on Dec. 5, 2012 :
4.5 stars - I read the first book in this series, Broods of Fenrir, a while ago and really enjoyed it. When I saw this one show up on a giveaway I didn't hesitate to request it. I was confident that it would be an enjoyable read. My assumption was correct and I absolutely enjoyed this book, but it did give me a surprise I didn't expect. It ended up being a good surprise for me, but I think some other readers may not appreciate being blindsided when the story develops into a male/male romance. And this book is definitely a romance. The story revolves around Gunni and Leo's building relationship that must overcome obstacles. Other aspects of the story almost take a back seat for a significant portion of the book. There is the eventual "I love you" moment, lots of smex, and an HEA with no cliffhanger...so yeah, romance.
Based on my experience with the first book and this book's cover art, blurb and tags, I had a certain expectation for the story that was turned on its head as I read the book. Fortunately, I'm a romance reader and I like m/m romance so it turned out fine for me. In fact, it turned out more than fine (I'm sooo happy for Gunni!) but a reader expecting a more straight-up (no pun intended) urban fantasy may be sorely disappointed. So with that elephant in the room out of the way, let's move on to the review.
The story picks up a short time after the first book ends and you will see several of the same characters in this story, primarily Brand, Dagny, and Gunni. However, the story will end up focusing on Gunni and Leo. Brand and Dagny will play a secondary role but still in the story in a significant way. Almost like an ensemble cast but with a heavier focus on Gunni and Leo.
The opening scene involves Gunni and it really caught my attention and drew me in. Why? Because of what happened to Gunni in the first book. My heart hurt for him and I was already emotionally invested in his character. I wanted him to have a happy ending. Gunni in his wolf form is doing some recon on a brood that Brand needs to get under control. Gunni is spotted so he runs and then gets run over by a car. He ends up at a vet's office. I had thought the vet, Cass, was going to be Gunni's love interest and as the story progressed, it seemed to point in that direction with Gunni even having protective feelings over her. Then suddenly Leo comes into the story and wham...the story just takes a total turn into another direction. I almost wonder if Cass was an intentional romantic red herring. I even went back to the blurb to reread it and I can now (with my knowledge of the story) see a very vague hint at it but without knowing the story, I would not have picked up on it.
I did like the romance between Gunni and Leo. It was very tender and emotional. I thought they made a good match. They both had emotional scars that needed healing and they complemented each other well. I believed in their relationship and felt a connection between them. The sex in this story is explicit to a certain point but it does not reach what I consider an erotic romance level. It felt like the author was being careful not to cross certain lines in her descriptions of the love scenes but did so without resorting to corny euphemisms (which I so appreciate!). There were even a couple of scenes that faded to black. Even though more explicit scenes would not have bothered me, I felt the author struck a good balance and there was enough to help build the connection between Gunni and Leo. Did I mention that I am soooo happy for Gunni? Because I am!
As I mentioned briefly above, the conflict involving the poacher does take a back seat at times to focus on the romance and that part of the story actually did seem to fizzle a bit, but there is some intrigue and it does come back into the story eventually. Much like the romance, the plot takes a sudden turn and goes in a different direction. It doesn't come out of nowhere though; there are events earlier in the book that set it up if you pay attention. In the end, I think it played out in an interesting way.
I enjoy the author's writing style. It is easy to read and flows well. The dialogue for the most part is comfortable and felt natural to me except for some moments during the love scenes that felt a bit corny but I expect that from almost any romance. I mean love can be corny at times, right? As long as it doesn't go overboard, I'm okay with it.
I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I liked it better than the first book. It was a page turner for me and I look forward to the next book. I'm very curious who the focus will be on in the next story. There are also a few things that come up later in the story that I think will be carried over. I recommend reading the first book, Broods of Fenrir, before you read this one. The characters carry over and there is an overarching storyline. Also, understanding the emotional place that Gunni is in (which is a result of what happens in the first book) is important to the story, IMO. I definitely have the next book on my radar and look forward to continuing the series. And for the last time I just have to say...I'm sooooo happy for Gunni! :)
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)