Rating: 3.75 stars
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George loves his quiet life with his mate Billy. George is both a wolf and a fox shifter, and Billy is a fox and a squirrel. They live together happily in their little cabin in the woods and his diva of a mate provides all the excitement George wants. But George’s father and the rest of his wolf pack are determined to get George to take over as alpha. George has been telling them for years he has no interest in leading the pack. Yet they are constantly pushing him, especially as his father begins to grow too weak to fight off challengers from other packs.
As life begins to change around them, it becomes more difficult to refuse pleas from his father and the pack. George begins to wonder if maybe being alpha is the right thing for him after all. George is forced to consider yet again what he really wants, along and what is best for his family, before it is too late and the decision is taken from him.
So my favorite thing about this story is the unique take on the shifter world. We get so many interesting ideas here and a lot of creativity from Kat. First off, I loved that George and Billy are already mates when the story begins. It is not that common in romance land to have characters in a pre-existing relationship, especially in a story where most of the conflict is external to them. It is almost unheard of in a shifter story, where the focus is so often on the mating itself. So I found it refreshing in this book to see two men who are already madly in love and struggling to deal with the crazy changes coming into their lives.
I also really liked a lot of Kat’s take on shifters here. I loved the dual shifter idea, and thought it was clever how the men share one shifted animal, both being foxes, but differ in the other. It gives them a connection for their similarity, while at the same time giving Billy an outsider perspective on the wolf pack and how it operates. Also, there is seriously nothing more adorable than Billy in his squirrel form, riding on top of George as a wolf, holding George’s ears in his tiny paws as they run through the snow together. I do think a little more information here would have been helpful. I wasn’t sure if all shifters were dual in nature (I am thinking yes) and if you need one animal in common to be mates (I am guessing yes here too but it is never clarified). But overall I found it a clever and unique device that added a lot to the story.
Another interesting element is the emotional connection that comes through their shifter bond. The men can feel each other’s emotions, almost physically. At times the strength of their love, their fear, their lust, and their pain almost overwhelms the other partner with intensity. As the men grow closer as mates, this bond grows deeper, and they need to learn to control how strongly they project their emotions for fear of giving each other too much sensation. This leads to problems along the way for the men, both big and small. My only complaint is that this is a dynamic that is brought up near constantly throughout the book, over and over again. I think less might have been more here, because it seemed like almost any time they had any sort of feelings toward one another, the shifter bond comes up and they are blowing each other away with intensity.
Aside from Kat’s take on shifters, I also think there are some other interesting plot elements. I enjoyed the playful relationship between George and Billy and the love between them is obvious. I thought it was interesting to see how George struggled with the decision to not take over as alpha, and how that affects his relationship with Billy. And I think there are some nice twists in the latter half of the book that take things in a different way than I expected.
But I do think this book suffers from just too much going on. I felt like there were a million plot lines, some big and some small, and after a while I could barely keep up with all the different issues swirling around. We have the main conflict of George not wanting to take over as alpha. We have the continual issue of the emotional overload between the two men, which then leads to a related conflict later on. George’s father takes a new mate and thinks she used magic to trick him into believing they were meant to be mates. His father’s wife gets pregnant and suddenly George has a half sister. We learn that Billy grew up with foster parents so he never learned about being a shifter until later in life. There is an age gap between the men that keeps coming up. There is a witch in the pack, and they face issues related to her abilities, and then to others with magical powers.
By themselves, each of these elements were interesting. But there were just so many things happening here that few of them are able to be really explored adequately. For example, we are told a couple of times about Billy being a foster child and not knowing he was a shifter for a long time. But then there is no follow through. Why is this important? How does becoming a shifter as an adult affect him? We just touch on this and then move onto something else. Again, I think Kat has a lot of good ideas here, but there are just so many, and some are repeated so often, that I just felt overwhelmed with the plot and it became somewhat jumbled for me. I thinking honing in on some key ideas and really seeing them through, like really digging into why George doesn’t want to be alpha, would have worked better than introducing so many issues but not fully developing them.
Overall though this book worked for me on the strength of the main characters and Kat’s creative world building. While I think there is just too much here, there are enough elements that I really liked to make this an enjoyable story for me. So if you are a fan of shifters and looking for a unique spin on the shifter world, I think this one is a good choice.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.