Darwin is a submissive wolf, but he doesn’t dare let anyone know, particularly his Alpha. Carl has made it his mission to rid his pack of submissive wolves and has been testing Darwin (through some significant abuse), looking to prove that Darwin is not a dominant wolf as he has been pretending. Being at college has helped, as while Darwin still isn’t fully out of Carl’s clutches, being at school does give him a little distance from the Alpha.
When Darwin meets fellow student and dominant Alpha wolf, Jared, he is drawn to the attractive jock. Darwin is wary that acting on his feelings will expose him as a submissive wolf, but he finds it too hard to resist the pull toward Jared. Carl isn’t too happy about having another Alpha in his territory, and his so his anger turns not only to Darwin, but to Jared as well.
When Carl’s threats take an even darker turn, risking the lives of not just Darwin and Jared, but friends as well, the men realize they have little choice but to fight back. They may be able to retreat to safety temporarily, but there is no avoiding the inevitable conflict, especially as it becomes clear that Carl is drifting deeper into violence and insanity. Now Jared, Darwin, and their makeshift pack must take a stand against Carl to save their lives and their pack.
Unwilling is an interesting story with some unique world building elements. The concept of submissive and dominant wolves overlaid with the more traditional Alpha/pack structure was new to me and created some interesting dynamics and creativity. And overall I enjoyed the basic storyline that Corrie presents here and the book kept my attention as I was interested to see how the conflict with Carl would play out.
Unfortunately, there is also a lot that didn’t work for me here. The biggest problem is that I found this story quite muddled and I often had a hard time really following what was going on. It felt as if there was a solid story thread to the book, but so much thrown in on top that it just got buried. There is just so much happening here, so many issues, so many subplots, so many side characters, that it overwhelms the story. Several of the plot elements are mentioned up front, but then take a while to ever get explained, leaving me confused along the way. And in some cases, they are never really addressed at all. For example, we are told that Darwin has had trouble controlling his wolf and that he doesn’t shift, but despite the big deal made of this, the reason why is never explained and the issue is never resolved in any clear way. This issue is brought up again and again and I kept waiting for some sort of explanation, but we never get it. And there were other threads that felt similarly unresolved, including a fairly abrupt ending. At times I just felt we had everything but the kitchen sink going on with not enough clarity and it just overwhelmed the story.
The book is also mostly an ensemble, which typically doesn’t bother me, but I felt we lost the core of Jared and Darwin here. These two men get most of the POVs, but there are a handful of side characters who get their own chapters, which threw me out of the main action. Even as the story hits its climax, we are getting POV chapters and key focus on peripheral characters and our guys seem barely involved in a lot of what is going on during the final conflict resolution. And all these folks jumping in and out of the limelight just added to the confusion I felt about the focus of the story and keeping up with the main thread.
And finally, I have to say that while I liked Darwin, I didn’t particularly like Jared, nor did I feel much of a connection between them. The whole book is filled with politics and dominant posturing and rules about disrespecting people and violent actions for not complying properly, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. And as an Alpha, Jared is right in the middle of that. He is constantly having these violent thoughts, taking out aggression on other people, and being generally unpleasant. And when he first meets Darwin and sets his sights on him, he is quite predatory in a way that made it hard for me to ever connect with Jared or enjoy him with Darwin.
When Jared is pursuing Darwin, it is described as:
“…he intensified his stalking of Darwin. Wherever Darwin went, Jared was there. In this math class, in the cafeteria, in the gym, and Jared even found Darwin’s favorite place in the small part next to the university.”
Stalking, obsessive behavior, particularly toward someone who is weaker than you both physically and in a power dynamic, is just not attractive to me. He is also aggressive toward his pack (I’m redacting names here because who ends up in their pack is somewhat spoilerish):
“Jared silently prayed that X would decide to fight him so he could kill him without regret. Another mouth to feed and care for didn’t sound all too enticing.”
And later with another character:
“What the fuck, X!” he bellowed, shaking her like a rag doll, happy she would take the brunt of his rage before he had to face Darwin. He would never use force on him but he had to do it someone, lest their be dire consequences.”
As far as I can tell, this person did nothing to Jared but have the misfortune of being the first person to the door. I also have no idea why he has to let out his rage on someone for fear of consequences, or what those consequences would be, as this is never explained.
So as I said, there were some unique elements here and the plot thread was interesting enough that it kept me entertained and engaged. But I found a lot about this story very frustrating and felt it was hard to follow, with just too much thrown in and not enough explained. If you are a big shifter fan and looking for a story that is a little unique, this may be worth a try, but it didn’t fully work for me.