REVIEW: The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara
Going home digs up bad memories, so it’s something Bureau of Special Investigations agent Cooper Dayton tries to avoid. When he’s guilted into a visit, Cooper brings along Oliver Park, his hot new werewolf partner, in the hopes the trip will help clarify their status as a couple…or not.
When Park’s keen shifter nose uncovers a body in the yard and Cooper’s father is the prime suspect, Cooper knows they’re on their own. Familial involvement means no sanctioned investigation. They’ll need to go rogue and solve the mystery quietly or risk seeing Cooper’s dad put behind bars.
The case may be cold, but Park and Cooper’s relationship heats up as they work. And yet if Cooper can’t figure out what’s going on between them outside of the bedroom, he’ll lose someone he… Well, he can’t quite put into words how he feels about Park. He knows one thing for sure: he’s not ready to say goodbye, though with the real killer inching ever closer…he may not have a choice.
Dear Charlie Adhara,
I bought this book the day after it was published, but for some reason did not read it right away. We catch up with Cooper and Park four months after events of the first book and we are thrown in the action from the very first pages. They are trying to figure out if the owner of the flower shop is a criminal or not and Park is trying to make Cooper not to go in the shop without him. Of course Cooper ends up inside the shop before Park.
“He looked older than when they’d first met, Cooper realized, and far more tired. Perhaps that was what happened after four months of being partnered with Cooper did to a person. Or perhaps that was what happened after four months of… whatever their personal relationship was. “I know there’s a lot of green stuff in here, so it can get confusing, but this is actually inside.” Park held his hand out. Cooper grasped it and was pulled to standing. “You’re bleeding.” Park frowned, reaching tentatively toward Cooper’s face.”
In a sense Cooper is still dealing with the fallout from the first book’s revelations. And I am glad that we do hear about it to be honest. Of course it was not his fault that the main villain of the first book turned out to be the villain; however, those who have read the book will understand me. I think that too often when the character who was close to the main character turned out to be the villain the books don’t address it enough. Because even when the guy close to the villain was not at fault (and of course Cooper cannot be held responsible), I do think that he could have noticed? Anyway, as I said I am glad that it is not forgotten even if the author did not beat me over the head with this.
Cooper is also struggling to define his relationship with Park.
“He and Park had been sleeping together for almost four months now, and Cooper still hadn’t found a way to clarify what was going on. Were they dating? Fuck buddies? Clumsily falling onto each other’s dicks with regularity? They didn’t go on dates. They worked together. They hung around Cooper’s apartment watching movies and discussing books. They had sex. They didn’t talk about it. Any sweet nothings exchanged happened in the dark while covered in sweat and other fluids, and were thus void. Most of the time Cooper fully expected Park would just stop showing up at his apartment one day and that would be that. They still wouldn’t talk about it and they’d keep working together, without the sex, until Cooper imploded like a collapsing black hole of emotional repression.”
Cooper is still our only POV character, so we mostly see that he has some issues, but I loved him even more after I finished this book. It is hard to explain, but I just found him believable. No, I cannot personally relate to Cooper as an agent of law enforcement, who is trying to figure out if he is in love with Oliver Park, but as a human being I really liked him and I could see human being behaving this way. I liked his strength and understood his doubts even if the author shows us that of course these guys are already attached to each other very much even if they cannot say the words yet.
And I appreciated that Cooper was trying to do better throughout the course of the book, not just suddenly starting talking to Park at the end of the story, but trying during the story. Like this conversation was still happening quite early in the narrative.
“Park looked at him curiously, and Cooper hesitated. This wasn’t the usual stuff they talked about—family, the past. But if he wanted this to be a relationship, he supposed that included a bit of opening up and sharing thoughts deeper than their typical conversation of whether the book or movie version was better.”
Cooper’s father asking (actually “guilting’ as the blurb states would be much better description) to come home and Cooper is realizing that he does want Park to come with him and of course Park agrees. As the blurb states as well, coming home brings bad memories for Cooper. Some issues with his family are real and painful, but some he imagined or misunderstood. I really liked how mystery shined the light on a lot of things that happened in the past and helped Cooper figured out a lot of things with his dad and brother, who without doubt loved him a lot, but lack of communication about certain things surely did not help anybody.
Having said that, while I loved the mystery as a vehicle for deepening relationships between the characters, not just with Cooper and his family, but with Cooper and Park, something in the mystery storyline felt off to me and I cannot quite put my finger on it, I think the best I can do is that while villain’s motivations and reveal made sense, I am not quite sure whether looking back I could figure it out. Maybe the investigation was not detailed enough? I am not complaining all that much as I said, I really enjoyed the character development and relationship development in this book, but I wish a little bit more time was spent on actually showing us the investigation.
I kept talking about Cooper, but I really appreciated that through Cooper’s eyes author showed us that Park, “strong alpha” as he was, also had his vulnerabilities and shared some of them with Cooper. I really love these guys and I am already looking forward to visit to the Park’s family home in the third book :)