fighting instinctRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

Arman de Soto has wanted Linus Hobbes for years, but the overseer of L’Ange is cool, aloof, and definitely skittish.  As the chateau’s head of security, Arman spends a lot of time around Linus and he knows the deer shifter is meant to be his.  But Linus’ past has made him wary and reserved, especially with a predatory shifter like Arman.

Arman has spent years caring for Linus and showing him that Arman is safe and trustworthy, and now Linus is finally ready to open up his heart to the man. When they get together, the spark that has been between them totally ignites into passion. The men are determined to let nothing separate them, but first Arman has some unfinished business.

Seven years ago, Linus was betrayed and brutally assaulted, leaving him emotionally wounded but healing at L’Ange. And Arman has been systematically hunting down and killing all the wolves who were responsible for hurting Linus. Now the wolves are fighting back and danger may be coming to L’Ange. Rather than risking the safety of his employer, Roman, and the people who live at the chateau, Arman knows it is time to take the fight to the wolves and end things once and for all.  At the same time, Linus has his own demons to fight so that he can finally put his past behind him. But the path they must follow is dangerous and both men must risk their lives to get rid of the past threats and be able to move on to their future together.

Fighting Instinct is the second book in Mary Calmes’ L’Ange series and follows closely behind Old Loyalty, New Love, Roman and Quade’s story. I will be honest, I read the first book soon after it came out, and, while I remember the main characters and the basic plot, I did not recall many of the details or side characters when I started this second story.  I think that ended up being both good and bad for various reasons, which I will discuss during the review.

This story opens with a prologue that overlaps with Quade fighting for his pack in the first book.  We learn about Roman’s feelings for Linus, as well as that he is fighting werewolves, but we don’t know why.  When the story starts, the whole gang is back at L’Ange and we see Linus finally accepting Arman’s feelings for him. It is kind of interesting that we don’t see much in terms of their relationship development as they fall for each other pretty quickly after the story starts.  Most of the build happens before the book begins and they are ready to be together almost right away by the time the book opens.  It didn’t felt rushed to me, however. I could feel the tension between the men and enjoyed seeing them let go and finally be together.  I think it works because this story really focuses on the two men dealing with Linus’ past, not the question of when/if the men will get together.

Now I will note here that there seem to be some readers disappointed that Arman doesn’t end up with Tucker, as the men meet at the end of the first book.  As I said, I didn’t remember either character, so for me, I was totally content seeing Arman with Linus.  We do learn that Arman and Tucker almost got together, but Arman’s feelings for Linus were too strong for anything to really happen between them.  So like I said, this didn’t bother me at all but I just mention it because apparently there were some Arman and Tucker ‘shippers out there.

As I said, the real focus of this story is on Linus facing down his past and Arman’s quest for vengeance.  I think the story really explores this in an interesting way.  I mean, let’s face it. Arman is murdering people (well, shifters) in cold blood in revenge for what they did to Linus.  Yes, it is horrific what happened to him without question.  But we are definitely talking about systematically murdering over 30 people.  What is interesting is how this idea is presented in the book.  Quade, Linus, and Arman all accept this as perfectly reasonable. As shifters, this is their world and when someone harms your mate, you retaliate. It is brutal and intense, but totally accepted. Then we have Roman, who has only recently become a shifter and still isn’t totally part of that world. He is horrified at what Arman is doing and feels like he is basically a serial killer, at least at first.  So we really see the difference in the shifter versus the human world, the way our laws and morality are different from the ones that guide them.  It is really fascinating and I think Calmes does a nice job really letting us into that world.

The other aspect of this book I really liked is the predator/prey concept.  Arman is a hyena shifter, a predator.  And Linus is a deer shifter, so prey.  It is basically unheard of for them to get together, as predatory and prey shifters just don’t work.  We can see how instinctively terrified Linus is of Arman, how he has to work to recognize Arman as a man who cares for and protects him, as by nature he is wary.  For Arman’s end, we also see him struggle at first.  There is that instinctive sense of wanting to attack Linus, at the same time he wants to care for him.  As the two fall for one another, grow to love and trust each other, they are able to put their animal instincts further away and focus on the connection they have between them.  Linus becomes totally comfortable, not just with Arman, but even with other predators as he knows his mate would never let any harm come to him.  I will say at times I found the lore surrounding the predator/prey connection, Linus’ background as a deer shifter, and some other related elements to go a bit over my head.  But in general I found this aspect of the world building really fascinating. I love when authors really mesh the shifter and human elements and build characters that embody both and Calmes does that very well here.

As I mentioned, I did not remember much of the detail about the side characters or plot specifics from the first book, and I did find things a bit complicated here, especially at the beginning.  We see a host of folks right away who I realized I was supposed to know, but didn’t remember, and they aren’t reintroduced very well.  Tucker, for example, was clearly someone the guys all met when visiting Quade’s pack, but I didn’t remember who he was or why he was there at L’Ange (or honestly anything about his connection to Arman).  Some of this is ultimately explained, but I wished for a bit more of a recap.  We also meet a lion shifter who is staying with them, and again, I didn’t remember him at all (and I am not even positive if he was in the first book).  We just see him there at the house, but not really why or who he is. This becomes an issue because he has some conflicts with Arman, and later seems to be leading into his own book, but I never felt like I was clear on his character. So I really think more of a link to the first book would have been helpful to connect the stories and the characters. And if you haven’t read the first book at all, I’d suggest starting there.

Overall I found this a really interesting shifter story and am liking the world Calmes has created here.  I loved the way we really delve into the shifter world, to the animal natures and the differences between shifter and human morality.  I really liked Linus and Arman together, and we definitely get some nice growly alpha male time here. But we also see that Linus is growing strong in his own right and I enjoyed seeing him come into his own with Arman’s support and love.  So another nice installment to this series and I am looking forward to more.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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