Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


Jeno seems to be good at attracting all the wrong kind of attention. Bumbling, naive, and over-eager, Jeno has recently take over the role as messenger and desperately wants to do well and prove to himself and others that he was someone worth saving. But newly fledged and without a sire to teach and guide him, Jeno is bound to find plenty of trouble. 

Leonas has no use for most people and even less for the pretty, seemingly empty-headed new messenger. His job is to protect the residents of The Twig and Berries and it’s a job at which he excels. He doesn’t need the distraction of a young vampire who seems utterly and inexplicably unafraid of him. And yet Jeno has a way of crawling past the panther’s defenses and before he can stop himself, Leonas falls hard for the likable and loving Jeno. But there is a growing danger on the streets of Pest, one that threatens the safety of those who call the The Twig and Berries home. And for Jeno, it’s a an all too familiar danger; one that almost killed him before and might kill him yet, if Leonas can’t find a way to save him. 

Stray is the third in the Outcast Mates series and so far the strongest entry. These books don’t necessarily have to be read in order and while previous characters make appearances in Stray, there’s nothing so complicated happening that a first time reader of the series can’t pick up on what’s happening. 

Stray is more fully developed and structured than its predecessors and the story is all the richer for it. The overall plot is solid and makes easy transitions between periods of action and periods of character development. This story just had more heft and depth than either Mongrel or Changeling and I found myself engaged throughout the book. There were several times when the pacing lagged ever so slightly, but these were blips that never lasted long. 

Jeno was rather adorable, if horribly naive. One wonders how he’s managed to survive as long as he did before Leonas came along. But the gruff and standoffish panther was a perfect fit for such a soft-hearted vampire and while Jeno’s infatuation with Leonas develops overly fast, the rest of their relationship evolved in a believable fashion and felt realistic…well as a realistic as a romance between a werepanther and a vampire can be. These two worked well together and I appreciated that while Leonas was naturally protective, he didn’t attempt to stifle or undermine Jeno’s sense of self and independence. He allowed Jeno to be his own man, even though it would have been easy to consume him, figuratively speaking. Jeno’s very real struggle with addiction was portrayed in a measured, approachable way without being heavy handed. There is a fight between Leonas and Jeno regarding this addiction issue, which read as a bit overly dramatic, but it resolves quickly enough. 

Stray was a fun and rather sweet read about two men who belonged together in every sense of the word. There’s a bit of angst, plenty of romance, and enough action to please most readers. This is the strongest book in the Outcast Mates series so far and I found myself pleasantly surprised. Mongrel and Changeling were both enjoyable, but struggled with plot and character issues, most of which are missing from Stray. I think if you’ve enjoy the rest of the series, then Stray will be equally if not more enjoyable.