Jackson Lewis is a werewolf who lives an isolated life in a small town, focusing mostly on running his brewery, Lone Wolf. One day, he bumps into a stranger, Leo Gallagher, and realizes the man is his fated soul mate. It is fairly common for wolves to find their true soul mate, but Jackson is shocked because Leo is both human (something incredibly rare in a soul mate) and a man (Jackson has only ever been into women). This all stuns Jackson to the point that he is not sure how to proceed.
Leo is a music therapist working with sick children at the hospital. His good friend and roommate is a werewolf, so Leo takes it all mostly in stride, but he recognizes that Jackson is kind of freaking out about it all. So Leo is willing to take things slowly and get to know Jackson. He knows it won’t be easy, as there is a lot of prejudice against human/wolf couples. Even though society knows about werewolves, it wasn’t long ago that they were mostly segregated and there are still many that dislike and fear wolves. But Leo has no such feelings and likes Jackson enough to take things at his pace.
While Jackson isn’t particularly bothered by having a human mate, he is having a harder time wrapping his head around being with a man. Even as the guys grow closer and begin to build a relationship, it is not all easy. They face detractors on both sides who don’t believe humans and wolves should be together — and some who are willing to do whatever it takes to stop them.
Lone Wolf pairs the sweet and friendly Leo with the more reserved and, at times, somewhat surly Jackson. I can deal with a hero like Jackson who isn’t always likable as long as he gets there in the end, which he did for me here. Jackson has built this really isolated life, and he is totally thrown when he meets Leo. But Martin makes an effort to show us that Jackson is a good, caring guy underneath it all, and I could see those elements here. So I could deal with his less likable moments because I felt like we got there in the end. What I liked here is the way these guys build their relationship and take time to work things out. Often with fated mates stories, we get men who fall immediately for each other despite not knowing one another at all, or who force things because of their mating. Here, the guys take time to get to know one another and work through their conflicts, which made their ultimate falling for one another and building a life together feel more realistic.
This book is kind of old school in the sense of the set up. I really hate the term “gay for you” as I don’t believe someone can turn gay because they meet the right person (nor turn straight the same way). I prefer the term “out for you” as what I believe really happens in this scenario is that someone gains an awareness of their sexual identity and interests that they didn’t have before (that they are bi, gay, pan, etc). And most books I read with this theme are pretty clearly falling on the OFY side of things these days. But this story clings very much to the GFY concept in that Jackson is very clear he is not gay throughout the book. It is what causes the main conflict, as Jackson tries to reconcile his lack of interest in men with the fact that he has a male soul mate. He doesn’t let that get in the way of getting to know Leo, and it is clear he is attracted to Leo, especially as they get to know one another. But throughout the entire book, even at the end, Jackson is still clear that he is not gay, that Leo is the only man he is or could be attracted to. Which, ok, maybe. But it felt strange that it never even enters the conversation that Jackson might be bisexual, or anywhere else on the spectrum. He is very specifically a straight guy attracted to one particular man only. Honestly, this premise felt kind of dated and Jackson’s struggle about his attraction to Leo but not being into guys, while perhaps realistic for a man who has always only been into women, also felt somewhat out of step with the way this type of scenario is presented in romance these days.
I liked the shifter world that Martin has built here, with the world aware of shifters and the politics that goes along with that. I wish things had been more developed with the shifter side of things though. While we see it play out with the backlash the guys get for being a human/shifter pair, the actual paranormal aspects of the story are pretty minimal. There is not much shifting, no real sense of what it means to be a wolf physically, and not really much shifter lore. The story mostly reads as two contemporary guys with different backgrounds who face prejudice because of it. They could have been different religions or different races just as easily as different species. The story really focuses on the political side of things, and I did miss a little of that paranormal feel.
The last note is that the story has a bit of a suspense element thrown in that felt way too fast and undeveloped for me. The “bad guy” is obvious right away, but while we get a hint of danger early on, the actual suspense conflict just felt dropped in at the very end and resolves just as quickly. I think maybe this story just tries to do too much — human/wolf politics, guy discovering his mate is a male, and lives getting threatened — and that may have just been too many plots here to manage.
Overall I found this one entertaining, mostly on the strength of Jackson and Leo’s relationship and how it ultimately developed. I think the political side of things that Martin brings in interesting as well. But I felt like the paranormal aspects weren’t as fully developed as I would have liked. And I found Jackson’s “I’m not gay” attitude, as well as the lack of consideration that he could be bi or anything else but straight, a little too dated. Overall, if you enjoy shifters and like to see a somewhat difficult hero find redemption, this story may be a good one to check out.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.