Ethan Robertson is a descendant of a long line of werewolf hunters. The war between his family and the Kinnaird werewolf clan has raged on for a millennium. Ethan’s father keeps him on a strict training schedule and he is expected to fight alongside his family. When Ethan meets Liam Kinnaird, he is completely drawn to him, but Ethan is thrown completely off balance and struggles with being attracted to a man and a werewolf. Despite the ever present danger of getting caught, Ethan and Liam develop a secret relationship of stolen moments and fall in love. When their relationship is found out, family lines are drawn and then an explosion erases their memories of their time together.
Twenty-three years later, Ethan is married to a woman, has two children, and is the leader of the fight he was against years ago. When he glimpses Liam again during battle, there is something familiar about him and it triggers intense, erotic dreams. Ethan is beginning to think that maybe they are not dreams at all, but memories of Liam. But that’s not possible, because Ethan tells himself he does not know Liam, and he certainly has never been in love with a werewolf.
Playing Hard to Forget is told in two parts and the first part is all kinds of intense. The story revolves around the developing relationship, young love, first love style, between Ethan and Liam. They are the hunter and the hunted that are drawn to each other on a physical and then an emotional level. Ethan and his sister Fiona live under the strict rules set by their father. Ethan follows his training, but his heart is not in the whole fight like Fiona’s is. The guys have an instant connection, and although Ethan has never been attracted to a man before, that area of the story is not addressed. This portion of the story is devoted to them secretly meeting as often as they can to explore each other as they can never be seen together. The bond they create between them forms the intensity that propels the story forward. Sure, Liam sort of stalks Ethan and spies on him in his bedroom, but all of it arouses Ethan, so we can then just go with it. The story is less about the world building, as werewolves just exist in contemporary life and there are families of hunters living privately alongside the rest of society. For the most part, we can just accept this aspect of the story in the first half. Although, where Liam actually lives and how his family financially supports themselves were definite questions that were raised.
The second half of the story brings us two decades later. Ethan is now the leader of the same fight he was once opposed to, he is still being manipulated by his sister, who is out of touch with reality, and he has no memory of Liam. This part is where the story starts to let me down and the lack of world building becomes an issue. First, there is an increase in hunting, which we are told results in a lot of dead and mutilated bodies. It is not explained how all of these bodies are accounted for in a contemporary world. Next, when Ethan encounters Liam, his memory starts to return through his dreams. There are several dream sequences where Ethan is reliving parts of his physical relationship with Liam. While it has been over twenty years since Ethan has been with Liam, I had not forgotten what I read just a few chapters prior and this portion became repetitive. Also, it takes the men quite a while to figure it all out and I would have liked to see them together more in the second half. The memories come back gradually, they have to piece it all together, and there is no grand gesture memory return, but more of a bittersweet sense of the years that were lost.
If you are looking for a full on shifter story in a fully developed world, this would not be the book as there is also no on page shifting here. The first half of their story had me captivated, but the second half attempted to build upon a world that had not been fully created in the first half of the story. While it is certainly difficult to recommend half of a book, I was definitely more attached to the intensity of the first half of Ethan and Liam’s story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.