Cade Warden is the Alpha of the Cascadia Pack. Feeling what it’s like to have a mate secondhand through his anchor bond to Nina, his brother Lex’s mate, is no longer enough for him. He’s lonely and wants a mate of his own, but it’s still a surprise, to say the least, when she turns out to be Grace Pellini, the sister of his biggest enemy.
Grace hasn’t had a real home and Pack for years. Even now, she's only gotten closer to her brother again in order to spy on him and analyze the dangerous virus he’s been testing out on random humans and werewolves. Although she hasn't yet managed to create a vaccine, she finally has enough info to help the National Aligned Packs in their war against her brother and his people. Her plans to continue spying on her brother are derailed when she realizes that Cade is her mate. Grace may have finally found the home and family she’s been longing for, if Cade’s pack members will accept her, and if they all manage to survive this war.
I need to state upfront that this is Book 5 in Dane’s Cascadia Wolves series, and I haven’t read the previous four books. It was pretty clear that I’d missed out on a lot of character relationship developments and details about how the war got started. Based on reviews I’ve read, I gather that at least one of the previous books had a lot more info about Cade, Nina, Lex, and probably several of the other wolves. Also, world details that would be familiar to those who'd read the other books took me by surprise (to put it mildly).
I was willing to ignore the gaps in my knowledge about Cade, Nina, and Lex. They felt like characters with a lot of history. However, I’m pretty sure Grace was a new addition to the series, and I felt that Dane could have given her more page-time before sending her off to meet Cade. It was jarring how quickly she and Cade went from being complete strangers to having lots and lots of sex. And yes, I know this is a thing in soulmate stories, but dang. Grace was the sister of Cade’s biggest enemy, and he trusted her instantly. He was calling her “honey” after having known her for, at best, a few hours.
Lex’s more cautious attitude and Nina’s outright hostility were both more believable. That said, I felt that Nina and Grace became friends way too quickly considering the situation. Which brings me to a world-related detail I wasn’t particularly fond of: anchor bonds.
I assume one of the earlier books explained anchor bonds and why they were necessary, but this one didn’t. All I know is that they seemed to be an excuse for threesomes. The female of a newly mated pair has to form an anchor bond with another male whose power levels are similar to those of her mate, or something like that, and the anchor bond involves having sex with that other male. Her mate can either be there or not, and Cade chose to be there. Cade knew the other werewolf, but Grace didn’t, so it was basically her having sex with a stranger while Cade helped things along. So very not my cup of tea.
Grace was jealous of Nina, Cade’s anchor bond, which I felt was perhaps a bit unfair but also understandable. Grace had only just met Cade and wouldn’t have had the kind of history with Cade that Nina had. However, everybody kept saying that Grace would understand once she had her own anchor bond. Never mind that the other guy was a stranger to her, while Cade had known Nina for a while. And the thing was, people were pretty much right - Grace developed a magical bond to this complete stranger that, while not as strong as her bond to her mate (as readers were repeatedly reminded), helped her understand and be less jealous of Cade and Nina’s closeness (which readers and Grace were also told only involved sex just the one time).
All right, moving on. The story itself was mediocre - mostly Grace and Cade having sex, Grace dealing with her insecurities about Nina and her worries that Cade wouldn’t like her small breasts, characters snarking at each other, and Grace working on a vaccine. Grace’s work was so vaguely described that I found myself wondering if Dane had done any research at all on virology and how vaccines are developed.
The writing was not good. There were cringe-worthy phrases and word choices, like this:
“She danced around like she had to use the bathroom.” (39)This was intended to indicate Grace’s urgent desire for the upcoming sex scene. Okay then.
Later, Grace, an ER doctor, referred to Cade’s penis as his “doo-dad” (59), never mind that she was able to use the word “dick” just a few sentences prior. And Cade called her nipples “juicy and puffy” (59) during sex. I started skimming the sex scenes at that point.
I also had problems with Dane's comma usage, which led to lots of sentences like this one:
“She’d always felt like a boy, her breasts were small, for a wolf she was especially diminutive, just barely five feet two.” (41)The writing either needed to be tightened up a lot, or Dane needed to stop using commas like periods. Considering how repetitive parts of the book were, the former probably would have been best.
All in all, this book didn’t work for me at all. My issues with the writing and the anchor bond thing make it unlikely that I’ll try another one of Dane’s works.