fake dates and fanged mates coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

When Julian is attacked by vampires, he finds himself on the brink of death, shot by a silver bullet. Fortunately, Julian is rescued by Casimir, the de facto vampire king of the city. As a wolf shifter, Julian never should have survived the silver poisoning, but somehow, Casimir is able to save him. However, the attack is just another in the escalating feud between the local wolves and vampires. As the son of the local pack alpha, Julian wants to help diffuse tensions, even if he has no interest in being part of the pack himself. So he suggests to Casimir that they pretend to be dating, as a show of solidarity between the two factions.

Casimir is a grumpy, 500-year old vampire who has no real desire to spend time with anyone, let alone a sunshiney wolf. But he agrees, grudgingly, to the plan in hopes of settling tensions in the territory. Unfortunately, the attacks continue to escalate, becoming more frequent and more dangerous. Casimir and Julian try to dig further into who is behind it all, as it is seems someone both mysterious and powerful has a hidden agenda that involves inciting hostilities between the wolves and vampires and bodies are piling up on both sides. The bad guys are turning their attention to Julian as well, and Casimir is finding that he is not at all happy about that. Despite his self-professed desire to avoid relationships, Casimir is surprisingly drawn to Julian, who seems to like him in return. But whoever is behind the attacks is strong — maybe even stronger than Casimir. And even if he can defeat the bad guy, Casimir is not sure he even deserves happiness with someone like Julian. But now that the men have found each other, they may just find a way to move from fake dating to something real.

Fake Dates and Fanged Mates kicks off a new paranormal series from Alice Winters and it is a lot of fun. The story has a lot of Winters’ frequent hallmarks, including a grumpy/sunshiney pair, lots of humor, and some thrills and excitement. I enjoyed that while Winters has other series featuring vampires (Vampire Related Crimes) and shifters (Winsford Shifters), the world building here is totally unique to this series with some interesting approaches to the paranormal world. It’s a nice twist that Julian is the son of the alpha, yet he doesn’t get a long with his father and is not part of the pack, so we get a bit of a different perspective on the shifter world. Julian also has some unusual traits that mean he reacts differently than other wolves to his attack and the aftermath. While I wish we had some of those details explained a little more, it still adds a bit of an unusual spin to things. I liked the set up here with the conflict between the vampires and wolves, and seeing the push and pull as they try to come together to solve the problem, but are stymied by the attacks and their inherent distrust of one another. So there is a nice foundation here to the larger world that I think sets things up well for the series.

This one also has a suspense element as they try to figure out who is killing vampires and wolves, and what the bad guys are trying to achieve. The story has some nice layers as new things are uncovered, and we get some very suspenseful moments that balance well with the humor. I found things a little confusing at times, but we do get an ending that lays out exactly what has been going on, so it does come together well.

I enjoyed Julian and Casimir together. If you are a regular reader of Winters’ work, the dynamic between them will be familiar, but I say that in the very best way. I love the grumpy/sunshine vibe and Winters does it so well. Casimir is not only gruff and unsocial, but he also doesn’t believe he deserves more. He is sort of fondly exasperated for most of the book by Julian, who is a bundle of sunshine and positivity. The men start out pretending to be together to try to calm the wolf/vampire tensions, but their feelings soon turn real. Even though Casimir doesn’t have much faith in himself, we can see how much he cares for Julian and is protective over those who are important to him. Casimir finds himself tested, having always been the strongest and deadliest around. We learn a little about his past here and I’m hoping future books delve into that even more.

Overall, I found this one a lot of fun and exactly what I was looking for. It is an interesting new world from Winters and a great start to the series. I am looking forward to more.

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