Rating: 4 stars
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Indigo Baros has spent the last twenty years in the military, but now he has retired from active duty and is somewhat at a loss for what’s next. The grandfather he never knew left Indie his house in small town Maine, so Indie has moved there and is settling in to rehab the place and start his new life. The home is pretty isolated, except for his hot ginger neighbor next door. To Indie’s delight, the guy seems to enjoy chopping wood shirtless, but sadly, the man mostly just glares at Indie.
Riley O’Sullivan is an alpha wolf, but alone with no pack. After his father was killed and Riley and his mother fled the pack, he has mostly been on his own and he is generally happy about that. But as an alpha, something in Riley craves taking care of others. He used to help Indie’s grandfather by chopping wood and bringing food, and now that he has passed away, Riley misses that friendship. And since he doesn’t realize Indie never knew his grandfather, he can’t help but be grumpy that Indie wasn’t ever around, even for his grandfather’s funeral. So Riley finds himself irritated every time he sees Indie, even if he can admit to finding the man attractive.
Unfortunately, trouble is brewing in town with the local werewolf pack. Riley had an understanding with the old alpha where they just left each other alone, but the new one is looking to throw his weight around and pick a fight. He is demanding Riley’s allegiance and threatening both him, and Indie by association. The pack is dangerous, but Riley is determined not to let them threaten his life or the man he is quickly coming to see as his own. But Indie isn’t without skills either and together the two men are going to fight for their homes, their lives, and a chance to be together.
First Bite is an engaging shifter story with lots of alpha vibes and two sweet, loner guys finding their way together. The story was originally published as a serial for the authors’ Patreon sponsors and has now be repackaged into book form. The story is basically unchanged from the original, other than being combined together. Sometimes serials don’t translate well into full books, as they are written to be read in installments, but I think this one is very smooth when read as one story. There is some overlap from the end of one chapter to the start of the next, presumably to catch up readers who were originally getting it in separate installments. But since the chapters do alternate POVs, it gives us a bit of insight on events from the other character’s perspective and it didn’t feel repetitious to me. The chapters are fairly short and there is nice energy to the story and I think it works well as a combined novel.
The world building is not overly expansive here, but there is a nice take on shifters, particularly the idea of an alpha as caretaker. Riley has long been without a pack, and he is fine with that, but he misses having people to protect and care for. So those protective instincts come out when Indie is threatened and Riley’s wolf wants to take care of him. There is definitely a lot of alpha claiming and possessiveness, so fans of that trope will likely enjoy this story. I didn’t feel it was too much and Riley’s instincts to protect Indie are balanced by Indie’s own strength and independence. He has skills of his own from his time in the military and when the bad guys are threatening, Indie is able to be an equal partner in solving the problem. At the same time, Indie is used the military life and having someone else give him orders and there is a part of him that loves having Riley claim him and take the lead. So there is a nice balance to their dynamic that I think gives Riley’s “alphaness” a good fit and keeps him from feeling too neanderthal.
The relationship moves pretty quickly here, with the main story taking place in about a week. Riley goes from disliking Indie to being all in within the blink of an eye. Some of that can be chalked up to wolf instincts, but these guys fall hard and fast into love and a life together. The ending also ties up pretty fast; the threat that is looming for so long seems to resolve too quickly, and the last bit that comes a few months later feels a little thrown out there and not really developed enough. I also wondered what these guys actually did for jobs, as neither man appears to work at all and it is never mentioned. Indie has moved to this town and he is starting this new life, but we get no sense of what he is planning on doing with himself other than fixing his grandfather’s house. Maybe he has a military pension so he doesn’t have to work again? But Riley doesn’t seem to have a job either. There are a few other small holes here and there; nothing major and it likely comes from the serial style of the story, but just things I noticed when reading it all together.
Overall, I found this an entertaining shifter story and a nice take on the trope. There are some nice little touches to the world building (particularly about the shifter nature) that I think work well. If you are enjoy shifter stories, particularly if you like the alpha caretaker trope, I think you will find a lot to like here.