even though he still suffers a lot of pain and must take strong medicine to keep from shifting uncontrollably.
One day Noah and his family are shocked when the new alpha appears at their door, wanting to uphold an old mating pact from years before. The alpha stuns them all by claiming Noah as his mate, something none of them can refuse. Noah assumes the man is just retaliating for Noah’s family leaving the pack; he will tie Noah to him and then abandon him, forcing Noah to live without a mate forever. But as it turns out, Wade does want to bond with Noah. He is also determined to get Noah off the human medicines and treatments he believes are poisoning him.
Slowly Noah begins to regain strength in his legs, to control his shifting, and to have fewer migraines. And Wade seems to accept Noah as he is, even though he will never be strong or fully healed. But Noah is still wary, worried about what members of the pack will think to see the alpha mated to a weaker wolf. He is afraid they will reject the mating if Noah can’t uphold all the responsibilities of an alpha mate. But Wade is determined to put the past views behind them and embrace Noah and others who are different. Yet the men still face the threat of non-acceptance, both from Noah’s family and from the pack.
The set up to this story hit many of my hot buttons. Strong, alpha shifter with the smaller, weaker mate. Noah as the sheltered young virgin who at the same time is fiery and spunky and refuses to be cowed by his big hulking partner. I loved the dynamic between these two guys. At first they are both wary of one another, not certain of the others’s feelings or how committed each is to this new mating. But even as they hold themselves back, the attraction and sexual connection between the two men is intense. When you pick up a novel by Kari Gregg, you can pretty much guarantee she will bring on the heat. And this story is no exception. Noah and Wade are just scorching together. I loved their sexiness, the hot love scenes, and just the way the two smolder when they are around each other. And I also loved these slow way these men begin to figure out how to build their relationship together. It takes a lot of patience and negotiation to see each other’s viewpoints. But I enjoyed the growth to their emotional connection in addition to the strong physical one.
Gregg has also incorporated some unique aspects to the world building and the shifter lore. The way the pack conducts their business, the way the children are educated, and their customs and traditions are quite different from many other shifter stories I have read. It was interesting to see a pack in the city, outside of the common pack commune structure. So I think much of this was very clever and well done. There were a few areas where I would have liked more detail though. I was confused about whether there were other packs nearby. Noah always refers to Wade’s pack as “city shifters,” which seems to imply some other shifters out there (country shifters?), but other than the fact that Wade came from another pack, we really don’t learn anything about them. I also never fully understood the place of shifters in the human world. It is clear that at least some humans know about the shifters, but never really clarified if this is just Noah’s doctors, or if it is universally known. A little more detail here would have been helpful.
I also felt like the conflicts could have been developed a bit better. Early on Noah is very uncertain about Wade’s feelings (and Wade is uncertain about Noah’s) and there seems to be a lack of communication that leads to conflict. I would have loved a little more talking things out rather than so much “misunderstanding” but that does resolve fairly quickly. The bigger issue for me is this vague threat against Noah. We know years before some of the pack members (and the old alpha) thought Noah was better off dead. But it doesn’t seem like there has been any real threat to him once he and his family left the pack. Or if there was, we don’t really get much information about it. In fact, we know when Wade became the new alpha he offered to help Noah. But once Noah joins the pack as Wade’s alpha mate, he has a near constant fear that others won’t accept him. It not only makes him anxious, it also fuels many of his actions throughout the rest of the book. But again, we get so little clear evidence that there are real threats, or if they exist, what they are. Yes, something crops up at the end, but we still see or hear very little from the supposedly disgruntled wolves. I just feel like if this threat is going to be such a major part of the story and influence so many of Noah’s actions, we needed to see it more clearly than just in Noah’s thoughts.
So I do think some of this story could have been a little bit sharper. But honestly, so much of it hit my sweet spot that it didn’t bother me too much. I loved Wade as the big, growly alpha and Noah as the strong-willed yet sheltered virgin mate. I especially enjoyed the unusual turn of a shifter with a physical disability and seeing Noah blossom as the story continues. Wade and Noah were a super sexy pair and the story is a lot of fun.