Sean has lived with his father’s abuse since he was a child, and has witnessed the man’s cruelty toward countless other shifter children. When Carl McNeely kidnaps another child, one who is feisty and determined to get free, Sean helps the boy escape, even knowing it will mean his death. Though Sean is literally beaten within an inch of his life, rescue arrives right in the nick of time.
Declan is the alpha of his streak, and is determined to get his nephew back. But when Ronnie shows up after having escaped, Declan smells his mate on the boy. Already driven to rescue the children, Declan moves even faster to also save his mate. He arrives with barely enough time to save Sean, and he’s determined to see his mate healed and well.
Sean knows he’s a shifter, but doesn’t know what kind, since he’s worn a collar his entire life that has kept him from shifting. He also knows nothing about shifter culture, or really the world at large, since his life has consisted almost entirely of his basement prison. He heals quickly from his latest beating, which seems strange, and tries to figure out how his life is supposed to look now that he’s free and has a mate.
Declan can’t fight the mating fever and binds Sean to him. As the weeks progress, Sean gets healthier and happier, learning what it’s like to live in the streak and what it means to be the alpha-mate. But a new forces threatens all shifters, and no one knows from where it’s coming or what it is.
I dig shifter stories and was quick to pick this one up. But I have to say, I finished this one with mixed feelings. Even though I’m definitely looking forward to what happens next in the series, I did have some issues with this book.
Sean has a huge heart and a kind soul, which is saying something considering the way he was raised. The abuse he and many other shifter children have suffered is unconscionable. But he’s done his best to take care of the other kids, keep them as safe as possible, and lay their bodies to rest when he couldn’t stop Carl. He’s had little exposure to the outside world, apart from occasional TV, but he has an innate intelligence that helps him learn quickly. He doesn’t understand about mates, but he feels the pull to Declan and finds it easy to trust the man.
Declan, for his part, holds himself responsible for the fact that such atrocities were happening just outside his streak lands and he had no idea it was going on. He’s bound and determined that his mate will have the best life possible from now on, as well as the children they rescued. Two of them were members of his streak already, but the others he will do whatever he must to help them heal. He’s also hellbent on making sure that the bodies of the children who were murdered by Carl are returned to their families so that they can have peace. Even if it means taking the brunt of the anger, for not knowing about it.
So there are two concurrent storylines going on here: the romance and the abuse/kidnapping plot. As far as the romance goes, Declan and Sean are fated mates, and we have all the things that traditionally go along with it. There’s an immediate connection between the MCs, instant lust, and it’s all quickly followed by love. It was fairly easy to go along with it, considering the tale, and it helped that Sean showed repeatedly what a wonderful person he is, despite the life he’s lived. So it was easy to see why Declan would fall for him, even without that mate pull. Declan constantly puts Sean’s needs first, as well as that of his streak, so it’s clear why Sean trusts him, as Declan proves he’s also a good man. I definitely didn’t have any issue with the romance side of things, even though it moved quickly. Though I did wish Declan would not have used so many endearments, or used them so often, as it lessened the meaning of them.
The other storyline is harder to unpack. Know that there is on page abuse and discussion of past abuse. Sean begins to heal simply by being cared now that he’s out of the situation, but I also appreciated that he, as well as the others who were rescued, are getting help from a therapist as well. Some of it is glossed over, and I wish there was more dealing with the abuse as it skirts the line of “magic dick,” as if being with Declan is enough to make Sean better.
My issue with this story is the world building, as it seems a little haphazard. There are times when new things come up, seemingly from nowhere, simply because they fit the plot. I felt that the world was not developed enough and that readers would benefit from clear explanations about how the world worked. I also took particular issue with the fact that the streak was also referred to as a pride and a clan at different points, as neither fits with a group of tigers. The inconsistency bothered me, maybe more than it should have, as it set the tone for the loose and somewhat unorganized world building. As it was, I had to just go with it, rely on my own knowledge, or just make up/assume how certain things worked. While some readers may not have a problem with that, for me world building is integral to my enjoyment of a story, and the lack of concrete rules here made it difficult for me to really dive it.
All that being said, this is a story with good bones, good characters in both the MCs and secondary characters, and that ties up nicely while also laying the ground work for the next in the series. I had a few issues, but that won’t keep me from continuing on to see what happens next.