Note: Strawberry Moon is the fifth book in the Wolf Moon Rising series, which has an ongoing suspense plot regarding the cause of an illness called the Condition. We learn the truth about what is going on in book four, Cold Moon, and the story here deals with the aftermath, so this review does reveal some key plot points from that book.
Ford McKesson lost his wife years ago to the Condition, but he is still grieving her passing. As an alpha without an omega, Ford has been struggling with anger and control over his inner wolf. He keeps mostly to himself, living and working on his in-laws farm. Learning that the Condition was orchestrated by the Sterling Corporation has been incredibly painful, and seeing Archer Sterling hanging around the pack is particularly infuriating.
Archer Sterling was raised by a grandfather who turned out to be a monster. Archer knew his grandfather wasn’t a kind man, but he had no idea he was intentionally killing omega wolves by poisoning their food. Archer never thought twice about protecting Skye, even though it almost cost him his life — and left him a werewolf when Skye turned him to save him. Now, Archer is dealing with the aftermath of everything, including becoming the heir to Sterling upon his grandfather’s death. Archer is determined to do all he can to make up for his grandfather’s actions. One thing Archer is working on is developing pheromone treatments for alphas who don’t have an omega to help them more easily handle their emotions and their wolf.
When Archer comes into town to test his experiments, Ford is outraged to see him there. After Archer’s grandfather’s actions, Ford doesn’t trust Archer at all. Any Sterling is a bad Sterling as far as Ford is concerned. So Ford insists that he be the one to test Archer’s samples; if something goes wrong, Ford doesn’t care much about his own life.
Both men are surprised to find that there is an attraction between them, but neither is willing to act on it. Ford is still angry at the Sterlings and dealing with his own grief, and Archer feels so much guilt, not to mention he is still uncertain about his place in the pack. But slowly Ford comes to recognize that Archer is not to blame for his family’s actions. Not only that, but the men are starting to become friends — and even more. But both men are still dealing with a lot emotionally, and neither are quite sure where they stand or if they are ready for things to get serious. But if they give themselves a chance, Ford and Archer may just find happiness together.
Strawberry Moon wraps up the Wolf Moon Rising series and it ties things up well on multiple fronts. As I mentioned, the main plot regarding who was harming omegas was resolved in the previous book (and the story with the Reid pack was resolved as well), so this story is mostly tying up loose ends. The story takes place about six months after the events of Cold Moon and Archer has been spending more time with the Groves. He still doesn’t feel a part of the pack and is uncertain about his welcome, or if he even has a right to be there. So a lot of this story is Archer coming to terms with what his grandfather did and recognizing he is not to blame, as well as figuring out what the next steps are as he wants nothing to do with all that tainted money. Ford has been a background character since the start of the series, so I loved getting his story here. It is clear he is still in pain over his wife’s death, and learning that Sterling was intentionally poisoning omegas has made the pain even more raw. The set up brings these men together in an interesting way, highlighting a lot about their characters. Archer is determined to do some good and one step forward would be helping alphas struggling with control after the loss of their omegas. And Ford is angry to even see Archer, not to mention he doesn’t trust him. And Ford doesn’t care enough about his own life to not step in and volunteer to be a test subject to make sure no one else gets harmed.
The journey for these guys to get together is a slow burn for a while as Ford is so angry he doesn’t want anything to do with Archer, and Archer is so full of guilt and self doubt he doesn’t think he deserves more. Things kind of stalled a little for me until the men each come to some acceptance of themselves and each other. At that point, the story moves forward nicely with men building a friendship, a sexual connection, and ultimately a romantic one. I liked that they each soften the rough bits of the other and help ease some of that pain and grief.
We also get a nice resolution here for side characters Rowan and Cliff, a beta and alpha pairing who have been struggling with their future as Rowan can’t provide the omega hormones that Cliff needs to settle his alpha. We actually get a short story for these guys at the end of the main book (including a super hot scene between them) and I loved seeing the two of them happy after having a rough go of it across the series.
Overall, I have enjoyed this series and really like the various characters we have met along the way. I think Burns and Fawkes did a nice job spreading the two main conflicts out throughout the series and things all came together well by the end. If you are a fan of shifter stories with an omegaverse twist (and no m-preg), this is a nice series to check out.