There’s nothing like a fresh start, and for Randy, still nursing wounds left by a cheating ex and harboring a deep mistrust for all things corporate, Wolf, Wyoming seems like the perfect place to start over. Secluded, quiet, and self-sufficient, Wolf is bound to not only inspire, but to bring Randy the peace he needs. The view’s not bad, either.
Vaughn O’Connell and his family are Randy’s only neighbors for miles, and while Randy knows it’s somewhat unlikely that a man with three kids is gay, it doesn’t hurt to look. When a misunderstanding brings Randy face to face with both Vaughn and his eighteen year old son, Lyle, Randy’s not sure what to feel about either of them.
But things are not what they appear in Wolf, and the closer Randy gets, the stranger the O’Connell family seems…
Three years ago Lyle made a mistake that cost him his freedom, and almost his life. Now, sick to death of watching his father love the man that Lyle wanted, Lyle accepts an offer to leave Wolf, WY behind and see what life in Washington, D.C. can do for him instead.
When Lyle comes across a seductive, attractive stranger with a fascinating yet terrifying view of humanity, he’s more than intrigued. It doesn’t take Lyle long to realize that Arius isn’t just playing games, though, and when Lyle runs across a secret in Arius’ lair he has no choice but to flee, even knowing his actions will enrage Arius.
On the run, with only a psychic’s second sight and his own instinct to help him, Lyle has nowhere to go but home. The only question is, will they have him when he shows up.
Karen: After I read Wolf WY, and realised it was going to be part of a series, I was so excited, I think I said to anyone who would listen that Wolf WY was different take on the traditional wolf shifter trope. The writing and descriptions of the town called Wolf initially were enough to do this, but the relationship between Vaughan and his family, and then with Vaughn, Randy and Vaughan’s family really did it for me.
So while we all bought Wolf WY, a big thank you to Megan at Less Than Three for the Arc of Wolf En Garde.
Miki: I agree. Karen recommended it to us and as a regular reader of shifter books, even if I was initially seduced by the blurb and Karen’s strong recommendation, I didn’t think it could be any different to the many shifter books that you can find out there. I was even reading another wolf shifter m/m book at the same time. But these books did something new to the typical wolf shifter trope. They take it, exploit it, and deliver a very different story.
Fra: Karen’s heartfelt recommendation was really spot on. I got totally hooked on Wolf WY and I am delighted that we got an advanced copy of Wolf En Garde.
And yes, shifter books are not a new thing and by all means there’ll be more and yet these two absolutely managed to deliver a very different kind of story.
Karen: Traditional shifter books seem to rely heavily on the ideas of pack and pair bonding, claiming and ‘mine’, what Henley doesn’t do is ignore them but takes them down a slightly different , more realistic path. Pack is family, but a nuclear one. There is definitely pair bonding, but it’s inconvenient, and there is just a hint of ‘mine’ but no subservience.
Miki: Absolutely. I think this books are more subtle. More delicate and profound in what really means to be a wolf shifter. They are less superficial, like you say, that all the other stories that sustain the narrative exclusively in all the possessiveness and “destined mate”. I like the shifter trope, but I don’t find many books outside the “comfort zone” of the writer.
Fra: I agree with you both. The exploration of pack dynamics came from a completely different angle. The family is seen as pack and the pack dynamics are in a way the family dynamics where the Alpha is being challenged by a beta pretty much like teenage Lyle challenges Vaughn.
I admit that Lyle teenage brattiness really did it for me. The author does an absolutely brilliant job in both books of showing us the angst and the growing pains of the teenage Lyle. Both figuratively and literally shifting easily between the awkwardly assured 18 year old Lyle and his wolf. Even the painful description of Lyle’s shifting is a greatly written counterpoint to Lyle’s angsty challenge to his father. Really well done.
Karen : In Wolf WY the story is told from Randy’s perspective, and so while we the readers, realise that Vaughan at the very least is a shifter, Randy doesn’t have a clue – he sees Vaughan initially as controlling and rude and does not understand why he is behaving the way he does. This is complicated by Lyle, Vaughan’s 18 year old son, who is rebelling on a human and a wolf level, and who Randy is initially attracted to. And while Randy sorts himself out pretty quickly, Lyle, in his hormonal haze, does not.
Miki: and this “we know something that one of the characters doesn’t” trope is very well done. It is believable and you can feel the tension and identify with Randy and his confusion. Also, Lyle is a teenager and that´s very well portrayed too, all mixed up with the wolfy thing. And I liked that his story is not closed at the end.
Fra: I loved the fact that Randy was completely unawares of what exactly was going on. The dialogues between Randy and Vaughn pre reveal are priceless; by all means they are having a meaningful conversation they are just not talking about the same things! With Randy centering every word on his own set of beliefs and experiences and Vaughn basically talking on a completely different plane than Randy I thought the author delivered quite a narrative punch there and pretty much excelled at the show don’t tell tenet of all good fiction.
I also appreciated Randy’s reaction to the discovery: shock, denial and avoidance which I pretty much think would be the natural reaction in a situation like this.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Randy coming to terms with Vaughn’s being in a urban environment rather than in Wolf WY itself. I did think the author did a great job at building the world and the environment the characters act in introducing different supernatural elements against different backgrounds.
The wolves in WY have space to roam if not necessarily freedom and the vampires in the city merge flawlessly in the urban landscape.
Karen : The ending of Wolf WY sees Randy making a huge change is in his behaviour, recognising that some things are worth fighting for, but also leaves the situation with Lyle in a very precarious position. At the start of Wolf en Garde the family has settled down, but Lyle is still convinced of his affection for Randy.
In Wolf WY I really felt for Lyle, but I was so frustrated by his intransigence and how it was clearly affecting everyone else that I wanted to shake him, and really wondered how Vaughan in particular could tolerate his behaviour.
Karen: Wolf en Garde sees Lyle grow up, I really don’t want to spoiler this book, but the levels of manipulation, then love and trust were brilliant. Whereas Wolf WY was on one level a classic love story, Wolf En Grade is more coming of age and , I really hope, leads into more understanding of the other paranormals who live in plain sight.
Miki: I think the second installment is a natural continuation of the first book because it focuses on new aspects. But it was necessary the first part to be able to go beyond. And Lyle´s growing up I think is the best way to do it.
Fra: Yes! Wolf En Garde had this atmosphere of a classic coming of age story including the moving of the main action plot away from the location of the first book and into a completely different setting.
Lyle’s coming of age is punctuated by manipulation, a healthy dose of self discovery and the awareness that comes from realising what is really important by having to defend its very existence. Once again the plot was delivered with elegant, descriptive writing and it is at all possible I liked this book even more than the first one.
It is in fact very difficult to review Wolf En Garde without giving away major plot points. We highly recommend both books; there’s love and romance, discovery of the other and acceptance of it, the paranormal elements are counterpointed by the narrative coming of age of one of the main characters and the growth – through self doubt – of the others. There’s subversion of oppressive rules, paranormal elements against urban and rural settings. Ultimately there’s a sympathetic look at how family changes set against a pack’s dynamics.
Very well done indeed, and a big shout out to Raphael for the gorgeous covers.
Buy the books here :Less Than 3 Press