As Granny Sole’s First, Peter is a fox shifter with a lot of responsibilities. This despite his well known proclivity for lying and shirking duties—but he’s got it when it counts. Peter is willing to lay down his life to protect the other orphans under Granny’s care. Little does he know sticking up for the right things will land him in a tailspin of action that will throw him back into the life of a wolf shifter he long thought dead: Luca.
Luca is the wolf shifter who disappeared from Granny Sole’s home for orphans years ago. So long ago, that he cannot remember a thing about the place—or, as it turns out, the orphans who lived there. Yet even when Luca stumbles upon Peter fighting the savage men who hunt Luca at the edges of the Shoe, he can’t deny a twist of something drawing him towards the loudmouth brat.
Through a series of events that make it clear neither one of them is in charge of their own fate, Peter and Luca end up trapped in a magical forest. Together, they must learn to work as a team in order to survive. As long days follow long nights, hard truths come out…but also a hint of tenderness. Soft affections are something neither Luca nor Peter are prepared to accept, let alone offer…yet they have a way of sneaking in the longer they battle the forces of nature, of demons, of good and evil. When Luca strikes a deal with the powerful spirit who controls the forest, he sacrifices his freedom to save Peter’s. At the time, it was no skin off anyone’s teeth…yet when that fateful day rears its ugly head, Luca and Peter realize they have more skin in the game than they bargained for.
Yet simply being free is no guarantee of being happy; it’s up to Luca and Peter to discover if they have what it takes to make a good team, even when they’re together by choice and not by circumstance.
Dear reader, a word of caution: my synopsis of this book is far and away more coherent than anything in this whole entire book. It took me forever to slog through it because I dreaded turning every page, fearing I’d be slapped in the face with another set of unexplained circumstances that lead to another mini-adventure that does not play into a whole overarching theme.
I found myself struggling to keep up with this overly involved plot. Chapter one is an endless barrage of character after character. The author painstakingly describes each character in purple prose (this is habitual throughout the story), makes a point of naming them and hammers home exactly which fairy tale trope each character represents, ensures they interact personally with Peter, and goes so far as to build up these characters’ backstories—all of which is to be utterly and entirely ignored until the last couple of pages of the book. Why bother setting such a grandiose stage if it’s only going to be ignored? There are no less than SEVEN named, described characters connected to Peter in the first couple of chapters…none of them relevant to the main action of the story, none of them any real connection to Luca except—and only in the most generous of ways—Granny.
It was frustrating to muddle through this cacophony of character noise only to realize all those names and personalities and conflict would be rendered utterly and entirely moot over the next 250 pages.
Another nail in this story’s coffin for me was the writing style. Part of this stems from the overly descriptive prose that is pretentious (use of the word “montane” instead of “mountain” as an adjective) and sometimes offensive (even if you capitalize it, the “O” word meaning “of the East” is officially wrong). Part of it stems from the lack of coherence in the prose itself at times. The word “plank” appears several times, most notably when Peter is about to get his rocks off. Even with that mental image, I could not grasp what Stone was trying to say by writing “Peter planked and shot into his fist.” Or how, during a bondage scene that gets introduced by bashing Fifty Shade of Grey, Luca gets tied up in an “X” where his arms are “forced behind his back, his calves and thighs tied together.”
The writing was not great and the cast of characters was overly large for a story that amounts to a get together between Luca and Peter. Now, I must admit, these two were the only real draw for me, but that’s not saying a lot because I found them both to be mercurial jerkwads to one another, even after they start boffing each other (and I shit you not, in this story-verse, they are not *technically* having sex despite all the “planking” and sucking and rubbing and mutual nakedness that goes on because there is no penetration. For a story that seems to try way too damn hard to be this cutting departure from the safe and prudent humdrum typical story telling, adhering to a definition of “sex” that means “penis penetrating lower body cavity orifice only” just feels…crushingly conformist.) This quote sums these two characters up to a T: Peter played the mouthy prick, and Luca played the scary renegade.
Overall, I found this book a super laborious read and at 300+ pages, that’s a lot to get through. Despite Stone’s attempt to tie things together by having Luca and Peter end up where they started, namely at Granny’s place, there was too little to string everything together. At the end of the story, I felt like I was left with a series of individual snippets of two loathsome characters’ lives. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this story to anyone.