Addison’s father is dead. It’s a painful truth that hits harder than he ever thought it would. While working through his grief, and avoiding having to deal with the solicitor, the estate, or his hateful aunt, Addison decides to take a walk over Pendle Hill where he and his father shared happy moments just the two of them. It’s there he sees the strangest thing: a dog turning into a man — a naked man — and, unable to quite understand or believe what it is he sees, Addison decides to skedaddle. Only for the dog shifter to do what dogs do and give chase.
Waking up in a cell is a new experience for Addison, and an unwelcome one. But Drake, the gorgeous man who comes in to question him, is welcome, even as Addison wants nothing more than to get out and go home. Something about the tall, dark, rugged man, the confidence he exudes, the patience and kindness in his dark eyes, and the way he smiles at Addison makes him want to spend more time with Drake. Surely, Stockholm Syndrome needs at least twenty four hours to take effect?
The more Addison gets to know Drake and his ‘pack,’ the more Addison realizes he feels at home. He doesn’t want to leave, and he certainly doesn’t want to leave Drake. But Drake isn’t gay. HIs kind aren’t — can’t be — gay. So where does that leave Addison? And where does that leave them both?
Addison was adopted by his parents when he was four. He was found by hikers alone in the wood with no indication that there was anyone with him or anyone looking for him. After trying, and failing, to find his birth parents, Addison’s mom and dad took him in and Addison, for one, wouldn’t change anything. They loved him, and he loved them. And now that they’re gone, he’s all alone. He doesn’t even have the comfort of uncles and aunts (his father’s sister hates him and never let him forget that his ‘real’ parents didn’t want him). It leaves him vulnerable and in need of comfort, and when Drake offers not only his own embrace, but the acceptance and welcome of his entire pack, Addison can’t help but want to be a part of it.
Drake is a familiar, a race of creatures who are born human, and look human, but who have an animal soul within them. Some turn into birds or cats, but Drake’s family, his pack, turn into dogs. Familiars are bonded to witches, protecting them and helping them use their magic. While they have an alpha, it’s more a rank within the pack-family than anything else. Drake’s pack is small, and getting smaller with the death of his father and a growing lack of confidence in him. It doesn’t stop him from trying, though, to bring his pack into the current century, and doing so by allowing a chance for humans to get closer to them.
Drake wants to open up walking tours, set up some small boutiques and shops for humans to shop at — but no inns, no B&Bs, nothing that would encourage them to stay longer than a day — to get human money and to give his pack a chance to do something beyond sit and grow listless. Everyone knows humans aren’t to be trusted. Just look at the witch trials, just look at how they treat their own dogs, let alone a man who can turn into a dog! Is it any wonder the pack, and even Drake himself, views Addison with a bit of suspicion, at first? But when it’s found out that Addison might not be entirely human, everything changes. Suddenly Drake is nicer, friendly, more willing to talk and befriend Addison. But when he learns the two of them are fated mates, Drake has a choice to make. Familiars aren’t gay. Any of them. Ever. They just … aren’t. So what does it make him, that he’s attracted to Addison, bound to him by fate? Unfortunately, this issue is never really dealt with as much as it’s just gotten over.
And that’s an issue with much of the book. The inter-character drama between Drake and Addison, the fights and the arguments, feel so choreographed and clinical with no emotional resonance or weight. Addison gets angry about what feels like the wrong thing. Drake didn’t tell Addison about his brother and the fact that his brother is out there looking for alliances with other packs and potential mates for Drake, but they haven’t really talked about being mates, themselves. And all of this happened before Drake met Addison. But no conversation at all about the fact that Drake is stringing him along? Drake gets angry that Addison is seen several times in the company of another familiar Drake knows is bad news, but Drake isn’t angry at the other guy for sniffing around Addison? How is it Addison’s fault he’s cornered by someone else?
The writing is decent, even though it does get a bit stilted at times. The world building is intriguing, and I would have liked to have seen more of the witch side of the witch-familiar bond. And the idea of bird or cat familiars — and who all knows what else — makes me hopeful for future books. But the pacing is uneven, the characters have no real set voice, and sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. All in all, it’s an okay book. I will be very curious to see the second book in this series, both to see more of the world, and to see the next couple hinted at.