When Nox was 14, his brother Joth killed their mother and brother, along with a human girl. Nox pretty much lost it at that point, reverting to his wolf form and running alone for months. Both human authorities and his own pack hunted him during that time; the humans wanted to talk to him about the murders, and his pack members thought Nox needed to be put down because he was mentally unstable. Nox eventually returned to his pack, but he has completely isolated himself, living and working in a small workshop on the edge of his father’s property and interacting with virtually no one.
Joth has been locked up since the murders and human researchers have been attempting to study him and find out more about his psychopathy. Joth only agreed to submit to the testing if their father came every week to visit him in prison. Now that their father has died, Joth is demanding Nox come instead.
Dio is an alpha fixer who has been brought into the pack to try to help deal with these issues, as well as to help guide the pack now that their old alpha has stepped down. When Dio tells Nox he wants him to talk to Joth, as an omega wolf, Nox has no choice but to agree. He has always resented the fact that omegas are seen as weak and have little choice about many parts of their lives, but he also can’t defy his instinct and pack rules by refusing Dio. Dio also wants to help Nox himself, determined to not only bring Nox back into the pack community, but to mate him as well. After the attack, Nox has been deemed infertile, but now it looks like there is a possibility he can bear children after all. But before the men can be settled, Dio has to help break down the walls Nox put up between himself and the pack. But more than that, Nox has to learn to trust again, both the pack and Dio himself, if there is any hope for their future as mates.
One Last Try is an shifter story with a really interesting premise that grabbed my attention right away (that and the gorgeous cover!). I was drawn in by the idea of recovery after this traumatic event, combined with the whole fertility/mpreg/new alpha thing. Overall I enjoyed this story and I think in particular the issues of the murders, how they have affected Nox, and how he is attempting to deal with moving forward are nicely done. There are a lot of things happening here, at least in an emotional sense, for a not super long book. Some issues I think are handled well and others aren’t quite as well developed as I would have liked. I think to an extent things also get a bit muddled with so many issues at once, at least in my mind, as I tried to better understand these characters.
So to start off, we have the murders and the aftermath, and this is the biggest issue Nox faces. He was obviously devastated by his brother killing his family, and it sent him spiraling. He still hasn’t recovered emotionally and he stays pretty much away from everyone at this point. The isolation may have protected him emotionally, but also hasn’t been good for him. On top of that, he has major trust issues with his own pack, given that they were all trying to kill him for a while (wolves kill those deemed too wounded out of attempts at mercy, so when Nox lost it, they tried to put him down). Obviously trying to trust again isn’t easy under those circumstances. I think Gregg explores this in an interesting way, as part of Nox is resistant, but part of him also clearly is looking for a connection but can’t bring himself to have it. I also thought it was interesting to meet Joth and learn more about him and Nox through their interactions. In some ways, dealing with Joth, however horrible he is, helps Nox move forward.
Even before the murders, Nox chafed against aspects of his role as omega. Omegas are expected to bear children and raise families, as well as be more submissive to alpha mates. Now that he is believed infertile, Nox isn’t sure how he even fits in with the omega role, or if he even wants to. This is another interesting angle, though I wish it had been explored more. I would have liked a better sense of the omega role (and the world building in general). Also, Nox sort of goes back and forth between annoyed at the expectations placed on omegas, but also bothered that his infertility causes him not to meet those expectations, which seemed kind of contradictory and I would have liked to see this a little more developed.
Then on top of Nox’s individual issues, we add in his relationship with Dio. Dio has been brought in as a fixer and his job is to both get the pack back on track and to help Nox. Things started out kind of rough for me as Dio just tells Nox he must visit his brother and submit to counseling before the men have even talked. Clearly this is stressful for Nox, but he has no real choice. Then the same day Nox comes back from visiting the prison for the first time, Dio decides to mate (i.e. have sex with) Nox. Nox again doesn’t have a choice here; he is an omega and Dio is an alpha. And while there is some small nod to consent here, it is also clear that Nox doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. So you have to be cool here with the main characters starting their relationship off with some dubious consent. That in and of itself didn’t bother me, but when this happens I want to see some acknowledgment on the part of the perpetrator at some point and we don’t quite get that. Then Dio continues to have sex with Nox after each trip to the prison, but they seem to have no interaction beyond that.
Over time we come to see that Dio, at least in his mind, is looking out for Nox and cares about him and his best interests. But it takes some time to get there, which made it hard to warm to Dio right away. We also get to know so little about him and his motivations. While Nox’s background and emotions are well explored, we learn basically nothing about Dio, including why he even is drawn to Nox in the first place. Even once I felt like he was a decent guy, I still didn’t feel any real connection between them or understand what was drawing the men together. The story ends kind of quickly, just as things are starting to smooth out for the men (so much so I was doing that thing where you watch your kindle percentage tick down as you read, trying to figure out how it was all going to wrap up so fast).
So I think that there was a lot here that was really interesting and creative. There is a lot packed into this book, and a lot of things to mull over as you read. Many of them are handled well, and others I think are not as developed as I had wanted. I ended up liking both Nox and Dio, and even wanted to see them together, but I didn’t quite get the connection between them that I would have liked. However, if you are a fan of shifter stories, especially with a hurt/comfort vibe, I still think One Last Try is worth considering.