“From his first night in Red River, Wesley had realized Jobe would be a wonderful person for an Alpha to have by his side.”
In a word: Read the thing. For some reason, I didn’t know whether or not I was gonna like this one, but I ended up really liking it. It’s got a nice mix of angst and schmoop. Wesley and Jobe are both good characters and I got invested in their relationship right away; they’re good together. The part I liked most was the world building and the way the characters fit into the world. Wesley and Jobe were born into two different packs that had two different takes on how they fit into the grand scheme of things. I hated the way Wesley’s pack ran, and I was so happy for him that being traded to a new pack ended up being the best thing for him. Jobe’s pack is basically a utopia. Also good is that the world building wasn’t clunky exposition, even if we don’t get a sense of the whole picture, we get enough to enjoy the story as it is. Just a note that there is mpreg in this story, but not until near the end and I think it’s the most unusual mpreg lore I’ve ever heard of.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Series: This is the second book in the Pack series. The first book is Blue Mountain and I haven’t read it. As far as I can tell the two books have nothing to do with each other aside from taking place in the same universe. The characters in Red River seem to know, or at least know of, the characters in Blue Mountain, but there was only a very short mention of them, the stories don’t really have anything to do with each other.
The Couple: Wesley Stone is an Alpha wolf shifter who has been completely shafted by his pack members. He’s the only other Alpha in the pack aside from the current Alpha leader (it’s never explained how that all works, but whatever) so, as per the rules or laws or something, he’s the next in line to be leader. The problem is that he has a scar on his torso that has led his pack members to find him unworthy to be leader. It really sucks because Wesley has been working toward being leader his whole life, putting the pack’s needs before his own and determined to do a good job. It all turns out to be for nothing because he ends up being traded out to a different pack for an Alpha his pack can accept (the assholes). He gets sent to the Red River pack where he has promised to mate with the son of the current Alpha pair leaders, Jobe Root. Where Wesley’s life has been mostly shit, Jobe’s life has been pretty good. He has two parents who love him and his future as co-leader of the pack (along with his Alpha mate, which turns out to be Wesley) is pretty much a given as he’s the only Root in line for the position. Jobe has actually been in love (or the mate version of it) with Wesley for the past 10 years, ever since their first meeting that Wesley doesn’t actually remember. Jobe is a dedicated and caring guy; always looking out for the wellbeing of his pack and his mate. He’s a genuinely good guy and Wesley and the Red River pack will do well with him in charge.
The Packs: Wesley and Jobe are from two very different packs. We don’t know all that much about how packs work in the larger worldview (the story is about Wesley and Jobe, pack politics don’t really enter into it beyond how it affects them), but we do get a glimpse into how each pack functions. Wesley was born into the Purple Sky pack, which is lead by a single Alpha leader. The current leader is Wesley’s uncle, the next leader should be Wesley as he’s the only other Alpha in the pack. However, the Purple Sky pack seems to be full of shallow arseholes because a scar (or something, Wesley was born with it) prevents the pack from viewing Wesley as a worthy leader. As far as they know, the scar is nothing but a mark and it’s a weird prejudice to have because it’s basically a birth mark, but they all act as if it actively prevents him from functioning normally. It’s weird. The Purple Sky pack seems to be located near enough to civilization for Wesley to attend a nearby college with humans (who are not aware of the existence of shifters), so they’re more a part of the world. Which makes no sense to me as to why they have such prejudices (they don’t seem to be accepting of same sex relationships either) that the much more isolated Red River pack doesn’t have. The Red River pack is always lead by a pair of Alpha mates, one of which is always a descendant of the Root family. Jobe is currently the next in line, but he can’t lead the pack without his mate and that’s the only thing stopping him from becoming leader (not ass-backwards prejudices about physical imperfections). It turns out, also, that the Red River pack is a more traditional pack and has retained its close bond with Mother Nature that ensures that the pack remains prosperous as long as they follow certain rules (like the Alpha mates thing, nothing too outrageous). I much preferred the Red River pack to the Purple Sky pack because the Red River pack is full of good people who are kind and nice and closer to each other and not judgemental arseholes who essentially whore out one of their own (the situation didn’t take that dark a turn only because Jobe was actually Wesley’s mate and not a sexual predator) to bring in a complete stranger because of their vanity. (Seriously, Wesley’s lucky the Red River pack aren’t villainous in any way because this could’ve been dark.)
The Omega: So right before Wesley gets the news that he’s to be traded out to a new pack, he has a meeting with a young male Omega shifter named Ricky. Ricky is worried because he has the same scar that Wesley has and he doesn’t want to be treated the same way that Wesley is treated. Ricky kind of showed up out of nowhere but I really thought that there was gonna be more to his story than there was. We never actually see Ricky again after this, but Wesley is still in contact with him so there is definitely a story going on in the background. My initial thought was that Ricky was going to get with Brian (the Alpha that was sent to lead the Purple Sky pack in Wesley’s place), and then their story would’ve been the third book in the series (there is currently no third book as far as I can tell). But then it turns out that Ricky and Brian aren’t mates. Then, out of nowhere, Ricky is suddenly impregnated and abandoned by his mate and in hiding with the Blue Mountain pack (from the first book). I admit that I was intrigued by Ricky’s story (also I’d really like to know what happened with him in the pack with the scar thing, especially after Wesley left), but I was also confused because we get nearly nothing about what’s going on with him. This makes me think there’ll be a third book at some point.
The Pregnancy: In a surprising twist, Wesley is pregnant at the end of the book. If I hadn’t known about it beforehand I probably wouldn’t have seen it coming because, up until it actually happens, male pregnancy doesn’t even come up. Turns out it’s a thing, but it’s only a thing for certain kinds of shifters. Apparently, the scar on Wesley’s belly that his old pack had looked down on him for is a sign that he’s a male able to carry children, which Jobe (whose pack knows all about such things) refers to as a Psi. Psi wolves are always male and, from what I understand, usually appear when a pack is headed for a population boom after a time of less babies being born (Psi wolves have shorter pregnancies – nine weeks, like normal wolves, instead of 40). The way this all plays out has to be the most unusual method of mpreg I’ve ever read. And we get it explained to us by Jobe because Wesley wasn’t even aware that men could get pregnant until it happened to him (talk about a shock). The way is works is that Psi wolves have a scar-like mark, called a birthing skin, on their bellies that absorb semen and then stretch during pregnancy until the birth where it becomes like jelly (or something) so that the baby can be pulled out (no muss, no fuss, no pain – not a bad idea, actually). The birth happens in the epilogue and it’s pretty anti-climactic, but also schmoopy as hell.
The Sex: A fair few sex scenes. There’s even one in the prologue. Nothing much to say about them except that they’re the only parts in the story where I feel like the writing just takes a dive. I did enjoy the sex scenes for the emotional impact and plot relevance they had, but there was language used that took me completely out of the story. Words like ‘butt’ and ‘channel’. Really, these scenes were so full of love and feelings and then suddenly… channel. Whatever, that’s my only issues with them. Also this book contains characters who are wolf shifters, but there is no mention of knotting being a thing.
The Writing: I really liked the writing in this. The world building and emotional moments were great and I got invested in the characters and their dilemmas pretty quick. The prologue featured Wesley hooking up with a ‘mystery’ person, but I saw through that almost right away. The only issue I had with the writing was the sex scenes. I didn’t find those well-written. They weren’t out of place at all, they fit into the story well and don’t interrupt the plot, but the wording that was used for them rubbed me the wrong way. I always have to side-eye any scenes that use the word ‘channel’ (even though here I think it was referring to the guys’ ass-cracks and not anus, which made even less sense). But other than that, I thought the writing was great.
[Red River was published January 19, 2016, by The Romance Authors, it is only available as an ebook]