Series: Seven Range Shifters #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 1, 2019
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
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Seven shifter clans call the Montana mountains home.But a new evil will stop at nothing to tear their world apart.
For centuries, the shifters that roam Big Sky country have honored a pact to keep the peace. Even bad-boy rancher Wes Calhoun, former leader of a renegade pack, has given up his violent ways and sworn loyalty to the Grey Wolves. But his dark past keeps catching up with him...
Human rancher Naomi Evans cares only about saving the ranch that was her father's legacy. Until a clash with Wes opens up a whole new world―a supernatural world on the verge of war―and Naomi, her ranch, and the sexy cowboy wolf stealing her heart are smack dab in the middle of it.
Kait Ballenger brings a lot of story to her new cowboy-shifter series.
Naomi wasn’t aware of the supernatural world living which existed just steps away from her own backyard not until she finds a wolf caught in a trap at the edge of her ranch. A wolf who suddenly changed into a man. Little did she know that that would be the least shocking of the changes which would rock her world.
Wes has spent the last few years trying to atone for the mistakes he made as the leader of the Wild Eight pack. He grew up believing that his pack was the “good guys” but as an adult he can clearly see the way he and the others were manipulated and the pain and destruction they caused with their selfish actions. He still can’t understand why the pack master of the Grey Wolves allowed him to live when he turned himself over to his enemy for punishment.
Since that day, he has tried to keep his head down, do his work and stay out of the way of the rest of the pack. Wes’s biggest problem is that there is too much of the Alpha in him, the dominant who led the Wild Eights, that he can’t sit back submissively when he disagrees with the pack master’s orders. That’s what leads him into the trap set by his former pack members and what leads him to chase them onto the neighboring ranch and get his paw stuck in a trap. Bad goes to worse when Naomi shows up with a shotgun to put him out of his misery, so unless he wants to die like a rabid animal, Wes has no choice but to shift in front of the human. Pack law deems that no human can know about their kind, but Wes has enough innocent blood on his hands already and he refuses to add Naomi’s to it.
Now he is stuck babysitting the human until the pack makes a decision what to do with her, and he knows that while he sits around waiting, his old pack is up to something. Something big that will lead to the destruction of his new pack. He needs to hunt down his old pack to get answers but will further defiance of the pack master lead to Wes’s death and Naomi with him?
This was a good romance of two lonely people, who never fit into their respective social groups and were always on the outside, who find someone who understands. As not only a female rancher, but one of Native American blood, Naomi doesn’t find much acceptance among her peers or even her ranch hands and spends most of her time alone. Wes stays away from his new pack, who even after years of being with them, they aren’t sure if they want to trust him. He works with the horses and often beds down at the stables rather than going back to his room in the main house.
To keep Wes busy and away from the trouble stirring with is former packmates, Wes is told to keep an eye on the human he brought to the pack’s ranch. In light of the fact that they are forced to spend a great deal of time together, these two lonely people confess a lot of their inner secrets to each other about their lives, including why they segregate themselves, simply because it is always easier to confess to a stranger your deepest secrets. This time together really forges a strong bond between these two while the pack law which deems human/shifter relationships as taboo keeps their physical attraction simmering on a slow boil.
I figured that since most of the story had been spent on building the relationship between Wes and Naomi, that we were going to jump into a fight between the packs and the story would be over, but I was quite surprised to see that I was only 30 percent into the story.
For a first story in a series, I was quite impressed by the fact that we had time for a solid romance but there was also plenty time spent on world building, getting an introduction to the secondary characters in Wes’s pack, meeting the other leaders in the seven shifter packs (bears, mountain lions, etc) and we even got a look at the human organization, the Execution Underground, who hunt the shifters, vampires and other “baddies” that go bump in the night.
There was a lot of story here and I was really impressed that the author was able to strike such a balance between introducing of all the characters, keeping the story interesting, tossing in enough skirmishes to keep it exciting and still giving us a solid romance between Wes and Naomi where we weren’t force into accepting insta-love in order to keep everything else moving.
I already have a copy of Cowboy in Wolf’s Clothing (Book 2) and I am looking forward to seeing where we go now that the groundwork has been laid out in the world building.
“You’ve got a problem? Take it up with Maverick. This doesn’t concern you.”
The wolf answered in a voice so deep, it gave Jame Earl Jones a run for his money. “You want to get involved with the Wild Eight again, fine. Be my guest. But don’t expect me to sit by while you bring one of those wolf killers into our pack. Not after Bo.”
Four months earlier, Bo, the Grey Wolf second-in-command and Malcolm’s closest friend, had been killed by a hunter from the Execution Underground. A human hunter. Bo’s death had left Malcolm grief-stricken, seething with unchecked rage and a burning hatred for all humans.
“You want to take your grief out on someone,” Wes growled, “I’m your target, not her.”
Malcolm drew back his arm. Wes saw the punch coming but didn’t bother to block it. The blow collided with Wes’s cheekbone, and his head snapped back. Pain shot through his cheek and radiated down his jaw. He bent over and clutched his skin where Malcolm had hit him. It would heal within a few hours.
Wes opened his mouth, prepared to ask the bastard if the punch he’d granted him satisfied, when a high-pitched female shriek pierced Wes’s ears. While Wes had nursed his cheek, Malcolm had seized the moment to clutch Naomi by the wrist. The scent of her fear flooded Wes’s nostrils.
He didn’t think.
He grabbed Malcolm by the front of his shirt and threw the other wolf onto the wooden mess-hall table, pinning his fellow packmember with his superior strength. Naomi broke free of Malcolm’s grip. Several other packmembers scattered.
A fierce snarl ripped from Wes’s throat. “I gave you the punch. For Bo. But if you ever lay another hand on her, I will tear out your throat. Understood?”
Malcolm’s wolf eyes flashed in anger, and his mouth drew into a tight line, but he gave a curt nod. With a rough shove, Wes released him and stepped back. Every eye in the room was on him. He turned his back toward Malcolm and stepped away, expecting Naomi to follow.
“Wes!” she shrieked.
Malcolm drew his knife and thrust it in a downward arc toward Naomi.
Most would have thought to jump away from the blade, but Naomi had clearly been trained in basic self-defense. She stepped forward, ducking under the blade’s arc. The move allowed her to block the downward trajectory of Malcolm’s forearm with her own, defending herself from attack. She latched on to his wrist like a vise and twisted the metacarpals of Malcolm’s hand in the opposite direction. With a sweep and a kick, she took out Malcolm’s kneecap. He crumpled to the ground, likely in part from sheer surprise–he clearly hadn’t expected her to fight back–as she stripped his knife from his hands. Within seconds, Naomi crouched on top of Malcolm with he knee poised against his throat and his knife in her hands.
“Coward,” she hissed. “I’m half your size, and you need a knife?” She shoved the top of the weapon beneath Malcolm’s throat “If you ever touch me again, I will cut your balls off with your own blade.” She dropped Malcolm’s knife onto the floor beside him with a loud clatter and then scrambled to her feet.
Wes swallowed down his curse. No one in the mess hall moved. Malcolm gaped up at Naomi from where he lay on the floor, stunned to silence and completely put in his place. Wes didn’t blame the bastard. She’d just taken down a werewolf twice her weight and strength, using her small size, speed, and the element of surprise against him. The woman was a veritable lionness in sheep’s clothing.
And in self-defense or not, she’d just threatened one of the pack’s alpha males. Maverick’s warning of her affiliation echoed in Wes’s head, the doubt in his chest growing.
He grabbed Naomi by the hand. “Let’s go.”