REVIEW: Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1) by Kendall McKenna
A Marine werewolf and his commander bring legends to life while surviving combat deployment in Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond. During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.
Dear Kendall MacKenna,
I first read this book shortly after it was published. The characters stayed with me and I have reread some parts of it, but never did a complete reread. I was a little worried that I won’t like the book nearly as much as I did when I first read it since several years passed and I have read a lot of m/m books since then.
For the most part, the book hold up for me upon reread; however, I certainly saw more problems with its execution than I did originally.
We first meet Lucas when he is training his Marines shortly before their deployment to Afghanistan. The author shows us a young officer who cares deeply about his soldiers and who wants to do his best to ensure they all are trained well and will come back home.
In fact it was clear even to me (a civilian) that the author researched military procedures, military protocols very well. I believe I read somewhere that the author had family in the military (but could not find it now) and a couple of book buddies who had military family members also commented upon authentic portrayal of the US Military in her books. Moreover some of the reviews complained that the author went into too much detail in the description of the military protocols and in explaining all the military abbreviations. Please understand that this is not my complaint at all. I enjoyed the well-researched setting very much and thought it helped to show the strength of the main characters.
The book is set in “our” world with the addition of the fact that the werewolves openly serve in the military and there are additional procedures set up to help incorporating werewolves in the military.
When Lucas arrives in Afghanistan, he learns that several werewolves will be assigned to his unit and amongst them will be Noah Hammond, True Alpha Werewolf of the Marine Corps. Of course Lucas is confused and worried as to how he would handle Noah, whose rank of Sergeant and his status of True Alpha set up a conflict of the sort for Lucas because Noah would be enlisted under his command and somebody who would be pretty much in charge of all shifters nearby.
When Noah arrives, he very quickly takes charge of the shifters, and does indeed challenge Lucas a little bit, but only a little bit – he does not resist Lucas or anything like that, just checks his worth out I guess.
Very quickly Noah and Lucas realize that they have a connection. Actually, Noah is the only one who recognizes all the possible repercussions of their connection. Lucas did not have much experience with dealing with the werewolves before and his company commander is of no help. He of course realizes the attraction but all he is bothered about is being attracted to somebody who is below in the chain of command.
The fact that their bond is something extraordinary escapes Lucas’s attention for pretty much the whole book. Noah manages to explain that the fact that he is a True Alpha consented to their bond supersedes chain of commanded, but nothing else was explained to Lucas and this would bring me to my main annoyance with this book.
As much as I loved both Lucas and Noah as honest soldiers and strong leaders, as much as I thought this book had well researched setting, Lucas’ cluelessness as to his connection with Noah eventually got old and pretty fast. Okay fine, he did not have shifters under his command before, but he is living in the world where shifters seem to be treated well, not discriminated at all and he has no clue that his bond with the True Alpha just may be something special? The parts I quoted below are early enough in the book, but this idiocy continued through the whole book – with Lucas asking questions and people either promising to explain and explaining nothing, or giving him information in such small doses that it sounded really artificial. This is the main reason why I am lowering the grade the way I did.
“Lucas paused, wondering how to answer. It might be easier if he had an answer. “I would if I knew. It’s nothing I can explain. I just know.” Vince glanced at him askance. “Next you’re gonna tell me the two of you know what the other is feeling.” Lucas stared out his window and didn’t answer. “Well I’ll be damned,” Vince muttered. “Does command know about this?” Lucas looked at Vince in confusion. “No. Why would they?”
Gunny glanced repeatedly from the road to Lucas and back again. “The Marine Corps’ True Alpha willingly submits to his human platoon commander; that’s a weapon they’d like to have.” An icy chill swept through Lucas. “Weapon? I don’t understand.” This time Vince shrugged. “I don’t know the ins and outs of it. Have Hammond explain it; it’s werewolf mythology.” They lapsed into silence as Vince negotiated the rough, rutted road. Lucas tried to shake off the dark feeling the conversation had left him with.”
““I could feel you start to worry about what was behind you, so I looked.” Noah ran the backs of the fingers of one hand lightly down Lucas’ cheek. “You looked because you felt me sense something behind me?” Lucas fought the urge to lean into Noah’s touch. “That’s how this works, Lucas,” Noah replied, hooking his fingers into the webbing of Lucas’ armor. “I still don’t understand how it works,” Lucas sighed. “But right now, I’m just glad it does.””
“Lucas stared at the captain in confusion. Madison noticed Lucas’ expression. “Christ, Hammond sure is taking his time explaining all this to you. It doesn’t help that Stanley got you absolutely no training on how to handle an Alpha were.” “So explain it to me!” Lucas shouted in frustration.”