Two years ago, Jared Armitage was kidnapped and imprisoned. He has since been tortured and experimented upon, for reasons he doesn’t understand. Not that it matters much at this point, as Jared has given up hope of rescue and he knows it’s only a matter of time before he is killed. When Jared is brought to the cell of another prisoner, a ferocious looking giant of a man who could tear Jared apart, Jared figures the guards have finally decided his time is up.
Calder has been held captive even longer than Jared, and his kidnappers have experimented upon him as well, leaving him a hybrid creature even more huge and terrifying than his old shifter form. Calder can no longer control his need for blood, which means he is likely to kill Jared whether he wants to or not. But when an opportunity for the men to escape presents itself, Calder and Jared agree to work together. Their only chance of success is to incite the mating bond between them, giving Calder access to Jared’s shifter magic. Their plan is not likely to work, and Jared will probably end up dead. But it is worth it to him to take the chance, even if it just means getting Calder out safely.
When the men surprisingly survive their escape, they have to figure out next steps. Jared wants to reach out to his family, but he worries the Armitage pack will want nothing to do with him after his betrayal by siding with Jonathan Hawthorne against them years ago. Things are also uncertain between Jared and Calder. Jared is used to being the dominant partner in his relationships, but Calder manages to take him apart in ways no one ever has. It scares and frustrates Jared, but at the same time, he craves that care and attention more than he can admit.
Even as the men begin to recover from their ordeal, neither is sure what the future holds for them, and whether they should continue their impromptu mating bond, or if they should break it and go their separate ways. But their trouble is not all behind them, and even as the men once again face danger, they realize that the bond they share is too strong to break and they are truly meant to be together.
Lost and Bound is the latest installment in Eliot Grayson’s Mismatched Mates series. After the Alpha Experiment took us briefly away from the Armitages and many of the series plot threads, this book returns us back to the primary storyline. We learn that Jared, whom everyone believed was dead, has actually been alive and held captive all this time. This set up gave an exciting twist to the series for me and this was one of my favorite installments.
The book opens with Jared and Calder being held captive and it is clear that they have been tortured and abused (though it is not detailed on page). When Jared is thrown into Calder’s cell, he figures this is the end for him; the guards clearly assume Calder will kill him. This portion of the book is intense and exciting, and I enjoyed how their means of escape plays into the world building that Grayson has set up in the series. There is sort of a dark heat to their connection that starts early on and plays out through their sexual encounters. There is definitely a dubcon vibe here, as their first time together is a means to facilitate their escape. Later, Calder is a very dominant partner and asserts himself over Jared in ways Jared didn’t think he would like, but actually craves. He is used to being the aggressive, dominant partner, and he struggles viewing himself as someone who needs care and comfort. So there are some moments where Jared isn’t completely sure about things until he is in the midst of the encounter. But over time, it becomes clear how much Jared craves that dynamic between them and this is a high heat story with lots of intensity to the sex scenes.
Once the men are free, they have to figure out if they are going to continue with their mating bond. The connection is clear to us as readers, but neither man is sure about the other’s feelings. The story is told exclusively in Jared’s POV, and Calder is a man of very few words. In some of the past books, I have found this single POV a little limiting, but here I think it works well as it emphasizes Jared’s confusion about Calder’s feelings. As readers, it seems clear that Calder cares for Jared very much, but Jared is not used to that kind of relationship and doesn’t always understand Calder. And for his part, Calder is protecting his heart as well. These guys were strangers thrust together into crazy circumstances, so it takes a while for them to trust each other and really open up about their feelings. But once they do, this one is kind of swoony, with a bit of a “Hulk smash” kind of vibe from Calder, who will do anything to protect his mate. He is the big, scary-looking guy who terrifies everyone except for the man he loves, with whom he is sweet and tender (if very sexually assertive). It is a nice twist that Jared doesn’t realize how much he wants that until he has it from Calder.
I love how we get some redemption for Jared in this story. He is a character we all thought was dead and has been sort of the bad guy from the start. Jared is very well aware of the mistakes he made and accepts full responsibility for his actions. He knows he made the wrong move trusting Jonathan, not just because Jonathan was behind Jared’s kidnapping, but also because he sees how he let his pride get away from him and it led to him being manipulated. We also learn there was some magic involved that made Jared more compliant to Jonathan’s persuasion, so it wasn’t all on him, but regardless, Jared steps up here and clearly takes responsibility. Between that and the clear way he has suffered, the others in his pack are able to accept his past and move forward.
I have grown to really enjoy these characters and this story has a lot of fun with the interaction among the three Armitage couples. Nate and Arik still bicker, Ian is still growly and overprotective, Matt tries to keep the peace among the craziness. It was fun seeing them all through Jared’s eyes, as he was gone before the other couples mated. I enjoyed watching Jared find his place back with his pack and there is just a great dynamic among all of them.
I am not sure if this ties up the series or if there are more books to come. Things come together nicely here and some key open threads are resolved, but I would love more books set in this world as I really enjoy this series. Lost and Bound was a great installment and I really liked Calder and Jared.