Top positive review
5.0 out of 5 starsA great Shifter romance with just the right amount of angst
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 6, 2022
I'd rate this 4.5 stars but enjoyed it enough to round it up to a five. I'll admit, this book took me by surprise and I didn't think I'd enjoy it nearly as much as I did. Why? 1. This author is new to me - not saying that's an automatic disappointment, just that I didn't know what style/vibe I'd be getting, especially when I'd seen a couple of other readers get almost gushy over her books (in my experience, this normally ends really well for me or it's a car crash lol). 2. Rejected mates isn't generally my thing. Too much angst, too much back and forth and me knowing that by the end of the book, I'd still be a bitter kitty who wants to stab the hero. 3. When I read the blurb and it mentioned the female lead, Una, was rejected in front of the whole pack, it was an automatic turnoff for me. I'm one of those woeful readers who suffers from second-hand embarrassment and this sounded like a cringe-fest that would make me all sorts of uncomfortable. Despite these three things, I'm really glad I took the plunge because although Killian, the male lead, made me want to punch him in the junk for a good chunk of the book, the author's style and the amount of grovelling vs angst really worked for me, enough so that I've just pre-ordered Book 2 in this series. I know. I'm freaking out, too.
This book had a downtrodden heroine but luckily the author didn't make her a damsel in distress, instead giving her enough of a spine that she was able to stand up to Killian and hold her own amongst a pack filled with a fair number of douche canoes. After an traumatic event when she was young, Una is left scarred and has a considerable limp on one leg. As an unmated female with no family, she's at the bottom of the pecking order of the pack along with a few other misfits who have befriended each other. Breaking the rules of the pack, they secretly find ways to secure a small but sustainable income so they're pretty happy being left to their own devices and only really deal with the rest of the pack when they have to serve them in the kitchen daily. Killian is an alpha and the top dog of the pack, able to shift easily between his wolf and human form. A take-no-prisoners, I'll-rip-your-throat-out-if-you-even-look-at-me-the-wrong-way kind of leader, he runs a tight ship, doing his best to try and change the rotten culture in the pack which was atrocious in the past, especially towards females and those weaker members. Killian installs discipline with his pack, mainly by running a formidable fight club (one that you can talk about - I'll show myself out) that has an excellent reputation throughout the human and Shifter world. When Una comes in to heat late in life, unexpectedly and in the middle of of dinner service, things go from bad to worse. I won't go into details, but it's brutally embarrassing for her (and the reader) and she's basically ostracised even more-so than usual. The only problem? Killian's wolf can't get the little Shifter out of his head and becomes somewhat obsessed with her. The other issue? Una can hold a solid grudge and basically tells him to take a long walk off a short bridge and I lurrrrrved it.
I liked that Una didn't give Killian a get out of jail card easily for the most part. She stood up to him enough that I didn't get stabby and his amount of grovelling (and her acceptance of it) was mostly realistic and while I still think she let him off easily in a couple of instances due to instalust, it was still a satisfying read. I'll admit that I struggled with some of the pack dynamics, especially their past and current treatment of women, but the author did such a good job of world building that that it still worked for me. A small trigger warning, though: this book does infer regularly that women were assaulted often in the past, particularly (but not exclusively) if females were lower pack members. A lot of the pack culture continues to be regressive, even in this installment.
I found some of the themes a bit repetitive (Una's disability, vulnerability and low ranking in the pack, the stereotypical mean pack members, both male and female, and the levels of instalust. I'm not a fan of the whole 'I don't like you but am so overcome with lust whenever you're near me that I gush like Niagara' but luckily there were a lot of other things for me that worked in the book so I still rated it highly. Some of the descriptions regarding their attraction was a bit of overkill for me (I'm talking slippery warmth, devouring anatomy and the like - this is a personal preference, though, I'll add). I loved both of the main characters. Una was definitely a down on her luck sort that needed rescuing, but she was actually a strong and likeable character with a spine even though her life was far from rosy. Like I said earlier, I thought she carried on a bit inconsistently at times regarding Killian's grovel, but it was mostly fine. The grovel itself was good and Una was all for it but would then get a bit cranky or get petulant which went against the strong character the author had built, but this was infrequent. As for Killian, he was fabulous. Big, bad, mean, aggressive, jealous, possessive, dominant and grouchy, I ate up every page he was on and still wanted more. He's got pack members wanting to overthrow him and this added a good plot direction for some of the book even though it was mostly predictable. The book offers chapters from both Una and Killian's point of view and I liked each perspective, with Killian's offering a good insight into how his disdain turned to almost obsession that he owned one hundred percent. His chapters definitely had a style of their own but I found his straight-forward, no nonsense take on things solid and also amusing at times.
Overall, even though there were some elements that aren't something I'd generally go looking for, this book still really worked for me and I found myself unable to put it down. The author had the characters really embrace their animal side, particularly their lack of restraint, I think more so than a lot of other Shifter books I've read (and there have been many). There was also a decent epilogue, although I would have liked a bit more detail about the aftermath of one of the key events from the book (again, a personal preference). Maybe rejected mates is a new trope for me. Who would've thought? *Pretty sure if I read one by another author I'll go back to wanting to set things on fire*