Ten years ago, Aspen Grove left his home, his pack, and his mate to join the Navy. Aspen knew that despite his father’s insistence that he be the next alpha, Aspen was not the right person for the job. His brother, Linden, is much better suited to the role in both temperament and leadership, but their father wouldn’t hear of it. So Aspen did the only thing he could think of and took himself out of the equation, leaving everything and everyone behind. Now that their father is dead and Linden is the new alpha, Aspen hopes there may still be a place for him with the Grove pack. But getting forgiveness is not going to be easy, particularly from the man he left behind, Brook Morgan.
Brook is still emotionally recovering from being kidnapped by the Reid pack. While he has physically healed, Brook is still scared and anxious. It doesn’t help that he is finding himself overwhelmed by well-meaning alphas whose protective instincts are going into overdrive. Brook has never gotten over having Aspen leave without a word, and while he has tried to move on, his heart still thinks of Aspen as his mate. It is clear that Aspen wants to make amends, but Brook isn’t sure he can bear having his heart broken again if Aspen once again disappears.
With some time, Brook and Aspen begin to reconnect. The men find that bond they once had quickly returns and they begin to explore the idea of being together once more. Brook is learning to trust Aspen again and to believe him when he says he is here for good. But with the Reids still stirring up trouble, moving forward may not be as easy as they hope.
Hunter Moon is the third book in the Wolf Moon Rising series and I have been eagerly anticipating this installment. Aspen’s departure has clearly weighed over the pack and we see its impact from the first book. We also saw Brook’s kidnapping and the aftermath in Black Moon, so the authors have set things up well for this story to finally bring the men back together. I think things work nicely as it is clear that Aspen is remorseful for leaving the way that he did and makes a sincere effort to apologize. He doesn’t assume his welcome in town; instead, he takes the time to make amends and reconnect with everyone. While the men don’t fall back into a relationship immediately, they do reconnect fairly easily after they talk through things upon Aspen’s return. There is a nice sweetness to the pair and I enjoyed them together. We get a good sense of their past history and the bond they have really shows through. I also appreciated that while Aspen feels protective over Brook, he never attempts to take over or stop him from standing up for himself when they encounter trouble. There is a nice balance to their dynamic and I liked seeing these guys finally find their way back to each other.
I do feel like the book felt a little stagnant in the first third or so as the guys are sorting things out, however, and the story feels a little long for what actually happens. Both men seem to be making a lot of assumptions without talking to each other. There is also not much else happening at this point plot-wise, so it feels like a lot of time rehashing and re-explaining the same issues before Aspen and Brook find their way back together. From that point, it is pretty much smooth sailing from the relationship side of things.
The other conflict here is the Reid pack trying to stir up more trouble. This is more of a low-level annoyance than a real threat for most of the book, though things do come to a head at the end. I wish we had a little more clarity as to the Reid’s end goal in sniffing around the Groves, and this felt a little bit like conflict just for the sake of it. But, as I said, I do like that we see Brook being able to stand up for himself and reclaim some of his confidence. As a note, while there is nothing explicit here, Brook does have memories of his sexual assault, so be aware if that is a trigger for you.
I’m also not sure I love the way the major series arcs are coming together across the books. In the first story, the conflict is really focused on the Reids. Then in the second book, that issue is almost dropped and there is major focus on the company they suspect is behind the Condition. The story suggests that they are fueling up for a big battle with the company and a large-scale effort to get the word out about what is going on. But then in this book, we are back to the Reids again and the other plot is almost completely non-existent. It just feels jarring to have something be a major issue in one book and then barely mentioned in another and I wish both plots were carrying through a little more consistently. The fourth book, Cold Moon, is already out, so I’ll be curious to see how these issues are handled there.
I continue to find this an interesting world and particularly enjoy the characters that make up the Grove pack. I’ll be looking forward to see how things come together in the next (final?) book.