Dear Ms. Wallace:
In my quest to read more pack romance fiction, I requested this book from NetGalley. You left a comment here in our February Open Thread for Authors about the book stating that it contained a nice alpha werewolf who had no interest in being a pack leader:
It does not have fated mates.
The alpha male shifter hero has no interest in being the boss of anybody.
It is, in some respects, a May-December romance.
The heroine is not a virgin, or even close.
There are some funny parts. IMO.
There is also a car chase. And dog jokes. And a tea room.
I thought those were all great adjectives for a book and I agree with all of them. This is not a fated mate story. The heroine is not a virgin. It is a May-December romance with Harry, the hero, being the May part of the equation. While I liked all those elements, there was a distance to the story that kept me from being full engaged throughout the course of the text.
I think it had to do with how the stakes weren’t sufficiently high enough, the situation never seemed impossible, as if June would just sprinkle some herbal magic dust and they’d both be safe again.
Harry Smith is a lone wolf who has tried to live separately from a pack ever since his mother fled with him when he was a child. For years, the local pack has tried to recruit him but he has been able to resist their overtures but this all changes when the male co alpha is arrested. This places the Millington pack in jeopardy because a pack bonding ceremony had been initiated which would need to be complete shortly or the bond would dissolve. A pack gains and maintains power through the bond. If the bond dissolved, the pack would essentially cease to exist. The Millington pack required both a male and female alpha. The female alpha, Bianca, decides that Henry is just the man for the pack. Henry is happy being a lone wolf. He thinks the way in which the packs are run are offensive and wants no part of it but a lone wolf is no match for a pack wolves if they decide to pursue him.
June Travis has cared for Harry for many years and she doesn’t want him to fall into the clutches of the Millington pack. Unfortunately for June that means blowing her cover, expending huge personal resources, and placing her own position within the local coven in jeopardy. June, as indicated by the title, is a witch. There is an interesting concept in the world building here but I didn’t fully buy into it. The witches’ power rests largely on their ability to manipulate herbs and other natural elements. Conveniently, June is very powerful and is able to protect the two of them in various circumstances. She has a spell for nearly everything from libido dampener to memory wipes.
Harry comes off as a reluctant character, kind of dragged into various circumstances, and while I was told he was alpha, I felt that it was a description of his power (power he never used) rather than an attitude. And I don’t mean that I wanted Harry to be a domineering asshole, dragging women around by their hair; but he never led, he rarely exerted any kind of power over others (this was explained away as something Harry wanted to avoid doing because of what happened to his mother), and he was almost always in the react v. the act mode. Harry’s favorite thing to do is hang out in the teahouse with a bunch of grandmothers and play Bunco. June, on the other hand, was resourceful, quick witted, and powerful. She acted and sometimes it went badly for her, but at least she was doing.
Perhaps that was a product of her age, but there was a certain primness about June when she spoke: ‘Good gravy,’ she said, sound exactly like her grandmother. or “I’m June,” she said. “Gosh, you’re a very…genuine person, aren’t you?” She chastises Harry when he curses (which he only does twice in the book). Gosh is a favorite term of June’s. I guess it was consistent characterization. The problem was that the inserted sexual tension didn’t fit with the overall tone of the book. I found the late sex scene to be rather jarring.
Harry and June are likable characters. The idea behind the world building was not something I recall coming across in previous shapeshifter books which is kind of a remarkable feat. It is, as you said in your comment, a book about a reluctant alpha who doesn’t want to be a pack leader with a non virginal heroine, a May-December romance complete with a car chase, dog jokes, and a tea room. C