rivers and roads coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel


Note: This book was originally released as Beast of Burden under the pen name Ariel Millar as part of the Carpe Noctem series. All the books have been re-titled, re-covered, and republished as the Beast of Burden series under the author’s E.M. Lindsey pen name. The content has not been changed. Since the original book is no longer available, we have updated the title, author, cover, and buy link for this review. However, this review was written for the original release. 

It has been about a year since Kor was rescued and returned to lead his pocket of the resistance. They are some signs of a more normal life, particularly now that the wolves have settled in an abandoned town, but it is also clear that war is on the horizon. WIth two corrupt governments willing to sacrifice their own to get ahead, no wolf is safe.

When Alpha and council member, Zane, is kidnapped from the town, Beta Orion is determined to bring him home safely. As Kor’s second-in-command and closest friend, Orion knows what horrors can befall a wolf who gets into the clutches of those conducting the torture and experimentation on wolves and humans. But even more, Orion feels a draw to Zane, one he knows shouldn’t be possible between an Alpha and Beta wolf. But there is no denying how Orion feels and no way he is going to let Zane suffer in captivity.

The resistance has an Omega spy who can provide access to the information Orion needs to track down Zane, but there is no way a Beta can get through undetected. Orion’s only hope is an experimental treatment to change his body chemistry so he can masquerade as an Omega. It is scary, as the research is so new that no one really knows what will happen to him by taking the treatment. But Orion has a chance to not only rescue Zane, but also to get crucial information that could expose the experimentation to the world.

Zane has been tortured for weeks with the goal of turning him into a weapon and a mindless animal — and they have almost succeeded. When Orion finds Zane, he is near feral and Orion isn’t sure how easily Zane can recover. The men are on the run, waiting for the resistance to bring them home, and they end up spending long days together. The connection the men have always had with one another helps ease Zane through the process of coming back to himself, and soon Zane and Orion are acting on their long-standing attraction. But neither man is fully himself after all they have been through — Zane after his torture and Orion after the Omega treatments. Not to mention that the world seems to be falling apart and no one knows what the future will bring. But even with so much uncertainty, Zane and Orion have found a love together that may be enough to find happiness, even as danger continues to loom for all of them.

Beast of Burden is the second book in the Carpe Noctem series by Ariel Millar (aka E.M. Lindsey) [see note above; it is now the Beast of Burden series]. It picks up in the aftermath of the first story, and we quickly catch up with how things have been progressing. Some things have improved, like their living conditions, but it is also clear that the danger is growing and the chances of a peaceful resolution are slim.

The main focus of this story is on Zane’s rescue and the subsequent relationship that develops between him and Orion. The men have both had feelings for one another, but know that an Alpha and Beta wolf aren’t supposed to mix. Yet when things are falling apart around them, it is the impetus these men need to overcome that worry and act on the feelings they have for one another. There is a comfort between Zane and Orion that is really lovely, even as they are in this impossible and crazy situation. They have a way of caring for each other and supporting one another that lets them really build a solid connection that carries them both though. Millar sets up an interesting parallel here, as both men are experiencing a loss of control over their own bodies. In Zane’s case, he has been tortured to the point of mindlessness. They have forced him to fight and kill and he is all instinct and animalistic behavior. It doesn’t take too long for the main effects to pass, but he never totally loses a bit of that primitive side that came out when he was in captivity. For Orion, he is suddenly experiencing life as an Omega, and while it is designed to be temporary, the experience rocks him. So I enjoyed seeing how these guys each cope with their intense experiences, as well as how they help one another through it. They are intense and sexy together, but also have a nice caretaking element to their relationship.

The story also nicely advances the bigger series plot lines and Millar continues to give us some excellent world building. Orion’s espionage gives the resistance more information about what is going on with the experimentation. We also start to put more pieces together as to the end goals and what danger lies ahead. I was impressed with how well Millar kept the story moving, as sometimes middle books in this type of series can feel like a bit of a holding pattern. But here I was content with how far things progressed, while still leaving more to uncover and develop in the next two books. Things get set up here for the third story and I continue to find the world building here so engaging and nicely intense. It is dark and scary, but also fascinating and I am really engaged in seeing how it will all play out.

So this was a great installment and I am really all in for this series. I am loving these characters and completely caught up in the larger story. I can’t wait to see how things play out and can highly recommend these books for fans of great dystopian world building and really engaging characters.

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