I’m a huge fan of paranormals, especially when you mix in some romantic suspense. My gateway drug to romance was urban fantasy, after all, and the best urban fantasy novels, and the best romance novels, mix a little bit of everything together to make something new. They make use of the tropes without being boring or overdone. They are memorable. Unfortunately, this particular paranormal didn’t have the same effect on me.
Lieutenant Selena Jennay is a member of Alpha Force – a covert operations group working with the American military. A former teacher, what makes her special is not her training, but her innate ability – Selena is a wolf shapeshifter. In fact, the AF is made up primarily of shifters who use their enhanced abilities to give them an edge, along with a special elixir that allows them to shift at will while retaining human intelligence. The RCMP (Canadian Mounties!) have requested the assistance (and the special elixir) of the AF in forming their own group – the Canadian Alphas – in the wake of high-profile kidnappings. Sergeant Major Owen Dewirter, chosen to be the leader of the CAs, is not a shifter himself – in fact, knows about them and has a poor opinion of them. But he must work with Selena to get his new group of shifters in shape within the next few days to go after these kidnappers before they escalate to murder.
Unfortunately, even though they both know that Selena’s presence there is temporary, both she and Owen find themselves distracted by their attraction to one another. And while they deal with that, they also have to figure out who poisoned the special elixir, who knows about what the group is doing, how to find the kidnappers, and train the new recruits. And they are on an ever shortening deadline to get everything done.
The thing is, I’m finding it really hard to find much to say about this book. The actual issue that has the RCMP forming the Canadian Alpha group is never really addressed other than as a way to get the two lead characters into the same place. Owen’s history with shifters is briefly discussed, and then basically disappears without actually being dealt with – hates them one day, is amazed by them the next. And I find it hard to believe just watching someone shift would make that huge of a difference.
On top of that, a lot of the dialogue was incredibly repetitive. We heard at least five times how amazing Owen found it to watch the shifters change. We got it after the first. We don’t need to hear it four more times. We also get to hear multiple times about the importance of cover animals (more on that shortly.) It just felt like everything was being padded for word count, instead of using the plot and the characters to build out the story to the length needed.
There were some interesting aspects to the shifter plot that I hadn’t seen before. One small point is that Selena had a cover dog – a full-grown dog assistant (who doubled as a guard dog upon occasion) who was chosen and trained specifically because she looked like Selena’s wolf form. That way, if anyone happened to question the giant wolf-like creature prowling about, they could attribute it to the dog. Cool, huh? We also got to swap the shifters. Usually, I read about human females and male shifters, and the biggest part of the story is introducing the woman to this new world without terrifying them. Here, we have Owen, who already knows, and Selena, who certainly doesn’t go out of her way to make the uninitiated more comfortable in her presence. She has a job to do, and it’s not bringing people into the fold. Plus, the job she has, training the new recruits, fits in perfectly with her backstory as a teacher. The bits we get to see kinda read like an elementary school lesson, but I guess you have to start with the basics? Even with shifters?
Ultimately, though, I found this book to be forgettable – it wasn’t particularly bad, there wasn’t anything that made me rage-read or want to throw my reader across the room, but there wasn’t anything particularly special either. The biggest thing, as I said, was that the usual trope of shifter hero/human heroine was swapped. In the end, if you are a fan of the series, give it a shot. It’s also pretty easy to follow if you are jumping in with this one. I don’t think it’s something I would spend time seeking out, though. There are a lot more interesting versions of the same story out there.