After helping the Kimball pack in their quest to take down the Armitages, Arik has now found himself the prisoner of the Armitage pack. Arik has led a life with few choices, and while he realized the Kimballs were starting trouble, he also didn’t feel he had many other options than to work with them. But now, Arik is being held captive, his magic blocked, until he provides the Armitages with needed information. Oh, and they also want him to get rid of the pesky love spell he placed on their alpha, Matthew, that has the man thinking he is in love with Arik. But Arik knows that spell is his only leverage — the men can’t be far apart and Matthew will die if anything happens to Arik. So Arik can’t afford to remove the spell until he knows he can get to safety.
It doesn’t take long for Arik to realize he may have gotten in over his head. First off, Matthew is totally sexy and, while Arik knows better than to get involved with alphas (as they have a tendency to use and take whatever and whoever they want), he can’t deny he is attracted to Matthew. Also, the spell my have gone a little awry, as Arik realizes that he too gets ill if the pair are separated, meaning he can’t just take off and leave Matthew to deal with the consequences. As a result, Arik finds himself spending far more time with Matthew than he expected. It is eye opening, however, as Arik has never seen an alpha who actually cares for others the way Matthew does. Arik has been used and abused for his shaman powers, and he assumed Matthew would be the same way. But Matthew is caring and he treats Arik like an equal, not like an object.
While the Kimballs may have lost the battle, that doesn’t mean that they are out of the war, and the pack continues to stir up trouble for the Armitages. On top of that, trouble from Arik’s past has found him once again, and he knows he is in danger. Arik’s instincts are to flee, but he is also finding himself drawn to Matthew, as well as loving feeling a part of pack life for the first time. However, Arik isn’t sure he can trust Matthew, or anyone for that matter, and danger is coming. Now, Matthew and Arik must figure out if the feelings between them are real and lasting, and if they can work together to defeat their common enemies.
Captive Mate is the second book in Eliot Grayson’s Mismatched Mates series and it follows closely on the heels of The Alpha’s Warlock. While this book does feature a new couple, the larger world building connects and this book really needs to be read after the first. We get glimpses of Arik in the first book as he is working with the Kimballs and this story picks up soon after the end of that book and continues the larger series arc.
This book has a great enemies to lovers vibe that works nicely with the intense sexual attraction between the men. Matthew is rightly furious at Arik for not only placing the love spell upon him, but working with the Armitage enemies to hurt their pack. For his part, Arik has never felt safe, never fit in, and was working for the Kimballs as he felt it offered him some sense of security. Arik is prickly and not an easy man, but it is also clear how much he has suffered in his life. He has so often found himself abused by alphas who want to use him for his magic, who want to mate him against his will and take from him. He has spent most of his life running, never having a place of safety. So while Arik is clearly the bad guy after the first book, there is enough balance here to make it work. We don’t get his full backstory (something the author notes in the book’s front matter, since it will be revealed in a future story featuring Arik’s brother), I did feel like we learn enough about him that I could sympathize with and understand him. We are fully in Arik’s POV, which mostly worked well, though at times I felt like knowing Matthew’s thoughts really would have helped. But it gives us a chance to see how Arik is kind of a unreliable narrator, assuming the worst because it is all he has grown to expect. I really enjoyed watching as he slowly comes to realize that Matthew does truly care about him, that the Armitages aren’t out to hurt him, and that he can have love and a pack and people who care for him. He and Matthew end up being a really great pair together and I loved how Matthew’s patience and kindness help Arik slowly believe he can have happiness.
Aside from the relationship, this story continues the larger series arc about the fight with the Kimballs, as well as uncovering more about the trouble Nate’s father was stirring up. We also get another villain from Arik’s past who comes back looking to hurt him. So there is a lot of excitement and suspense here as the Armitages deal with multiple threats and I think Grayson does a nice job developing this larger arc and balancing it with the romance. I am really caught up in the story and the world building.
I will note that there are some consent issues rolling around this story, so it is something to be aware of, particularly if this is a trigger area for you. First off, Matthew is under a love spell that Arik places on him, so he is not under full control of his feelings for part of the story. There are times Mathew wants Arik where it is unclear whether it is his own feelings or the spell. Things do clear up, and Arik removes the spell fairly early on, but there are consent questions that are at least raised here for me. Also, Arik notes that he has been raped, as well as that he assumes future rapes will occur due to his role as a shaman and alpha wolves’ desire to control his magic. This is presented fairly casually by Arik (largely as a defense mechanism, I think), and we do not get detail into past events, but it is a thread throughout the book. There are also some moments when Matthew seems to be on the verge of losing control and forcing himself on Arik (though that doesn’t happen).
I am really enjoying this series so much and Captive Mate was another great installment. There is nice world building, a great larger series arc, and engaging relationship dynamics. I am excited to see what else Grayson will bring to this series and can definitely recommend it.