Sam Cunningham left his small town behind and headed for the big city of Chicago. After a life of always being unfavorably compared to his brother and feeling like a constant failure, Sam has finally decided to strike out on his own. Chicago is overwhelming, but his cousin, Eldon, takes Sam in and begins to teach him a bit about drafting hexes. However, when Eldon is murdered, Sam realizes he is in way over his head.
Cheetah shifter Alistair Gatti lives and works at The Pride speakeasy with his adopted brothers and sisters. They may not be blood relatives, but the group bonded together through the hell of war and now consider themselves siblings. When Alistair meets Sam, he finds the man adorable and appealing. He also immediately recognizes Sam as his witch, the one person whose magic perfectly aligns with Alistair’s magic as a familiar. But Alistair already lost the love of his life and he is unwilling to face loss again. The odds of Sam wanting to stick it out in the city seem slim; he is totally unprepared for life in Chicago. Alistair figures he is better off not even telling Sam that he is attracted to him, let alone that he is Alistair’s familiar. It’s best just to keep his distance.
When Sam finds Eldon dead, he doesn’t know where to turn and he comes to the group he met at The Pride for help. As much as Alistair wants to stay away, he knows he has to help Sam. Eldon was mixed up in something serious and connected to one of the biggest gangs in Chicago. He was also apparently hiding a hex that multiple people want very much — and would apparently kill to get. Sam’s only chance is to figure out where Eldon hid the hex and turn it over to the gangs. In the meantime, Alistair is determined to protect him, but Sam is surprisingly brave and strong.
As the men spend more time together, they start to fall for one another. But as much as Alistair has grown to care for Sam, he is afraid of getting hurt again. And Sam has so many self doubts that Alistair’s distance just fuels his uncertainty. Now Alistair has to take a chance on love once again with Sam and trust that Sam will stick by him. And together they must find the missing hex and help get to the bottom of the murder before they find themselves caught in a gang war that destroys everything.
Blind Tiger is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s new The Pride series and things start off really well here. The story takes place in Chicago during Prohibition and is set amidst the gangs and speakeasies of the era. The series is also set in the same world as Hawk’s Hexworld series, with witches and their familiars and the hex-fueled magic. However, there is no law enforcement component here (in fact, Alistair and his family are on the wrong side of the liquor laws) and the book is set in a different city with no overlapping characters (at least so far). Hawk does a great job explaining all the world building aspects, so you definitely don’t need to have read Hexworld to enjoy this story. But, of course, fans of that series will likely appreciate getting a chance to revisit the world (and the series is fabulous and well worth reading).
I really enjoyed Sam and Alistair together. If you like “the grumpy one and the sunshiney one” stories, I think you are going to find this one particularly appealing. Sam is all bright, earnest sweetness, while Alistair is a surly recluse. Yet, almost despite himself, Alistair finds himself drawn to Sam and it brings out his softer side. He can’t bear the idea of leaving Sam to fend for himself, particularly as he is so in over his head. There are some really sweet moments here between them and Alistair has a nice gentleness with Sam. I particularly liked the scenes where the men are sharing a bed (only one bed!) and Alistair sleeps in his cheetah form as Sam snuggles up against him.
Hawk lays the groundwork really nicely for both of these characters, giving us a nice sense of the men and setting up more to explore in future books. We know Sam spent his life constantly compared to his older brother who died. His brother was apparently perfect in every way and nothing Sam ever did measured up — and his parents made sure he knew it at every turn. They worked him to the bone while telling him they wish he had died instead. So when Sam finally takes a chance and comes to Chicago, he is both overwhelmed with this new world, but also determined to be strong and stand up for himself. We get a nice juxtaposition for him as this sweet naive man, but also someone who refuses to back down and is willing to put himself in danger for his friends. In Alistair’s case, he is suffering in many ways. He lost his witch and his lover and his heart is still broken. On top of that, he is still clearly haunted by his past in the war. Alistair has pulled himself away from the world until Sam begins to draw him out. They face a conflict as Alistair wants to protect Sam, and Sam often chafes at being looked after. Hawk gives a nice balance here as we see at times Alistair is too overprotective, but at other times, Sam is too naive. So it gives a nice dynamic between them as they sort things out.
The external conflict here is finding out what happened to the hex Eldon was making before the gang war erupts around them. As with all his historicals, Hawk gives such an amazing sense of time and place. The research the author puts into the book is clear and I really felt Prohibition-era Chicago come to life here. The real world history blends so nicely with the magical world Hawk creates that it feels totally believable that magic lives right along with the gangs and speakeasies. I really loved Hawk’s Hexworld books, so I am super excited to be revisiting it through this new setting.
Things resolve into a nice HFN for Sam and Alistair, with more to come for them in future books. I enjoyed these men, as well as Alistair’s found family, and I am looking forward to more.