Characters can often make or break a novel for me. Likeable, sympathetic characters can sometimes elevate a mediocre story and the opposite is definitely true as well. Distasteful characters can sound the death knell for what could have been a decent story. I’m afraid the latter is the case here.
The town of Fontana, North Carolina has seen a few packs of wolf shifters settle in its outlying areas. Werewolves are technically “out” to the world; however, they still face plenty of prejudice from the human population, some of whom see them as no better than animals. Ana Cordona suspects this may have led to the poisoning of her pack. All of the male shifters and the pregnant females perished rapidly, though the poison did not affect the females who were not pregnant. With no males left, Ana assumes the role of alpha that was left vacant by her father’s death.
Times are tough for the few remaining members of her pack. So when a neighboring werewolf pack’s alpha sets his sights on Ana as a mate, desiring to acquire her pack and her land, Ana is vulnerable. With few options available to her, it seems like a godsend when Connor Armstrong strides back into her life and wants to become her mate. She and Connor have a romantic history together, but Ana’s father sent Connor away believing he was not good enough for her. She does not realize this, however, so her feelings toward Connor are conflicted. On one hand, she still loves him. But on the other hand, she has trouble getting past her feelings of abandonment. And now Ana’s life is about to become even more complicated as she discovers members of her pack are being poisoned in a manner that is eerily reminiscent of the previous poisonings.
I was quite excited to read this book due to the female alpha angle. I thought it would make for some interesting conflicts as Ana mated and acquired new pack members, particularly male werewolves who were not used to taking orders from a female alpha. So I was beyond disappointed when she got together with Connor and relinquished her role as pack alpha. At that point Ana is basically relegated to the role of “little woman” while manly-man Connor makes all of the decisions and attempts to neutralize the threats to the pack. Yawn.
I found the book to be incredibly boring. I’m not sure the dialogue could have been more wooden if it had been performed by actual trees. Even the action scenes were dull. I felt like the author had not yet learned the importance in showing versus telling. For me, there was far too much telling about the characters’ emotional states and back stories. Not only that, but the telling was repetitive and the author’s points overstated. At the end of each paragraph it was like I was being hit over the head with yet another point that the author wished to make in case I couldn’t figure it out from the context of the scene. It was tedious and irritating. I’m convinced this is why it took me weeks to finish this book since I could only read five to ten pages as a time.
Not helping matters in the boring and irritating department was the character of Connor. He’s an alpha and the author never lets you forget it. He’s so alpha that other alphas tremble at his alphaness. He’s ruled almost entirely by his animal instincts, to the point that I felt like he had very tenuous self-control. He has such violent thoughts and impulses that I was uncomfortable with his character. He doesn’t get just turned on; he wants to ravage and possess Ana at every opportunity. He’s not just protective of her; he wants to rip apart any males that glance her way. I would think that the alpha of a pack would need to be in control of his emotions at all times. Connor is not and I could foresee this leading to disaster for their pack in the future.
In my opinion the worldbuilding was shoddy at best. I never figured out the difference between wolves being “mates” or “bondmates.” Somehow not all mates are bondmates. And bondmates are…well, I’m not entirely sure what they are but it must be important since Connor keeps talking about it. Then there is the wolves’ ability to communicate telepathically. Only a select few wolves can communicate in this manner. Connor can do so with his brother, probably because they are blood relatives. But then he discovers he can do so with Ana too. And then later some random wolf, with whom he can communicate in this matter, pops into a scene. The author “explains” this by having Connor state that he doesn’t know or care how and why this happens. You know what, Connor? At this point, neither do I.
I’m afraid that there was little in this story that I enjoyed. I appreciated the domestic scenes between Ana and her family as well as the ones between Ana and the young jaguar-shifter who is Connor’s ward. Unfortunately, these are few and far between in this story. Alpha Instinct is the first in the author’s new shifter series. Based upon this offering though, the series will continue without me as a reader.