Fair warning, there may be spoilers, either for the previous 6 stories or this one. This is the point in the series where I don’t know how to do this any other way.
Jennifer Ashley turned the feels up to 11. While I knew she would never pull a J.R. Ward, I was emotionally invested in this couple in a way that does not happen often for me, I felt anxiety, and heartbreak and despair, and of course joy. Previous books in this series I read for the fun and smexy times. I enjoyed them but was starting to have some doubts with the last book Wild Wolf, but this one took it to another level.
Bowman and Kenzie’s relationship hurt them, mating for 15 years without ever feeling the mating bond. Always fearing the other would bond with someone else, and that would take away the person they love most. And I hurt right there with them.
“You think I can stand knowing any second you could walk away from me and I wouldn’t be able to stop you?” His fingers bit down. “That if you feel the mate bond with another male, you’ll go-and you won’t care? Do you know what that does to me?”
Bowman released her to put his hands to his chest, digging into his sweatshirt. “It tears me up inside, right here. It messes with me until I can’t sleep, or think, or feel anything but wanting to grab you and keep you with me no matter what. I’m fucked up because every time you smile at another male, it fucks me up even more. So have a little pity, all right, Kenz? You’re killing me-a little bit every day.”
Shades of Nalini Singh's Tangle of Need anyone? Only this time it is the man who has to bare his heart, who has the fear of having it all ripped away.
There is this lovely push and pull in their relationship, they’re a couple who knows each other so well, they function as a team and each brings balance to the other, and the smexy times are hot. But as a couple they are just so loving. I think this may be the most romantic story I’ve read all year. I was so glad to see Jennifer Ashley go back to a more relationship driven story.
That's not to say the overall story arc and world building has been dropped. Not at all. I'd say it has been refined and refocused in a really excellent way. Disparate story lines that we thought weren't connected suddenly make sense. Characters I wasn't too sure about now have their place. It is just very cohesive. In the midst of tracking mythical monsters and rooting out the enemy, Bowan’s mate and cub are taken, and clarity comes to the soul. Feelings are admitted, and a wider conspiracy is revealed.
I just loved it really. Typically the fated mates trope seems like a short cut, or a cop out. But here it worked, it was something to be worked around, or worked within, or some sort of reward. The way these two navigated the issue just fit for me. When we met Bowman previously, I did not much care for him, but being in his head was amazing. And man, Kenzie just rocked.