Jag knows Frank’s junkyard better than anyone. So when a member of a motorcycle gang needs his boyfriend to disappear, Jag volunteers to figure out where to hide the evidence. The only problem? When Jag unfurls the rug wrapped around the bloodied and beaten man to take care of business, he discovers the man is not dead. More than that, this gloriously decorated, colorful bear of a man just might have life mate potential. Everything about this man entices Jag. And Jag is no fool. He has lived hard and trained harder exactly for the purpose of wooing a potential mate. When the man finally wakes up, however, it immediately becomes clear Jag must exercise both patience and firm control. His new mate doesn’t seem to understand that he belongs to Jag, or that he can no longer have contact with his former life. Jag is set to prove he can provide everything for their new life together.
Dane knew his thirst for rough sex would get him into trouble. He just never thought doing a favor for his motorcycle club boyfriend would end up with that same (now ex) boyfriend trying to kill him…much less wake up detained by an urban wild man who scares and thrills Dane in equal measure. The man calls himself Jag and he operates on an entirely different wavelength from modern society. It’s clear that Jag has all kinds of intelligence and a physique that does not quit. Unfortunately, Jag seems unable to comprehend, let alone compromise on Dane’s social needs. Like going home to explain to his family that he did not disappear. Yet the longer he’s held captive, the more Dane begins to understand how Jag thinks and works…and that Jag absolutely wants to build a life with Dane. Can Dane really give up the outside world for a man who has the potential for being a nearly perfect partner?
Primal is the second book in K.A. Merikan’s Wrong Side of the Track series. This story focuses on the wild Jag, who was raised by survivalists in a very off-the-grid “prepper” colony, and Dane, who seems pretty milque toast except for his sexual appetites. I feel like these characters really explore the idea of opposites attract, in terms of appearance and socialization. Not only that, but as the chapters alternate between Jag and Dane being narrators, I felt like I really understood what drove Jag and Dane to act as they do. This was imperative for making Jag a sympathetic character. I thought the authors did a fantastic job fleshing out Jag’s history and both Jag’s and Dane’s personalities to make them more than the veneer of an urban wild man and a primal play simp. Take Jag, for example. Instead of dismissing him as an antisocial, backwater hick, it was pretty easy to sympathize with Jag’s thinking and reactions…even if as I disagreed with the conclusions he drew about things. A good example of this is how Jag decides the best way to establish his relationship with Dane is to just chain him up until Dane accepts that he belongs to Jag now. It was clear that, to Jag, this was a culturally appropriate way of acquiring a mate. His own father took mates the same way. It’s just that the culture Jag’s coming from is wildly different from the one Dane comes from. Similarly with Dane, he comes to understand Jag just operates on a different scale of right and wrong. Dane is able to make peace with that, even though it chafes him that Jag’s scale leaves no room for compromise.
At first blush, Jag and Dane present as one another’s dream partner. Each neatly encapsulates everything the other wants in a mate/boyfriend. Jag definitely falls into the instalove category. He sees Dane, likes everything about the man, and just unilaterally decides they will be lovers forever. This intense reaction to a first lover made even more sense when we learn this really is the first time Jag had ever been with someone. On the other hand, given that Dane was often quite literally under lock and key, his decision to give Jag a chance is less about consummating a relationship (even though there is attraction) and more about gaining Jag’s trust so Jag stops keeping Dane chained and Dane can have a chance at escape. Dane’s mental dialogue was a delightful confusion of him getting into the idea of being kept like a pleasure slave and home maker to a dominant partner, yet he is also horrified with himself for liking anything about his predicament.
And as if watching the tremendously complex relationship grow, change, break, and mend between Jag and Dane was not enough, Dane’s motorcycle-club ex-boyfriend comes back into the picture. The threat posed by Dane’s ex was a great way to add drama and tension that did not rely on the Jag/Dane dynamic. It was also good way to show Jag in a decidedly more positive light–a man who will sacrifice himself to save the man he loves. Getting the characters out of the junkyard was a nice change of pace, too. This also helped me appreciate just how different Jag is from everyone else and made him a little bit vulnerable as he relied on Dane’s guidance to successfully navigate the modern city.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to the Wrong Side of the Tracks series. Our two MCs are stunningly complex and delightfully well rounded. Both Jag and Dane’s perspectives are well covered, making even these very dissimilar characters enjoyable to read about. The authors do a great job building up the worlds they inhabit and find a way to make these two fall in love. The best thing for me was just how perfectly matched the characters are, but that the circumstances under which they get thrown together make it an exciting struggle for them to overcome their differences so they can appreciate their similarities. If you like the series so far, are interested in pretty extreme opposites attract, or enjoy the Stockholm Syndrome trope, then I think you’ll really like this book.