Axel Carmichael owns The Dragon’s Lair pub and leads the Black Dragons motorcycle club. When Bayden Wolf walks into his pub, Axel pegs him as a spoiled little rich boy looking for a fight. He also learns almost immediately that Bayden is a werewolf. When Bayden takes a bet on a fight, Axel allows it to take place behind the pub, and after Bayden wins, he patches up the younger man. Though he invites Bayden back to the pub whenever he wants, he’s fairly certain Bayden won’t return. Only he does.
Bayden has to live by the laws that govern his kind, and they are far harsher than the laws for humans. He knows what Axel thinks of him, but Bayden lets Axel keep thinking it instead of correcting him. Werewolves can’t trust humans. But Bayden is drawn to the big dominant man, and he begins to let Axel in. When Axel offers him a job, Bayden takes it. But he keeps taking bets on fights and scenes, because he needs the money. Axel wants to dominate Bayden, and Bayden wants to submit to him, but while the bets are going on, Axel refuses. When Bayden gets Axel to admit that a six-week trial period will show them both if they can have a D/s relationship, Bayden takes as many bets as he can to save up money. Then he can finally agree to be Axel’s submissive for six weeks.
But things aren’t easy for them. It’s not in Bayden’s nature to talk much, and there are a lot of cultural differences between humans and werewolves. Bayden makes mistakes, and breaks rules that Axel has set down. Together they work through it. When Bayden’s world comes crashing down around him, the guilt he feels pushes him to once again do things that Axel won’t approve of. But Axel is coming to understand the way his pup thinks, and between the two of them, they just may able to sort everything out. Eventually these two men just may be able to have everything they ever wanted with each other.
I loved this book. The world building is unique and so well done, the characters well-crafted and perfectly drawn, and the plot intriguing and engaging. This was a long book. Very long, in fact. Did I think there were some places where the narrative could have been tightened? Yes, absolutely. And that’s the only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars from me. It wasn’t so much that there were lags or that the pace slowed, but more that there were a few scenes that felt a bit repetitive. However, I loved this world and these characters so much that I almost didn’t care. The longer I spent with them, the better.
I’m a big fan of solid world building, and when an author can craft something that sucks me in and makes me believe that it could be real, I’m all for that. And that’s what Dare does here. Yes, it’s a contemporary world, and most of it is familiar. But there is this whole other level built in, one where werewolves not only exist but are treated as second class citizens. They get less pay for equal work, and rent is twice as expensive. That’s if they can find a job, and if they can find a place to live. Humans aren’t punished for crimes against werewolves. It’s a pretty crappy existence, all in all. And a lot of humans have no idea how bad it is for wolves.
Bayden shows his resilience right away. He does what he has to survive, and he does it well. He’s got a solid backbone, and he doesn’t take shit from anyone if he can avoid it. But we also see underneath his bravado, and how his natural inclination is to submit. He really doesn’t want to cause trouble, and is fastidious about not breaking any laws. What I thought was particularly fantastic was his character consistency. One thing Dare did exceptionally well was showing us how werewolves behaved. Bayden is not human, and he has a different perspective on the world. Not just from his experiences, but also because of his innate instincts. His behaviors and reactions were clearly wolf, and I simply loved that being a shifter was so ingrained in him.
Axel was a character that I loved from his introduction, and that never changed. He is the consummate Dom in all things, a real alpha male. But he wasn’t a jerk about it. His goal was always to take care of Bayden and do what was best for the younger man. Not only as his submissive, but as a person. He did his best to understand the way that Bayden thinks and reacts to situations, learning everything he could about werewolves. He pushed Bayden’s boundaries, and helped him to learn and grow. From the very beginning, it was clear that these two men were meant to be together and that Axel’s patience was going to be the key to cementing their relationship.
The beginning of their relationship is definitely a slow build. But it absolutely needed to be. There was no way Bayden could jump into a relationship with a human. There had to be a great deal of trust built up first. So this part was necessary, and really show cased Axel’s patience. This part for me, is where I had my tiny quibble about the narrative needing to be tightened just a bit. There were just a couple of scenes where it felt like we were covering the same ground. But at the same time, it added to the building of trust between the two men. Since BDSM is a huge element in this book, having that trust well established really pushed the story line to a whole new level. When these two men were in a scene, it was intense and visceral. Bayden’s true submission was a sight to behold, and it wouldn’t have had the same impact without that trust.
In addition to the outstanding world building and exceptional MCs, Dare also populated this tale with some fantastic secondary characters. Most of the book takes place at the pub, and so we get to see members of the Dragons quite a bit. These characters were just as well drawn as the MCs, and we get to know them as well. They were a wonderful addition that really helped to flesh out the story. Bayden’s mother also makes a couple of appearances that really give us insight into Bayden and werewolf culture alike.
All in all, this is a book I have no trouble recommending. I didn’t put it down once I started, and I was fully immersed in the characters and the story. I know it’s one I’ll be reading again. And since this is the first of a series, I can tell you I will not hesitate to pick up the next one.