Rating: 2.5 stars
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Length: Novella

Kaea Hemopo and his sister were raised by their loving grandmother. When their grandmother is attacked and killed by a bear shifter, Kaea swears revenge and goes after the man he knows took his grandmother’s essence, forcing her spirit to be unable to lay at rest. After tracking the man he believes is the killer, Kaea confronts him and shoots him right before he himself is attacked and blacks out. When Kaea comes to, not only is he made aware he shot at the wrong bear, but that the bear he attacked is actually his mate, Xavier Mulligan. Not only that, but Xavier has also sworn vengeance against the same shifter since the man also killed his father. Now Kaea and Xavier must work together in order to kill the strongest bear alpha they have ever known—one that can control the minds of other shifters and is hungry for more power.

His to Protect by Maia Dylan is the second novella in the An Alpha’s Claim series. The story actually runs concurrent to the first, Hers to Love, by revealing what happens to Kaea when both he and his sister are tasked by their Grandmother’s spirit to avenge her death. This is a short novella that finds Kaea pursuing a man he knows little about other than his name. It’s no surprise then that when Kaea comes across a bear shifter fighting off two others, he thinks he has his guy only to discover that he’s wrong.

Xavier returned home to find his father slain and the remaining bears in their clan now controlled by a ruthless man hungry for power. Determined to avenge his father’s death, Xavier is shocked when he is confronted with a mysterious man aiming a gun at his head. Not only that, but the man is his mate. When Xavier’s bear mows poor Kaea down, causing him to hit his head and black out, he takes his mate back to his hotel where they both discover they are after the same man. These two join then decide to join forces after Kaea reminds Xavier that even though they are mates, he is not the boss and Kaea can handle himself in a fight.

Author Maia Dylan unfortunately doesn’t break any new ground in the paranormal genre with this story. Employing the same insta-love/insta-mate trope that so many before her have overused, she has her characters instantly okay with the idea they are meant to be together.  From there, it’s just a few chapters until the end of the novella and their declarations of undying love for each other. Part of the problem with crafting such an abbreviated plot is that most conflict must be resolved either off the page or by some kind of divine or extraordinary intervention. Such is the case here when the two argue and Kaea boards a bus to escape Xavier’s heavy-handed control issues only to have the man stop the bus and resume the argument. From there we are witness to a strange and awkward speech by a perfect stranger on the bus who basically gives them couples counseling and restores unity. I would have much rather seen these two work out their difference and grapple with Xavier’s control issues by themselves.

I also really wanted to know more about Kaea and his powers and I would have enjoyed learning more about Xavier as well, but the author opted to keep this novella short and sweet and limited on details. The problem with that was we were left with major plot holes that never really got addressed. For example, how was Kaea so sure Xavier was initially the bad guy? How did he know how to track him down to begin with other than being told a general area of New Zealand in which to look?  If Xavier was so torn up about his small clan being systematically destroyed, why did he turn his back on the remaining members and go off with Kaea? Where did this bad guy come from and how did he know that stealing the grandmother’s essence would make him so powerful? Honestly, the questions go on and on. Even allowing for the idea that this was to be a shorter story, there still had to be some details given that were definitely missing.

In the end, His to Protect was a bit of a jumbled mess with two characters that I still knew very little about by the end of the book. I realize this was a sequel and perhaps more was to be learned about Kaea in the first novella, but still so much was just glossed over in order to bring about his and Xavier’s happy ever after. This novella needed a bit more page time—a bit more padding to make the story more complete and some character development to make it all work. I will say that I think this author has some good storytelling abilities, but they need to allow themselves the time to really flesh out the plot in order to make an average story into something great.