Against The GrainRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

Ash Keeler has finally accepted his feelings for Cael Maddock. He knows he is in love with the cheetah shifter, even if he hasn’t been able to say it out loud. And he knows that Cael loves him back. In fact, Ash has even gotten brave enough to acknowledge his feelings for Cael to Cael’s father. But admitting it and acting on it are two different things, and Ash is still having problems moving things forward with Cael. After losing his brother traumatically as a child, Ash still has scars that make the idea of being with a man hard to handle. But he knows he needs to face that if he has any hope for a future with Cael.

In the meantime, Destructive Delta is still sidelined while they recover from their last case that left more than one team member injured. But despite being officially off work, the team still learns that the Therian mind-control drug that they have encountered before is still being studied. In fact, it seems like someone within THIRDS might be working to bring the drug into mass production in an attempt to use mind control on Therian soldiers. As they team digs further, they are finding the case getting more complicated, and no one is quite sure who to trust. But they do know that if they don’t figure out who is behind the research and put a stop to it, they could risk disaster.

Yay! It is Ash and Cael! If you are a fan of Charlie Cochet’s THIRDS series, you have probably been waiting as eagerly as I have for Ash and Cael’s story. It has been building for a while now, even as we focused on Dex and Sloane, and so I have been dying to see these guys finally get together. But of course, it can’t be easy, and these guys have kind of a rough start. They are both in love with one another, and Cael can even admit it out loud. But Ash is still dealing with demons from his past and he can’t let himself be with Cael physically as much as he wants to. So we get a bit of a slow start here as the guys kind of agree that they will discuss their relationship, but not much happens for a while. I’ll admit this was a little tough for me as we have waited so long for these guys to have their story and I wanted to jump right into it, not to have another long wait as they sorted things out. I guess it would have preferred that their conflict be external, rather than seeing Ash still struggling with being with Cael even after all this time. I mean, he admits he is in love with him, not only to himself, but even to Cael’s dad. And I understand that he is feeling conflicted because he associates being with a guy with his brother’s death. But I did feel frustrated with Ash. I mean, he admits his love publicly, he is always touching and cuddling Cael, using terms of endearment. And just because he was meeting a guy when his brother died doesn’t make it causal. I don’t know, I guess I wanted to get to the good stuff sooner. But once we get there, oh I love these guys together. I love big, hulking, grumpy Ash who is so tender with Cael. I love that Ash makes Cael feel stronger about himself. I love Ash can be so protective over Cael, but at the same time treat him as an equal. Seeing them finally happy together is so rewarding and I really love this couple.

The mystery/suspense end of things also takes a bit to get started. In fact, things don’t really heat up there until the last quarter of so of the book. The previous books have had much more complex and developed suspense plots and this felt a little simple here, or at least not as built up throughout the story. But it is a nice connection with events of previous books, tying up some threads from previous stories. Things get quite exciting at the end and I loved the way the team all gets involved and how things resolve. Cochet is doing such a nice job furthering the larger suspense threads here throughout the series and I really like where she is taking things at the end of this book.

I will say that this series continues to be exciting and well done. I love that we finally get Ash and Cael together and now I am DYING for the next book up for Calvin and Hobbs. Cochet has really put things in motion nicely for future relationships to be explored, as well as for things to continue to develop for Destructive Delta and other key THIRDS players. So I am really enjoying this series and can’t wait for more.

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

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