Rating: 3.75 stars
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Drew Preston knew going to the bar could be a bad idea. With tensions high between the local packs, crossing into another pack’s territory may stir up trouble. But Drew gets more than he feared when he is attacked by wolves looking to kill him. Drew manages to escape, but the wolves are at his heels. When he ends up in his ex-boyfriend’s neighborhood, Drew sees no other choice but to hope that River will take him in before it is too late. The men broke up a month ago after River accused Drew of cheating — which he wasn’t, but he couldn’t explain all his shifter secrets and so River didn’t believe his claims of innocence. Drew definitely isn’t over River, but right now all he can hope for is that River will allow him inside before the wolves catch up.
River is shocked to see Drew show up naked and bloody on his back door. He is still angry and hurt about what he sees as Drew’s betrayal, but it is clear Drew is in need of help and River won’t turn him away. That doesn’t mean he isn’t expecting some answers about what is going on, and Drew realizes the time has come to admit the truth. Part of River knows he should be surprised to learn about the existence of shifters. But hearing Drew’s confession makes River realize the stories his grandparent’s told him about shifters and witches were true. He thought they were just fringe survivalists imagining danger, but clearly they knew that shifters were real. Knowing that Drew wasn’t lying to him about cheating changes things for River, and he can admit that he wants Drew back.
Revealing the truth to River isn’t Drew’s only problem, however. The shifters who attacked him aren’t leaving him alone, but pack politics mean there isn’t much he can do to stop them. Even worse, word of the wolves running through the streets seems to have gotten out and a hunter is on their trail. Drew never wanted to bring River into such a dangerous world, but River is determined to stand by Drew whatever it takes. Now they have to find a way to stay ahead of the wolves and the hunters who are after them for a chance at finding a happy future together.
Wolf Blood is the second book in T.J. Nichols’ Outcast Pack series. The books spin off from the author’s Familiar Mates series and there are some overlapping characters. While we have met Drew briefly before, the romance side of things stands alone here. However, the conflict between the other packs and Drew’s own Outcast pack ties in with the first book in this series and I think familiarity with those events would help here, as there is not a lot of background given.
From a romance standpoint, this is a sweet lovers reunited story. It is clear that both River and Drew still love one another, but River’s misinterpretation of Drew’s behavior led to a breakup neither man really wanted. While River needs a little time to come to terms with what really happened, both men are eager to rekindle their connection. There isn’t a lot of conflict here on the romance end, which I think works well in setting the men up as a team to deal with the external conflicts.
The bigger issues at play are the inter-pack conflicts that led to Drew being attacked and almost killed, as well as the fight with the hunter. As I mentioned, this pack war heats up in the first book in the series, Wolf Heart, and we don’t get a lot of explanation here to set the stage other than being told Drew crosses pack territory and that’s the excuse the other wolves need to try to kill him. So I think some context here would have been good, even for those of us who read the first book. This story opens with Drew already being attacked and there isn’t a lot of explanation beyond “wrong place, wrong time.” I had a lot of questions up front, like do all these packs just try to kill one another for crossing territory? What do people do when they go to work or go visit friends? Or is this because Drew is the Outcast pack? How is this related to the fight from the last book? Most of those issues get addressed at some point, but much further into the book, leaving me somewhat confused for a while. Also, the politics felt vague here. On one hand, Drew is almost murdered because he goes to the wrong bar, and that is somehow ok with the powers that be. But then the other pack can try to kill him in front of a human (outing wolves to humans is a huge no-no in this world) and that is somehow just fine. Things just didn’t feel very well clarified as to how this was all working, who was after Drew, and why, as well as the political ramifications. The story also ends very quickly with issues resolving super fast and often off page. The larger conflict of the Outcasts is still ongoing for future books, so I didn’t expect it all to tie up here, but I would have liked to see some forward progress on that part of the plot.
Overall, I found the lovers reunited aspects of this story appealing and I liked the way River and Drew worked through their issues. I think the larger world building needed more development and clearer explanations to fully work. But I think this is an enjoyable shifter series, particularly as a companion to the Familiar Mates books.