1895, New York
Since his mother died, Gabriel Webster’s pack has slowly been dwindling. With his father’s ailing health, and family members circling waiting to take over their assets, it’s only a matter of time before things fall apart completely. That is why when Nathaniel Hayward, a neighboring alpha, offers to marry Gabriel and take on the care of his pack, Gabriel knows it’s the right choice. However, things are tense as Nathaniel used to be Gabriel’s older brother’s best friend, until the two of them were in a horrible accident that left Reuben dead and Nathaniel scarred. Since then, Nathaniel has shut himself away from virtually everyone, including Gabriel and his family. It also doesn’t help that Gabriel had a crush on Nathaniel as a child and his feelings have never gone away. However, Nathaniel is clear that this marriage is nothing more than a business arrangement and the men won’t be mating.
After a perfunctory wedding, Gabriel arrives at his new home and does his best to acclimate and fit in with the small pack. But while Gabriel easily befriends the other pack members, Nathaniel continues to be cold and aloof. He doesn’t seem to want to interact with Gabriel, even for casual friendship. It doesn’t help that being around Nathaniel just stirs up all those all feelings of love and lust from ten years ago. But it doesn’t seem like Nathaniel will ever return his feelings.
As time passes, however, Nathaniel slowly begins to thaw and the connection between the men begins to grow. To Gabriel’s shock, it seems like Nathaniel may actually be returning some of his feelings. But Nathaniel also has secrets about his past that he hasn’t shared, and they may ruin the fledgling relationship before it even has a chance to grow.
The Arrangement is the first book in Alex Jane’s new Homestead Legacy series, a standalone spinoff of the author’s Alpha’s Homecoming series. While there do appear to be some crossover characters from that series, I had no problems at all following this story having never read the other books. I picked this one up for New-to-Me Author Week for our Reading Challenge Month, as so much about the set up appealed to me — marriage of convenience, historical shifter, brother’s best friend, and a hero with emotional and physical scars who has locked himself away from just about everything. I am happy to say that this was a great introduction to Jane’s work and I definitely enjoyed the story.
This book is a really character driven, slow burn romance. Things start off with the quick and business-like marriage between Gabriel and Nathaniel, and the story really focuses on Gabriel getting used to his new life, as well as the slow thaw of tensions between the men. We know from the start that Gabriel had feelings for Nathaniel as a teen that have never gone away, but Nathaniel pulled away from everyone, including Gabriel’s family, after the accident. Gabriel was left physically scarred and his parents have since disowned him, and so he has become fairly reclusive on his pack lands.
While Gabriel realizes that this won’t be a traditional marriage, he is still not prepared for the fact that Nathaniel holds himself at such a distance. It seems at first like Nathaniel doesn’t even like him, and Gabriel is having trouble figuring out how he will fit into his new life. What Jane does really well is show us as readers those little tells that indicate Nathaniel’s true feelings for Gabriel. There are lots of little details that make it clear that Nathaniel wants Gabriel, but is holding himself back for some reason, so it’s kind of delicious as we watch things unfold. As I said, this is a slow burn and most of the story is the build up to the men ultimately finding their way to each other. However, the pacing is done well and the relationship always feels like it is moving forward, so I never felt frustrated waiting for things to happen.
This is a paranormal story, but really at only the most basic level. People live together in packs, and there is a nod to Nathaniel being an alpha, but really there isn’t much in the way of paranormal world building. We never see the wolves shift, and the fact that they are wolves versus humans doesn’t seem to have much impact on them or the story. That didn’t particularly bother me, but if you are specifically looking for a shifter story, you may not find this fully satisfying. This book also has a historical element, though this is also somewhat of an alternate world, so some liberties are taken, including the total acceptance of men marrying one another. As with the paranormal aspects, there is not a super strong historical feel here, but again, it all worked for me quite well.
In the end, I found this one a really charming story. I really enjoyed seeing Gabriel and Nathaniel slowly make their way to each other. Jane also gives us some fun side characters in the other pack members. And I enjoyed the way Gabriel holds his own, even in the face of Nathaniel’s at times stormy behavior. The Arrangement was a great introduction to Alex Jane’s writing and it definitely makes me eager not only for the next book in the series, but to seek out more of the author’s work.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a bundle of fabulous books donated by Carina Press! Commenters will also be entered to win one of our three amazing Grand Prize book bundles. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here, including a list of all the books in this week’s prize.