Nicholas Reed has just gotten a job as one of the human members of the elite Alpha Unit One law enforcement team. This particular unit focuses mostly on drug crimes and Nick is thrilled to have received such an important post. The problem, however, is that Nick has a big secret, one that could get him kicked out of his job if anyone found out.
While humans and shifters co-exist relatively peacefully, there is still a lot of discrimination against smaller shifters and those that shift into baby animals. In fact, the mates of baby shifters get to control much of what they do, and baby shifters and small animal shifters are not allowed into many of the more dangerous professions, like law enforcement.
Sam Black is a lion shifter and the leader of Alpha Unit One. There is something about Nick that draws Sam in, and when he realizes the two are mates, Sam is eager to bond with Nick. But things are a bit off with Nick and it becomes clear that something more is going on. Nick has to come clean with Sam if their mating has any hope of succeeding. But unless Sam can let go and trust in Nick’s abilities, Nick may have to choose between his job and his man.
I have to give author Chris T. Kat credit for creating a new take on shifters in this story. There are many books out there in the genre, and this is the first I have seen that takes on the concept of adults who shift into baby animals. In this case, in human form these shifters are fully grown adults with adult temperaments and abilities. But when they shift, they turn into baby versions of their animals and have a more childlike personality. They end up facing a lot of discrimination, particularly by the larger cat shifters, as well as having a lot of their autonomy turned over to their mates. Along with smaller shifters, the baby shifters are also limited in what jobs they can have. So this was an interesting spin on the shifter genre and I liked the way Kat plays with this dichotomy of adult form and child form in some fun ways. She also does a nice job building the members of the Alpha team and I enjoyed these side characters and the team dynamics.
Where I struggled here was that some of the foundation of the world building just didn’t make sense to me. First off, it was unclear to me whether baby shifters weren’t legally allowed to hold these dangerous jobs, or if their mates were typically so controlling they wouldn’t let them. The book presents it both ways at different points, and this is too central an issue not to have clarity in the story. I also wondered what happened if a baby shifter was mated to a human (we know that humans and shifters can be fated mates). Does the human still control the baby shifter? Or only if they are mated to another shifter? But more confusing to me was the bigger picture about baby/small shifters in dangerous jobs. While I don’t expect my paranormal stories to be realistic per se, I do want the story to make sense within the rules and framework they set up. And here some things just didn’t come together for me. Because we are told that in human form, baby shifters act like adult humans. So if they have elite law enforcement teams that include humans, why would it matter if some of the team could also shift into baby animals? What is the difference between having a human on the team versus a shifter in human form? Why were they in any more danger, or any more of a liability, than a regular human? I struggled with understanding this and again, the whole conflict of the story rests on this concept and it just didn’t make sense to me within the bounds of the world Kat has created.
Aside from these issues, I felt like for a book featuring an elite law enforcement team, we barely see them doing anything. Most of the book is scenes of them hanging around their office. They are theoretically investigating a drug case, but we don’t see any of it, or even really hear about it in more than very broad strokes. There is a point where they go in the field where we get some action, but most of the book these guys could be in any profession and the story didn’t have quite the excitement level I was expecting. I also didn’t really get the connection between Sam and Nick. We do see them interact a while before mating, but it feels like they go from hanging out to mated and all into one another without much chance to see it develop. That is often the case in fated mate stories, but there just wasn’t enough here for me to really feel things between them.
So I give Kat credit for coming up with something unique here and I think her world building was very clever and creative. I don’t think the rest of the story came together for me as well as I hoped, but if you are looking for an interesting spin on shifter lore, as well as some cute baby shifters, you may want to give this one a try.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.