Wyatt Redding knows he is in trouble the minute he wakes up drugged, bound, and gagged in the trunk of a car. It is clear that his brother Andrew has gotten tired of mooching off Wyatt for money and wants to get rid of him so that he can claim Wyatt’s salary. Each month, during the full moon, humans hide out from the wolves who seek to claim them. A human who is taken by the wolves faces three days of sexual use as the pack’s toy. At the end of that time, they will be either be returned to society as an outcast (to face abuse by humans and have their salary forfeit to their next of kin), or the lucky few will be claimed and marked by a wolf and forever under their protection.
Wyatt knows that Andrew is giving him to the wolves in hopes that Wyatt will return disgraced, giving Andrew access to all his money. But Wyatt is determined to do whatever it takes, accept whatever abuse is offered, to manage to earn a mark and gain further protection. He knows his life will still be forever changed, but at least with the wolf mark he won’t face disgrace, abuse by humans, and a likely early death. Although Wyatt has never been with a man, he accepts the fact that he will need to do whatever is required in order to get out of this with some hope for a future.
When Wyatt is left with the wolves, things go pretty much as expected. The pack all take their turns using him sexually, one after the other. He is exhausted and sore and totally terrified, but he is determined to give in to their every requirement. He just keeps reminding himself that if he can hold on for three days, he can get through this with some hope of a life afterwards. Things change when the alpha begins to take more of an interest in Wyatt. Wyatt’s desire to escape becomes less and he finds himself connecting much more with the wolves. As Wyatt grows more attached to Cole, he may not want to leave the wolves when this is all over after all.
Ok, so let’s get this out there clearly from the start. This book has extensive scenes of rape and dub con. For a good portion of the story, we are in Wyatt’s head as wolf after wolf uses him sexually. Although he doesn’t fight it, this is only because he is trying to survive. He has no chance of escape and his only hope is to please the pack enough so they give him a mark. So this story is clearly intense and a tough read, and certainly not for anyone for whom these issues are a trigger.
All right, so parts of this story worked for me and parts did not. I think the idea of the wolves as these vicious creatures who hunt humans and use them for pleasure was an interesting switch up on the normal cuddly shifters we often see in this genre. We are in kind of an alternative universe here where humans hunker down every month, hiding from the wolves and hoping not to be caught. And those that are face sexual abuse and in most cases, total ruin. We learn that those victims who come back unmarked are used and abused by their fellow humans. So this isn’t a pretty world, on the human or the shifter side, and I thought it was a unique take on the shifter genre.
I did struggle with this story, however. First off, Wyatt’s explanation for why he was giving in to the wolves is repeated over and over. I get that we want to be sure we are seeing that Wyatt is not just going along, but that he clearly has no choice. It is just that his justification for his behavior is repeated enough that it felt over done. I also felt like we could have way toned down all the rape and abuse and still gotten the point. It is a LOT to wade through, and in no way did I feel heat or chemistry between Wyatt and any of these men, even when he gets off. So it definitely felt piled on.
I think the bigger issue is that I never really understood if we were supposed to view this as a real relationship building between them, with Wyatt genuinely falling for Cole. Or whether we were supposed to be reading between the lines to see how he basically has become a victim of his own determination to go along and is having sort of a Stockholm Syndrome thing. Whether this book works at all really rests on that issue, and even after reading it, I am not sure I know which way things fall.
It is clear that Wyatt is doing what he has to do to get by. It is also clear that he is basically being gang raped for three days (though after a point Cole keeps Wyatt to himself). Regardless of whether he is lubed, stretched, or even getting off, he is without question being raped and abused. Tolerating rape, or even getting some sexual pleasure out of it, in no way changes the fact that someone is being forced. So as far as I am concerned, Wyatt enjoying some of the experiences and even starting to like Cole are not indicative of anything other than that he is trying to make the best of his horrific situation. We also see Cole at one point take an action that we are told will turn Wyatt even more compliant and even make him take pleasure from the sex. Wyatt is clear in his internal monologue that he does not want this done to him, but he has no choice. However, at the end of the story, he is happily with Cole. He wants to have sex with him, wants to be with him, and he feels very negative towards humans.
So this leaves us with two options. One is that we are supposed to accept that things are great between them, that Wyatt has fallen for Cole, that he is happier with the wolves than he would be if he is returned to the humans, and that this is a romance. If that is the message of this story, it in no way works for me. As I said above, Wyatt is being raped, abused, forced, and manipulated. There is nothing that happens that makes me believe he is having real feelings or that this is a real relationship. The other option is that as readers we are supposed to see that Wyatt has been basically emotionally destroyed and is suffering some sort of Stockholm Syndrome-like effect. He thinks this is what he wants and that this is making him happy, but we know the truth. The action Cole takes clearly has forced him to take pleasure from all of this. So while Wyatt thinks this is what he wants, we see the dark underbelly and know the truth. And if that is the message here, the story works. Yes it is dark and horrific, but the book works.
The problem is, I am really not sure what the intention is here. I have read and enjoyed many of Gregg’s stories and the author definitely has a darker side. So I have chosen to assume that she in fact did intend for us to see this as Wyatt’s emotional decline, and not in fact a happily ever after with hearts and flowers between Cole and Wyatt, and my rating for the book reflects that. However, as far as I am concerned, this is not a romance and the relationship is all smoke and mirrors. If you see a happily ever after as the author’s goal in this story, I think you will be disappointed in the book. And if that is what you are looking for as a reader, I think you will be disappointed as well.
So this is a complicated one, and definitely not for everyone. The beginning is definitely rough and not particularly enjoyable. There is no heat or passion or even illicit sexual thrill to be had here. It is just rape and abuse and violence. Once you get past that, there are some interesting concepts here. I just think that Gregg doesn’t quite get us where we need to go in either direction. It isn’t a romance, but isn’t clear that it is not meant to be. And so I ended the story feeling sort of confused about it all.