Chayton Wilson has dreamed of finding his fated mate since he was a child. He even knew just what his mate would look like, with fair hair and blue eyes. As the local veterinarian, Chay is called when a wolf is found shot near pack lands. The moment Chay approaches the wolf, he immediately knows he has found his mate. But Chay is shocked to discover that his mate is a man, and Chay is not gay.
While Chay is thrown at first, he has no intentions of giving up his mate. Keaton (or Little Bit as Chay thinks of the small wolf) is everything Chay wants in a mate. And it quickly becomes clear that Chay’s fierce attraction to Keaton means he is not quite as straight as he thought himself to be. But Keaton has been burned in the past by a man who wasn’t interested in coming out or accepting that he is gay, and so Keaton is wary of Chay’s attempts at a relationship. At first, Keaton is determined to keep Chay at a distance. But Chay is persistent and charming and soon Keaton finds himself succumbing to Chay’s attention and accepting that Chay truly wants to be together.
Things are going well between Chay and Keaton, but it is not all smooth sailing. Chay’s mother isn’t happy to learn that his mate is a man or that he is white, not Native American. But even worse, a series of accidents soon make it clear that Keaton is in danger. Now Chay and Keaton must figure out who is behind the attacks as Keaton’s life is on the line.
Without Reservations is the first book in J.L. Langley’s With or Without series and a story I first read many years ago. It was originally published in 2006 by Samhain Publishing and was one of the first books I read when I started in the genre, way back 10 years ago or so. At the time, this book (and this series) was one that had a ton of buzz and pretty much everyone I knew had read it as well. Langley published two follow ups, with more books promised, but nothing has been released in this series since 2011. So I was excited to find that she was re-releasing the existing series (and presumably adding on new books).
I’ll admit up front that this was very much a nostalgia read for me. I remember this series so fondly, I was wondering if it would live up to my memories and expectations. I am happy to say that for the most part, I found this one as enjoyable as I remembered. There are some aspects that bothered me. I felt like there is too much focus on Keaton’s white skin when compared to Chay’s brown, and lots of comments about the contrast. A joke about having a “sex change” feels out of place in today’s environment (it’s in the context of Chay joking he won’t have a sex change even though both he and Keaton are men). And Chay’s attentiveness when attempting to persuade Keaton to give him a chance at times comes across as pushy and heavy handed. But overall, I found that this one still works, even more than a decade after its original release.
The first part of the story focuses on Chay and Keaton establishing their mate connection. The initial conflict is Chay realizing he has a male mate when he considers himself straight. This scenario could go way wrong, but it is clear almost from the start that Chay is open and accepting of Keaton being a man and comfortable with the attraction he feels. It is Keaton who is holding back, wary after being burned before. As I said, Chay is a little “won’t take no for an answer” for me, but it is interpreted by Keaton as persistent and endearing, so it mostly works. These guys are super sexy together and there is a lot of heat and intensity as they build their relationship. I almost never say a book has too much sex, but this one does walk that line a bit too closely for me. But I like these guys together and find them an appealing couple. I particularly like that while Keaton is the smaller of the two by far, he is the much stronger wolf, and it gives nice balance to their relationship.
The other plot line surrounds someone who is out to get Keaton. No one quite knows why, or who is behind it, but a series of incidents prove his life is in danger. Things connect back to Keaton’s pack and the way he left things with them before leaving for New Mexico, so the men have to revisit some of his past to figure it out. I found this part of the plot a little weaker. The mystery isn’t really fully developed and the resolution feels too fast. It mostly serves as a way to build some drama after things are settled with Keaton and Chay’s relationship, as well as to reconnect with Keaton’s past. But the plot feels a little flimsy.
Overall, I really enjoyed revisiting this story and this series. It is one I have always remembered fondly and I am happy to see it is getting some new life. I am looking forward to more installments.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.