Rick Barton is on vacation, looking to recharge after losing his job and leaving his abusive boyfriend. When he spots a gorgeous man on the beach, Rick is instantly drawn in and they have a hot hookup. Soon Rick feels sick and, the next thing he knows, he wakes up in the hospital. And who is there by his bed but his own beach sex god, Travis Chandler.
It turns out the that “love bite” Travis gave Rick was really the first step in changing him from human to lycan. Another bite and Rick will be permanently changed, starting a new life as Travis’ partner in the Paranormal Bureau of Investigation and, in all likelihood, as his future mate. Decline and Rick will be sick for the rest of what will likely be a short life. Seeing not many options and without much to lose, Rick takes Travis up on the deal, and before he knows it, his life has changed forever.
In pretty short order Rick is thrown into a world he knew nothing about, full of lycans, werewolves, vampires, and all sorts of other paranormal creatures. On his first day on the job, Rick and Travis get called in for a murder case that quickly leads to two more deaths. With Rick’s impressive tracking skills, he is able to get clues from the case that no one else can find. As they dig deeper, it becomes more clear that someone is killing paranormal leaders and there seems to be a thriving underground hormone drug trade that is adding to the problem.
On top of the stress of finding out who is behind the murders, Rick must deal with his relationship with Travis. After finally getting out of his relationship with his ex Mitch, Rick isn’t sure he is ready to trust anyone again with his heart. Although he finds himself drawn to Travis sexually, Rick is trying to keep his distance emotionally. It is not easy, as the more he gets to know Travis, the more he realizes Travis is kindhearted and truly cares for Rick, rather than being the brash, arrogant man so many believe him to be. Rick is finally beginning to open his heart up to Travis, but as they get closer to catching the murderer, he may find his life at risk before things can ever be settled between them.
In A Tooth for a Fang, Liv Olteano creates a really interesting paranormal world that I found quite engaging. Her world building is creative and fun, with just a touch of lightness and humor. I enjoyed following along with Rick as he is exposed to the new creatures, the Council, the PBI, and the rest of this new and unfamiliar world. As the story continues and we learn more about the politics behind this paranormal world, it becomes even more interesting, and I think the story explores some nice issues about free will versus the importance of structure and order.
The book also leads us along an interesting mystery. I enjoyed seeing the men investigate and learning about the rules and techniques they follow, especially Rick’s tracking skills. It is not super fast paced, but it did keep me engaged as they try to figure out who is behind the murders. I liked how we not only get a clever investigation, but also how there are some deeper issues explored about the motivations for the bad guys.
So while this story definitely kept me entertained with the mystery plot and the fun world building, I did have some concerns as well. My biggest issue is that I didn’t always find Travis and Rick so likable, especially Travis. There is no way to avoid the fact that Travis essentially takes over Rick’s life and turns him into a lycan against his will for his own gain. Yes, we can pretty it up by saying how much Travis liked Rick, enough to choose to make Rick his new partner. And technically Rick had a choice, which was either turn or live his life with pain, nausea, and lack of appetite until he dies an early death. But the reality is, Travis wanted Rick and charged in to change Rick’s life completely, without any real choice on Rick’s part, and he feels no remorse, nor does he really see why that is problem. He then goes on to even more manipulations and lies to get what he wants, like getting Rick to mate with him before the proper time. To be honest, at first I didn’t even think Travis would be the ultimate love interest given how horribly he manipulates Rick. So even as we see Travis ultimately being caring and loving, I had a hard time letting go of the way the relationship started out.
This is exacerbated by the fact that Rick just got out of an abusive relationship. He was with Mitch for years, even as Mitch was physically abusing him (even going so far as to beat Rick up while Rick slept). While I realize lots of people stick with their abusers for a variety of very good reasons, Rick says he stayed “because I was too selfish to give up the good stuff.” He mentions multiple times how good Mitch is at “managing his dick” and the attraction he feels for the man and enjoying the addict-like high he gets from being with him. So it just comes across as Rick staying Mitch because he enjoyed the sex enough to put up with getting beat up. And again, in some ways I get it. Abuse victims are not in a position to think totally clearly. But then Rick immediately enters into this relationship with Travis, who is pushy and domineering as well, and Rick seems to be led largely by his dick again. Travis manipulates Rick, puts him into impossible situations, and uses his mind-controlling “alpha voice” to make Rick do things against his will. At one point he shoves Rick up against a wall because he is mad at something Rick has done. Yet Rick never seems to see any connection between this and Mitch’s behavior, and the book never suggests there is anything wrong with the way Travis behaves and that bothers me. Yes, the larger issues of an alpha’s control over his mate are well explored in this story and really interesting, as I noted above, but the specific relationship between these two men is never really addressed as problematic in any way.
My only other issue is just suspending some disbelief as to how easily Rick integrates into this world. He is totally calm when he learns about the paranormal world, no freak out to find out he is going to be a lycan. He skips all his training, yet jumps right into being a super investigator based largely on watching cop shows on TV. We do see it takes him some time to fully acclimate physically to becoming a lycan, and there is two-week adjustment period. But mostly he accepts everything in stride and jumps right in.
So I was sort of mixed on my feelings about this story, but in the end, I found the balance tipped to the side of enjoying the book. It keep me entertained, I liked the issues the story explores, and I found the world building engaging. This looks to be the start of a series, so I will definitely be interested in reading more of this story.
P.S. Just as an aside, after reading this whole book I still have no idea what this title means.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.