*I received ARCs of two books in Lauren Dane’s CASCADIA WOLVES series from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.
Okay, so I admit I’m either really great at picking good titles to review, or I tend to review high. I’m not honestly sure which it is, but since I’m cringing inside at writing a negative review, it’s probably a bit of both.
I couldn’t finish either book.
I’m not shy about putting down a book that just doesn’t work for me, though I do try harder when it’s a title I’ve agreed to review.
And I really, really wanted to like these books. I adore paranormal romance and am so starved for polyamorous romance that when I saw Lauren Dane’s name attached to a couple of paranormals, one of which had a blurb that hinted at good polyamory… baby, I clicked that request button so fast.
When the publisher approved my request to review the titles it made me so happy.
I dived right into the ‘polyamory’ book, and what a gorgeous cover!
Previously published under a different title
The tri-mate bond is a myth,
That’s what Tracy Warden has believed all her life. Werewolves have one true mate, someone their wolf bonds to physically, mentally, emotionally. She didn’t expect to find her mate so soon, but Nick, second to the Pacific pack’s Alpha, is undeniably hers. The scent of him, the irrefutable way their bodies call to each other—it’s the beginning of a new life for them both.
Until Tracy meets Gabe, and everything she thought she knew is turned upside down.
None of them expected this. It shouldn’t be possible. But the bond they share can’t be denied—and before long, they don’t want to deny it. The triad makes them whole, and two alpha wolves in her bed—in her life—make Tracy wonder how she ever lived without the tri-bond.
But there’s tension in Pacific, tension that goes much deeper than mere pack politics. Gabe, Nick and Tracy will do anything to protect each other, and their new bond is about to be put to the test…
Can we say disappointing?
I had a few issues with this book so I’ll break them down, but the biggest one is the bad rep of polyamory.
This wasn’t polyamory, it was a menage, and there is a huge difference between the two.
My biggest issues with regard to polyamory rep…
- Within the first chapters, we have what is obviously a set of characters who are from a previous book. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, I read series PNR books all the time and in general, even if you pick up one of the later books without having read the first ones, you can still enjoy the story. You can’t with these.
- We aren’t told, at all, what the tri-bond is or what its requirements are, (I have to assume it’s covered in an earlier book that I didn’t have access to? Because these are a rerelease, I couldn’t go out and buy the other books or find them at the library to get a more complete picture of the world either. They just weren’t available that I could find, they’ve been released in an odd methodology, not in consecutive series.)
- This one pissed me off, so much so that I’m using strong language in a review when I usually try to avoid that… In the first couple of chapters, these three tri-bonded characters from a previous novel have a strong attraction to one another and one of the characters thinks “I can’t have anything with one of the guys I’m tri-bonded to because the other one is my everything.” Ugh, Ugh, Ugh, Ack. In a book where the blurb seemed, so strongly, to indicate a well repped poly romance, that line made me want to put the book down and never, ever pick it up again. I soldiered on, because we hadn’t even gotten to the main characters of the story yet. We’d met the female, but not the guys. It took me a couple of days to make myself go back to reading it though, because that line in what I’d thought was a polyamorous book ticked me off, badly. I mean, even taking that pre-existing relationship on its own merits, you have a woman and two guys… they’re tri-bonded (which isn’t described but you sort of get a confusing idea about what it might be) so why can’t they be together if that’s what they want?? Confusion.
- So, without spoilering the actual story, we have two of the Main Characters meet one another, they get together, then they run into problems and instead of TALKING ABOUT IT one of them runs off and does something that just sets off all the danger-Will-Robinson flashy lights I have when it comes to poly. Realistic poly, in real life or on the page depends on deep, real, self-knowledge and communication. The characters didn’t show a lick of sense with that, the conflict that drove the problem in the relationship seemed contrived and pffffft… I stopped reading. Maybe the characters work their shit out and get together, I assume so, I mean it IS a romance, but I just couldn’t continue on with the stupidity evidenced by the characters. UGH. And I so badly wanted to love this book. 🙁
My other issue is from a series arc perspective.
My favorite type of book to read is series Paranormal Romance. I’ve read soooo many that it’s probably ridiculous at this point, and in any of the other series I’ve read (I haven’t read them all yet, just most of them) I can pick up a book later in the series, having NOT read any of the former ones, and the author gives me ENOUGH info on the world and the definitions et cetera that even if I have some questions, I can still enjoy the book in my hands. I may want to go and read the rest of the books… if the author has done their job right, then I definitely do.
I don’t want to go read the rest of these books, which is sad, because in general, I love Lauren Dane’s writing.
Maybe if I’d started on the very first of the series and had time to get to know the power structures of the pack, the definitions of the world and all the nuanced relationships of side characters that we see in this book it may have been a more enjoyable experience for me. Big maybe, because I could have kept reading even if there was confusion, in this book it’s the bad polyamory rep that made me stop reading.
Readability: 1/5 stars: One of the few Did Not Finish books I’ve had lately. The lack of description on definitions like tri-bond and a few others (where a sentence telling us what the heck the author was talking about would have made all the difference in the world) completely blew the tires out from under this book for me.
Arcs: N/A: No idea because I couldn’t finish reading it.
Craft: 4/5: Lauren Dane can write, which is part of why I requested these books. Her style and voice in these isn’t as well rounded as in her later books, but she still writes well with great description and characterization.
Would I buy it for a friend? Nope.
The book IS available here, if you’d like to see for yourself:
After I tried to read Wolves Triad, since I’d committed to reading the other one, I gave it a shot.
It’s a monogamous romance, or so I inferred from the blurb.
Wolf unbound, also a gorgeous cover.
Previously published with a different publisher
The Cascadia Wolves will do anything to protect their own. Tegan Warden knows that better than anyone. The Pack closed ranks around her years ago when her mate died, and much as she appreciates their support, it’s time to move on. That means dating—and for Tegan, it also means finding someone who understands her needs in the bedroom.
The dominant human may not be a wolf, but he makes Tegan shiver from their first encounter. He knows what she needs and doesn’t hesitate to give it to her. What’s more, they share a bond beyond sex. It’s been years since any man has made her feel so alive, so beautiful and desired.
But there’s an enemy working against the Cascadia Wolves, an enemy gathering forces to strike. The looming war is a threat to wolves and humans alike, and if they can’t stop it, the love that Tegan and Ben have worked so hard to find may not be enough to protect them from what’s coming.
This story blurb hinted at a bit of Domination/submission, and I had hopes for that, but I didn’t get far enough into the story to find out.
I ran into the exact same series arc problem that I had with Wolves Triad.
These books drop you right into the middle of a complex world, intertwined relationships and power structures without any of the little hints that make it possible to jump into the series and enjoy one of the later books.
Because the writing IS solid and the characters ARE fantastic with Lauren Dane’s writing to boot, the series is probably worth reading, but definitely wait until you can start at book one so you have a chance of understanding what the heck is going on.
Just don’t expect polyamory in the series, ’cause it doesn’t have it, no matter what the blurbs say. From what I saw it has romance, great characters, solid writing, what I have to assume is well-designed, intricate world-building based on how confusing I found the books I had access to, but polyamory it doesn’t.
Wolf Unbound is available here:
Apparently the first book in the series is Pack Enforcer. Also a gorgeous cover, and this is the couple/tri-bond that I mentioned above in Wolves Triad, the one I couldn’t understand why the three of them couldn’t be together, maybe it’s explained here, but I won’t be buying it to find out. If the library ever gets them in, I’ll pick it up and see.
This wolf mates for life…
Nina Reyes knows trouble when she sees it, and Lex Warden, Enforcer for the local werewolf pack, is nothing but. When her brother gets in too deep with some dangerous wolves and comes to Nina for help—dragging super alpha protector Lex into her life—she can handle it. She might have put her grifter past behind her, but she’s still got what it takes. If only she didn’t find Lex—his body, his scent, even his domineering nature—so intoxicating.
As Enforcer, it’s Lex’s job to protect his people. Nina might be more capable of handling herself than he initially thought, but that doesn’t mean she’s safe from their enemies. His need to protect her is more than just pack business—Nina, a human, is his mate. Bedding her once is not even close to enough; to satisfy his wolf, he needs a true bond.
The heat between them scares Nina, but sometimes the reward is worth the risk, and the thought of living without Lex terrifies her more than any threat the werewolf mafia can pose. Lex will do anything to keep her safe. And when the Rogues catch up to them, he’ll get a chance to prove it…
The rest of the series blurbs will show up on Lauren’s page, though they aren’t all there yet.
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