Apparently I’m late to the party, because Midnight Wolf, the first in the Shifter’s Unbound series that I’ve read is actually number eleven chronologically (not including novellas). Oops? While it definitely seems like paranormals have faded into the general romance backdrop, there are still several series (because aren’t they always series?) that stand out, and I’m now into this one. Midnight Wolf and the series it belongs to stand out because of the world building variation within – shifters are known and registered, assigned to shiftertowns (read: ghettos), collared (which shock them when they get too aggressive), and highly monitored. Plus, even though this is a later book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. Which is great because, again, I’ve not yet read any of the others.
Angus Murray, the titular wolf, lives in the New Orleans shiftertown where he works as a bouncer. At least, that’s what he’s doing until he’s approached by some suits from the Shifter bureau and given the task of tracking down a mysterious, missing, and possibly murderous shifter. Angus wants nothing to do with the bureau, but he doesn’t have much choice – they have his son, Ciaran. There’s nothing he won’t do for his family, so Angus is off to track down one Tamsin Calloway, an unknown, uncollared shifter, and turn her over to the bureau. The thing is, it doesn’t take long for Tamsin to wiggle her way under Angus’ skin, and now the two of them and his son are on the run.
Tamsin isn’t like anyone Angus already knows – she’s spontaneous, cunning, and a complete mystery to him. He’s not even sure what animal she shifts into, just that it’s small and fast. It isn’t until she’s injured that he discovers she’s a fox shifter, something he’s never heard of before. As he helps and gets to know her, Angus comes up with an alternate plan to both get his son back and keep Tamsin’s freedom. At the same time, he’s starting to fall for her. Tamsin is almost immediately drawn to Angus, though she definitely takes longer to start to give him her trust.
The whole über-alpha male thing has never really done it for me, but somehow the author manages to balance Angus’ very-much-alpha-male characteristics and his inner marshmallow. He’s a good guy who cares about his family and friends, and about doing what’s right, and he immediately helps Tamsin – even before he falls for her – because it’s the right thing to do. He’s a wolf, dangerous, a tracker, and 100% badass, but feels deeply, loves his son, and blushes about sex. He’s a man of few words but he’s good with the ones he picks. And as a character, he’s perfectly matched by Tamsin, a badass in her own right, but not in that chichéd ‘one of the guys’ way. She’s fast, smart and cunning, like the fox she shifts into, and there is more to her than meets the eye. She fits well into the little family, determined to protect Ciaran, but also ensuring he has a bit more freedom, some time to spend as an actual kid.
I do have two little gripes overall. For one, Tamsin’s hidden abilities smack of the deus-ex-machina. Why is she so special? How has no one heard of this before? Plus the overarching story of a Fae war that is (apparently) in the background of the whole series is just.. there. It doesn’t feel like it’s part of the story, just a bit of backdrop, like a historical mystery with a horse and carriage, or a fantasy with magic. It’s just there.
Midnight Wolf is an interesting take on the paranormal romance, though, and the writing is strong, so I’m all for reading more in the series.