Winter’s Wolf, by Tara Lain

Winter Thane was raised on the two cardinal rules of werewolf existence: don’t reveal yourself to humans under penalty of death, and there’s no such thing as a gay werewolf. It’s no surprise when his father drags him from his wild life in remote Canada back to Connecticut to meet his old pack in hopes it will persuade Winter to abandon hi love of sex with human males. Of course, Dad’s hopes are dashed when they come face-to-face with the gay werewolves in the Harker pack.

Winter takes one look at FBI agent Matt Partridge and decides bird is his favorite food. Partridge is embroiled in an investigation into drug dealing and the death of a fellow agent. He can’t let himself get distracted by the young, platinum-haired beast, but then Winter proves invaluable in the search for clues, a move that winds them both up in chains and facing imminent death. Winter quickly learns his father’s motives are questionable, the pack alphas are a bunch of pussies, humans aren’t quite what they seem, and nothing in the forests of Connecticut is pure except love.

Overall Impression: Positive

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Disclaimer first, this book is actually book three in a series, even though it is not advertised as book three anywhere, either on the book itself or in the book details information. When I see this with books, I assume it means the book is intended to be able to be read as a standalone book. While the book is understandable when reading it without having read the previous two books, in my opinion, it definitely suffers for trying to make itself a stand-alone read. Most of the characters other than the main ones are characters previously introduced in books one (The Pack or the Panther) and two (Wolf in Gucci Loafers). Their introductions in Winter’s Wolf feel somewhat shoehorned in, with mini info-dumps to try and catch the reader up on the critical aspects of their background. There are also quite a few of these characters that are all introduced to the reader for the first time in book three, in a relative short amount of time, making it a little difficult to keep track of them. Throughout the entirety of Winter’s Wolf, I found myself having to consciously keep remembering which character was which. It wasn’t until I went back and read the first two books in the series that the characters started to feel more natural in the story, and I think overall, the series would have greatly benefitted from advertising itself as a linear series, rather than trying to make all the books standalones. To any interested readers, I strongly recommend reading the books in order: The Pack or the Panther (Book 1), Wolf in Gucci Loafers (Book 2), Winter’s Wolf (Book 3).

Winter’s Wolf was overall a fun read. While it had some small aspects that I felt could have been done better, or at least differently, the characters themselves were interesting, well fleshed out and enjoyable to read about. I found myself feeling invested in their lives and rooting for their success in their endeavors. This review is about Winter’s Wolf, but I actually think Winter might have been my least favorite of the main wolf characters. Not that I disliked him, I just found the history and personalities of Lindsey, Cole and their partners far more interesting (I’m a sucker for the conflicted and socially-guilted characters).

While I liked the character development, there were a couple oddities I wanted to point out. One was that the werewolf packs were described as being almost universally homophobic. Winter’s Wolf didn’t really establish this very well, other than simply stating it, which made it feel very awkward, and like it was more there just to be a (in my opinion, unnecessary) conflict point. After reading Pack or the Panther and Wolf in Gucci Loafers, the general ideologies of the packs were better established, but it still felt like it was an unnecessary conflict point. I feel that most of the events that occurred could have been driven simply by the individual character’s motivations, such as an alpha wanting a biological heir to hand the pack down to (something a gay couple couldn’t produce). The homophobia of the packs also caused some strange character developments between Winter and his father, Damon. Early on Damon consistently says things that indicate he doesn’t like that Winter is gay, but his actions don’t really seem to back that up, and half-way through the book, Damon is suddenly just okay with his son being gay, with no real catalyst event to cause the change of heart (at least none that seemed compelling to me).

The plot of Winter’s Wolf (and the previous books) was rather substantive, especially for a romance book. There were a lot of pack politics going on between the two main packs, mixed with some mystery detective scenarios that added nice tension to the development of the relationships between the main characters. Perhaps the only oddity I found noticeable with the plot was that there were a few instances of uncanny coincidences, something not uncommon in series where each book follows a different romantic pair that all know each other. I didn’t find any of the coincidences world breaking.

I’ve read a lot of romance novels, both paranormal and otherwise, and once thing that stood out in this series was that the writing style was rather different from a typical romance story. For me, I wasn’t a super big fan of it. It came across as a bit overdone, almost corny or cheesy at times (ex: there were a lot of odd euphemisms used for their cocks). While it didn’t detract from the story that much for me, it was noticeable enough for me to mention here. Another thing about the writing style was that the characters seemed to have a lot of backstory that had happened prior to these books, and this often felt like it was being told to the reader rather than show. It’s left me wondering if Tara Lain possibly has other books published that feature these characters from before when this series takes place. If so, that would explain some of the more narrative telling of the characters histories, and if not, then I would have like to have seen more of these events that shaped their personalities as scenes in the book, rather than just recapped or retold mentions. Even in romance books, which the focus is often more on the sexy times and the immediate relationship between the two characters, I still like in-depth character building.

In summary, I greatly enjoyed reading about the Harker Pack, and I think anyone who likes explicit, gay paranormal romances will likely enjoy the Harker Pack books as well.

– written by Whim Shifter (Book reviewer @TheNovelMarket)

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