lost touch coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Ash wakes up with no idea of who or where he is. What he does remember is being imprisoned, tortured, and experimented upon. He also remembers Drew, the gorgeous wolf who helped break him out of the prison and saved him. Ash is relieved to finally be free after a year of captivity, but can’t help but be anxious about not remembering anything prior to his capture. Plus, whatever experiments those warlocks were doing have robbed Ash of his sense of taste and touch, leaving him unable to feel pleasure or pain.

As overwhelmed as he is, somehow having Drew there helps calm Ash. He knows Drew would never hurt him; even more, Drew risked his life to rescue Ash. The situation is kind of bleak, however. Aside from Ash’s own issues, Drew is facing problems as well. He returned home with Ash to his family pack. They are rich and snooty and don’t want anyone to know that Drew was captured and imprisoned and would have killed Ash for what he knew. They also still expected Drew to marry the mate they chose for him. The only way out that Drew could see was to bite Ash to fake a mating bond and convince his family that they are together. That way, they will protect Ash and consider him part of their pack — once they get over the fact that Drew’s mating means no inter-pack partnership through the planned arranged marriage.

While at first it seems that only Ash was affected by the experiments in captivity, it soon becomes clear that Drew is not unscathed. Somehow the warlocks enhanced his alpha instincts to the point that all he can think about is claiming Ash, whom he sees as his. While Ash can’t actually feel the physical pleasure with Drew, emotionally he is happy to be what Drew needs, even if that is just a sexual outlet. Yet Drew gets more and more out of control, as his alpha mating instincts ride high, and Ash knows he is becoming a danger to himself, as well as to Ash. They are going to need help if they have any chance of bringing Drew back from the brink and finding a way to have a real future together.

Lost Touch is the latest installment in Eliot Grayson’s Mismatched Mates series. This story features new characters in Ash and Drew and their romance and relationship stands alone just fine. However, we do reconnect with other characters from prior books, so being familiar with their stories will enhance things here, particularly understand the various interpersonal dynamics. This story also loosely connects with the previous book, Lost and Bound, where we see the escape from the prison first hand through Jared and Calder’s eyes and learn more detail about what was going on there. The basics are all explained here, but again, having read that story will round things out a bit for you here.

This story opens up post escape and after Drew has already taken action to bring Ash home with him, as well as to bite him and lie to his family about them being mates. Ash then wakes up remembering his time in captivity, but nothing before that. I kind of wish we had started this one a little earlier in the timeline, as I wanted to see some of these key events. Even a short scene or two of the prison escape would have been nice to really highlight that bond formed from shared trauma that Ash and Drew clearly are experiencing, along with the sense of comfort Ash gets from Drew. Upon waking, Ash feels an immediate connection to Drew and a sense of being protected and cared for, both for the rescue and the gentle way Drew treats him now. There is a nice sweetness early on as Drew dotes on Ash and helps him cope with the realizations of his amnesia, his loss of senses, etc.

Things then take a shift as it becomes clear there is something going on with Drew. He doesn’t just want Ash, he needs to own him and claim him, particularly sexually. His alpha instincts are all out of whack and he is unable to control his impulses. So here is where I think it’s important to parse through this, especially for readers who may have triggers or sensitivity around these issues. The experiments Drew was subjected to left him with amped up alpha drive and he can’t control it. At one point, it gets so out of hand that he nearly rapes Ash before he is able to regain some control. At that point, Ash decides that he will be there for Drew sexually in whatever way he needs. So for me, this feels like a dubcon situation as Ash doesn’t really feel he has much of a choice in the matter. First, he acknowledges if he tries to run, Drew will likely chase him down. Second, Ash feels an obligation to help Drew and doesn’t want to leave him to deal with this alone, particularly after Drew has taken care of him. It’s also worth noting that while Ash doesn’t specifically address this, he has no idea who he is or have any money or place to go, so he is definitely dependent on Drew. Ash does enjoy sex with Drew, even though he can’t get physical pleasure from it, so he doesn’t feel that it is hardship. In fact, he gets off on the idea of being used like a sex toy, of being the recipient of Drew’s intense need. So it is all good with Ash (until things get out of control), but I do wish the story addressed the dubcon aspects of this, rather than just accepting it all as totally normal and not at all coercive sex. I also think that Drew gets a full pass here for an inability to control himself, which is accurate for the story, but made me a little uncomfortable in the sense that the book excuses his occasional violence and frequent aggressiveness (as well as the near rape) as something not his fault because he can’t control it.

There is a point where it becomes clear that Drew is declining no matter how much sex they have and that something needs to be done. That moves things into the second portion of the book where the guys leave Drew’s house and set out to find a shaman who might be able to help. I don’t think this is much of a spoiler, but

Spoiler title
they end up reconnecting with the assorted Armitage clan, where Nate and Arik try to help. We also see the guys reconnect with Jared and Calder, with whom they share a bond of imprisonment and escape.
We also see Ash and Drew dig further into Ash’s past and try to figure out who he is and what happened to him to have him end up kidnapped and held captive. I think this shift in setting and direction helped a lot, as it took us outside of that very focused space with just Ash and Drew dealing with their problems. The first portion of the book went on a little overlong for me, so the story picked up some energy when they were on the move. There is a lighter, less intense tone I enjoyed. However, these guys are just mired in lack of communication throughout, and it particularly becomes an issue here as they are either hiding their feelings or misinterpreting a lot of what the other thinks and wants. It does get resolved and the story comes together nicely on a lot of fronts, but I wanted to see them talking a bit earlier.

I really enjoy this series and found this an interesting installment in the way it spins off from the previous book. I really like these characters and appreciated getting a chance to reconnect with so many of them here. And I’m liking the way Grayson is continuing to expand this world and the larger story. So if you are a fan of this series, you may want to check out this latest installment. And if it all sounds good to you, take a look at starting from the beginning with The Alpha’s Warlock for a fun, shifter/magic series.

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