I was captivated by the eyes staring at me from the cover and curious about a title that was a city and state. I checked the blurb. Again, sounded like my kind of story. So I was good to go.
Paranormal stories particularly those involving shifters can be all over the place for me. I love them, but they generally hit the shallow end of the pool for me relying hard on the heat in the romance or the action instead of developing the tone and setting to create an atmosphere that ‘feels’ paranormal. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well enough to be understood. This story felt genuine and authentic instead of contrived. If a guy was to uncover the fact that ‘others’ live alongside the humans, this is how I would expect it to come about and how he would react.
The story opens when Randy moves from big city, Washington DC, to the sticks of Wolf, WY. He made a quick, arbitrary decision. He needed to get away from his lying, cheating ex-fiancé, his stifling life as a long hours high pressure lawyer and he needed time to reassess away from his controlling mother. It was like moving to another planet. And the locals want nothing to do with the newcomer most especially his own next door neighbors.
Randy has this cozy day dream of living in a nice neighborhood, talking over the fence, participating in Halloween candy giving and enjoying the peace and harmony of the country. But then he meets his standoffish, unfriendly neighbor, Vaughn O’Connell. Vaughn is a widower with three kids. His oldest is eighteen and his other two are in grade school. The family ignore all attempts at friendly waves, hellos, or even eye contact. What gives? Randy bristles from the treatment and so is ready to explode when he catches the drool-worthy Vaughn and his oldest in his yard cutting down one of his trees.
They have their say and he, naturally has his. He can out snark and out argue the best of them. But the bottom line is they think he’s a helpless city guy who will screw up often and force them to have to pull him out of difficulties before he eventually either goes back to where he’s from or dies from exposure. Randy has full intentions of proving Vaughn wrong, but unfortunately he does prove rather inept when it comes to winterizing his vehicle, to generators, to the wolves, and to even knowing to wear the right clothes for the cold. And then there are the odd moments of weirdness about that family. Randy can’t quite figure it out. Lyle seems to be on some kick of proving himself by showing an interest in Randy because his dad, Vaughn doesn’t approve. And Vaughn’s behavior around Randy are confusing at best.
Randy is learning that life in the country certainly isn’t dull and there is definitely the possibility of something with the irascible Vaughn, but then the secret of Wolf, WY is revealed in the most shocking way.
So, this one was a more gently-paced book that had nuances and subtlety to it. It eased the reader into Randy’s life. Randy is the sole narrator. He’s a fascinating individual. I didn’t like him much, but I enjoyed experiencing his story. I don’t think I was meant to like him to tell the truth. He comes with expectations, assumptions, a chip on his shoulder, and a truckload of attitude. The reader can see that while Randy is busy judging and assuming about his neighbors that he misses the fact that he’s no paragon of virtue. He’s offended because Vaughn worries about the new neighbor watching his kids and warns him off, but then turns around and worries that Vaughn is an abusive parent. Later, there is a moment where Vaughn tries to tell Randy that he needs space to deal with some issues Lyle is going through. Randy jumps down his throat with a ‘gay’ rant and how Vaughn needs to accept his son. It’s not always about your trigger issues, Randy, my man. Sigh…
The pair of them were both pretty crotchety cranky sorts. Maybe that’s why I had fun watching the hostilities slowly morph into something else. The story takes place over several months and Vaughn’s hesitations and slow advances leave Randy off balance and unsure. Randy is slowly figuring out country living and slowly getting through to Vaughn and making friends with Vaughn’s children even if he has to be careful with the oddly volatile Lyle.
The big reveal of Vaughn’s secrets was the high point and moment of crisis in the story. I enjoyed how it came about and the fall out. Emotions and reactions were genuine to the characters and situation. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t think Randy was a putz for snarling at Vaughn’s kids the way he did while he was in a moment, but it was an example of things getting real.
Another twist comes after that and I loved it because it came out of nowhere, but made sense.
I’m glad to see this one is part of a series. Not sure who gets their story next since this one is very isolated to mostly Randy, Vaughn and the kids with maybe four other characters even mentioned far in the background. Getting Lyle’s story would be good.
All in all, I found the story something refreshing in the way the characters were portrayed along with the paranormal tone. I would recommend it to those who enjoy M/M Paranormal Romance.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #385 PNR
New to Me #189 author/series
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