Kyle Ashfield lives on a rural property where he and his pack can run and relax together. Kyle never intended to form a pack, but somehow his land has become a gathering place for gay wolves who have been forced out of their own packs. Everything was fine until some more traditional wolf packs got upset that the “Outcast pack” even exists and have started acting aggressive and threatening toward Kyle and his friends. It’s only a matter of time before the situation escalates out of control, so Kyle has officially applied with the Coven to formally recognize the Outcast pack so that they can have the same rights and protections as other packs.
Cooper Badr is a Coven investigator charged with interviewing Kyle so they can make a decision about recognizing his pack. When Cooper gets stranded on the way to Kyle’s house, he is surprised when Kyle himself is the one to stop to help him out. The attraction between the men flares immediately, though Cooper knows if Kyle realized who he was, things would cool off considerably, so he keeps his identity quiet. The men share a super hot encounter, though things become tense when Cooper admits he is with the Coven.
Kyle isn’t happy to find out who Cooper really is, but he realizes that he feels strongly enough for the man that he isn’t going to risk ruining what could be between them by holding a grudge. Plus, there are more important concerns, like revealing to his pack that he is interested in a leopard shifter. Wolves don’t usually partner with another species, and Kyle isn’t sure how his friends will react. But the bigger problem is the rival packs who are not willing to leave the Outcasts in peace. When they are once again threatening, it is going to take the collective efforts of the pack to find their way to safety. And when they do, Cooper hopes to be right by Kyle’s side.
Wolf Soul is the third book in T.J. Nichols’ Outcast Pack series. While each book features a different couple, there is an overarching plot related to the rival packs out to get them, as well as overlapping side characters, so I think these are best enjoyed in order (but it is not strictly necessary). The series also spins off from the author’s Familiar Mates series, and having read some of those will give you a sense of the larger world (in particular, The Detective’s Familiar, as Mark and Sam appear here).
This story focuses on two main areas: the conflict with the traditional packs that carries across the series, and the relationship between Kyle and Cooper. In terms of the series arc, things tie up nicely here. We have a big fight as another pack attacks and we see Cooper and Kyle both working to navigate it all. This conflict has been building for the three books, and I think the timing feels right to see some resolution to it all. We learn how things come together and what the Coven decides in terms of whether they will recognize Kyle’s group as an official pack. There is also a bit of talk about some of the big picture issues for the group, like how they will choose a leader. So I think on the pack end, this all comes together well and there is some nice closure to this plot arc.
On the relationship end, Kyle and Cooper are pretty much all in from moment one and this is a mega instalove situation here. From the second they meet, the guys are hot for each other and they end up in bed almost right away. I enjoyed them together, and I liked the bit of exploration of the fact that Kyle is a wolf and Cooper is a leopard and how they navigate that difference. But I did feel like the move from strangers to totally all in with each other felt way too fast. If my calculations are right, they meet and have sex, then the next day Cooper interviews Kyle, and that night they are already talking about their life together and Cooper being accepted as part of the pack and Kyle’s partner. It is basically two days at most from meeting to emotionally committed (although the story does extend a little further as they deal with the hearing about making them a pack). It was just way too fast for me, particularly since Kyle is at work for a whole day so they aren’t together. Not only are Kyle and Cooper ready for a lifetime together after such a short period, the ending feels super abrupt without even touching on how they will make their lives together given they live far apart.
I will also note that the start of their relationship really bothered me in terms of Cooper sleeping with Kyle under false pretenses. While I guess technically he never lies about who he is, Cooper intentionally withholds the fact that he is the Coven agent that is sent to interview Kyle, knowing that Kyle would not want to have sex with him if he knew the truth. That really didn’t sit well with me, as Cooper is intentionally deceiving Kyle specifically so he can sleep with him. Then, when Kyle finds out and is then angry, somehow Kyle sees himself to blame for being mad, rather than Cooper stepping up to accept responsibility for the deception. Not to mention that aside from essentially lying to Kyle to get him in bed, Cooper also plays a key role in deciding if Kyle’s pack is recognized by the Coven. Kyle tells Cooper things he would never have revealed had he known the truth about who Cooper is, which could have jeopardized everything for Kyle and his pack. It just left a bad taste in my mouth and made it hard for me to fully get on board with the romance been them.
One last thing is that there is this weird (to me at least) concern Kyle has that the pack won’t want him to lead if they find out he is a bottom. This is painted as this huge negative and Kyle has been told that packs will kick you out, or even kill wolves who are sexual bottoms. This comes up as a concern of Kyle’s, as he is afraid Cooper will reveal it to the pack. It all just seemed so strange to me and not something that is ever even mentioned as part of the world building in any of the other books in either series. Also, they are a pack of gay wolves who have partners also in the pack. Isn’t it reasonable to think at least some of them bottom? It isn’t a huge thing, but I just found it a strange issue given it never really comes up before and then it is never really formally resolved in this story either.
I am not sure if this is the end of the series, but I do think things tie up nicely with the series thread that has been building for these three books. I have enjoyed these stories and getting this spin off to the Familiar Mates world.