It's difficult enough to grow up in the public eye, everyone expecting so much of you because of who your family is and there's a distinct possibility that you will be top dog some day, but for Cole Parker, of 'The Pack or the Panther', it's even more complicated. Cole has made lots of sacrifices for the good of the pack, but his father's latest request is more unusual than all of the others combined—a political, arranged marriage to secure the safety and unity of two packs. Besides not being allowed to marry for love, Cole is gay and never expected to be with a woman at all, much less married to one. Even so, Cole steps up and agrees to go through with it.
I admired Cole for his loyalty and concern for his family and his community. He's always been dedicated to helping however he can, especially because he's a super wolf, able to accomplish things that other wolves can't—like being able to shift at will instead of only on a full moon. He's bigger and stronger too and his sense of smell is heightened far beyond what the normal wolves can detect. This makes him very valuable to the pack and he feels the pressure of having to perform. He doesn't want to marry Analise, but doesn't expect the strength of her objection to the situation and it depresses him and makes him feel even more undesirable than before. Adding insult to injury, Paris rejects first his affections and then his attempt to secure the safety of the pack by him and Paris being married. Such a nice guy and so much rejection! It broke my heart. Cole isn't able to see how accomplished and what a great leader he can be; but when a crisis arises, he's able to demonstrate those qualities and earn the respect and admiration he deserves.
I wasn't impressed with Paris at all the first time he was introduced. He was condescending at best and the way he treated Cole really set me off. Although their first sexual encounter was spectacularly written, I didn't like the way Paris pretended that it was nothing while Cole is entranced with him. As I learned more about Paris, I began to see why he was so aloof and secretive. It's self-preservation. He had to keep a distance from others in order to ensure a safe environment for himself. It would have been dangerous to let anyone get close. I do think that Paris would have had an easier time if he had stopped wasting so much time on what he didn't want to be and focus on what he actually was, because, like Cole, his self-perception was way off.
The wolves in Tara's story are certainly not your run-of-the mill werewolves. They all had distinct personalities and jobs and some, like Clay's friend, Lindsey, were quite wealthy, not to mention stylish. For all intents and purposes, they are like any extended family with their squabbles, disagreements, expectations, loyalties, and desires. I especially liked that Eliazer, the bad wolf was a gangster. I kept picturing him with a machine gun, stripped suit, and hat, and his underlings as scruffy, unkempt dogs or slimy human mercenaries, which enhanced the image of a huge, sleazy, disgusting, bad guy, not to mention his unbridled lusting after Paris, making me hate him even more. I have to say that I'm not particularly a fan of shifter stories, but Tara, with her skillful writing, vivid imagination, and excellently drawn characters has won me over. I recommend this tale to everyone who likes shifters, hot men, exotic dancing, exquisite sex, and plain down to earth universal wisdom. Thanks, Tara, for the conversion. It was a great surprise.
Originally published at Rainbow Book Reviews.