Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Dawg Days takes us into the lives, and packs, of more that just werewolves, giving us a glimpse of love, pain, loneliness, and bigotry, all elements found in our everyday lives. The couples all have one thing in common: a desire to live happily ever after.
These wolves, dogs, and even jackals, struggle to live and love, regardless of the challenges that they encounter. This is one of the best shifter anthologies I have read in a while and can easily recommend it to anyone who is a fan of shifters, both wolf and otherwise.
Photo Realism by Julia Talbot
Nature photographer, July James, is out to find moose for his latest assignment, but gets distracted by a lone wolf frolicking in the water near his camp site. When the wolf shows an unusual amount of interest in July, he escapes to the relative safety of his camp site. Not too long after, the wolf shows up and morphs into a man. What is July to do?
The set up for this story was extremely well done, but once the secret was out, hoy warp speed, Batman! Both of the characters were extremely likeable and Talbot added a pretty good twist at the end, prolonging the action.
Black, One Sugar by Jae Christopher
David and Aaron meet on a blind date but David has a secret. Day after day, week after week, he tries to tell Aaron his secret but the timing is never right. The morning after a romantic dinner that had been followed by some vigorous love making, David accidentally on purpose tells Aaron his secret, and now it remains to be seen if Aaron can continue to love a man with David’s condition.
I took Black, One Sugar to be an allegory for homophobia, demonstrating that everyone has an issue with some group at some point and that a little bit of an open mind can go a long way towards understanding. I really felt for David. His character showed hope, love, and crushing despair and for a short story to have a character with such depth, I was impressed.
Night of the Jackal by V.L. Locey
The life of a sand jackal is challenging enough, but as lone, gay sand jackals, Jasim and Sahl’s chances of survival are drastically reduced. Jasim is captured by the Madr Pash while trying to find some food in their encampment. Sahl locates and shifts in order to free Jasim, but will he succeed before the Madr Pash chief returns to his tent? Fear of discovery and death is high after seeing the numerous pelts drying outside.
I had a lot of difficulty with the characters in Night of the Jackal, probably because the narrative was almost all in Sahl’s head and I did not ever feel a connection to him or Jasim. The story itself was well crafted, with the Madr Pash passing through and providing the desperate jackal shifters with an opportunity for some much needed food, and a whole lot of trouble.
Raising Cain by Winnie Jerome
Blake is a geek’s geek, the epitome of geek dome and, although he loves his geeky life, he would love a relationship with a real person too. Blake and his BFF Gayle travel to Fantasy-Con, where a dispute in the full parking lot is resolved with the help of a gorgeous “knight in shining armor.” In Blake’s first game of the weekend, he meets his “knight,” Cain, who also happens to be a fellow competitor. The two play a mean RPG and end up sharing a late night meal before retiring to Cain’s room for the night. Once the fun was had, Cain turfs Blake. Blake witnesses Cain shifting the following night and suddenly Cain’s motivation is clearer, but shifters aren’t real, right?
These guys were so much fun! I could feel the sexual tension and the storyline had a good logical flow. I would not go so far to say that the characters were extremely complex, but for the purposes of the story, I say that they were great, and there were some good little details seeded throughout the story that ensured some continuity and helped the story along.
Thrill of the Hunt by Mychael Black
Keeran Evans returns to his den only to find all of the pups and males dead, and the females missing. Keeran begins a trek to avenge his lost pack when he is caught in a hunter’s trap. Saul Alliaume saves Keeran from the trap. Saul know what Keeran is and Keeran quickly deduces that Saul is Dark Fae, the Wolves’ mortal enemy. For both races, same sex relationships are not permitted, seen as a sign of weakness, but both Fae and wolf feel the attraction and give in to their mutual lust. Both men can feel the bond, that they are mates, that their being together will be a disaster if either the wolves or the Dar Fae discover them together. Keeran finds out that the female wolves are destined for a life of slavery and knows he must act, regardless of the consequences.
Inter-species love? I am good with that. The same day he discovers his cubs, family, and friends dead and all of the female wolves kidnapped, Keeran sleeps with Saul? Not so much. I guess the survival instinct and learning to let go quickly as a part of the survival mechanism may be the explanation, but it just did not work for me. I also had issues with the plot as it just did not make as much sense to me, and I wonder if a better motivating factor for the attack on Keeran’s pack could have smoothed it out for me.
Tea and Werewolves by Cecil Wilde
An unlikely place to find your mate would be a tea shop, but that is what appears to have happened to owner and werewolf, Sev, when local student Connor walks in the door. Their relationship progresses quickly, the scent of their mate driving them wild with desire. Sev has a secret and can only hope that Connor will accept him for who he really is, and not just for what he looks like.
Probably my favorite story in the anthology and I cannot really discuss many of the details without giving away the key surprise, so I won’t. Needless to say, the characters were super sweet and the concept of mates is nicely addressed in Tea and Werewolves.
Packbond by M. Lee
Two Omega wolves are joined by a wandering pack and quickly become a family. Alex and his betas lost a pack member, Damien, to bigotry, and are gun-shy, but Alex and Ethan are firmly entrenched in their town and work to assure their new pack that they will not be subject to the same treatment that had put them on the road. The inadvertent cause of Damien’s death arrives on their doorstep and Troy is conflicted about the new arrival. Two weeks pass and the group finds peace with Joshua, but when Joshua’s father shows up at the pack run with reinforcements and toting guns, it could be over for the small pack.
Packbond is an excellent example of love and acceptance in a werewolf pack. The wolves all came together out of necessity, formed a family, and a place in the community. All of the characters had good depth for being in a short story and the townspeople’s acceptance of the pack, and a gay couple within the pack, was awesome and kind of made me feel that all was right in the world.
Nuts, Bolts, and Chihuahuas by Tray Ellis
Shifter Arlo Benson is part of a family entrusted to guard a sacred talisman, which is desired by many unscrupulous thieves. Arlo’s many shopping expeditions at the local hardware store allow Arlo to get to know TJ, the owner’s son, who is very interested in getting to know Arlo better, but TJ is not sure if his interest would be returned. A fight in the alley next to the store reveals Arlo’s s secrets, or does it?
Nuts, Bolts, and Chihuahuas was a cute story and I really enjoyed the main characters and Arlo’s sister. The whole premise could be seen as absurd and it was played with a good deal for humor ,but the talisman was important, and that importance was conveyed as the guys got to know each other and figure out what they wanted from each other.
The Dingo Ate My Dildo by Rob Rosen
A young journalist is sent to the Australian outback on assignment and the shack is miles away from anyone or anything. Deciding to have a little al-fresco fun, he is approached by a dingo and only a bit of quick thinking distracts the dingo and allows him to retreat to the shack. The following night brings something new, noises that could be man, or could be beast. Is he brave enough to find out which it is?
The title says it all. Okay, not quite, but I’m sure your reaction to it was the same as mine. The characters were a bit on the two-dimensional side, but it still worked and then throw in references to ABBA, and the liberal use of a dildo, this story had me laughing and the ending was totally unexpected.
Paw Prints on my Skin by LJ Hamlin
Specializing in tattoos and piercings for shifters make Zach’s shop a popular stop for shifters looking for some body art. Zach is one of the best and so when Tobias walks into the shop looking for some ink, Zach is more than happy to assist. As Zach designs a steampunk tattoo for Tobias, the two men get to know each other and what each of them sees is appealing on a physical level, but can a wolf and a dog make a serious go at more?
Not quite an opposites attract story but pretty close. Both Zach and Tobias had some good depth and dimension and there was the right amount of uncertainty as they got to know each other. The steampunk references were cool and added a little something different to the story.
Search and Rescue by Lorn Rodman
Terry and Clancy need someone with specific skills: Terry to hide his psychic powers and Clancy to mask the fact that he is a hybrid wolf. They agree to work together in search and rescue, but Clancy has been down that road before and it didn’t end well, while the strain of hearing other people’s thoughts has always been a challenge for Terry. Will this time be different for the guys?
There is something inherently sad about people who wander around alone and without a place to call home. Here we have two men who want to help but don’t appear to ever get any help in return. The shifter and the mind reader was a cool twist and I was happy that they met and made a connection so easily, a sweet HEA for two deserving guys.