The Heir Apparent's Rejected Mate
I’ve read four of Cate C. Wells books – this one, its predecessor The Tyrant Alpha’s Rejected Mate, Hitting the Wall, and the second book in that series (Stonecut County) Against A Wall. I’ve enjoyed them all – The Tyrant Alpha’s Rejected Mate is my favorite followed by Hitting the Wall. This book isn’t as strong as either of those but I liked and can recommend it, especially as part of the Five Packs series.
The Heir Apparent’s Rejected Mate is the second book in that series which features five different but connected wolf shifter packs. The pack in book one is the Quarry Pack which shuns human contact as much as possible. This book features the Moon Lake Pack, a pack that tries to be as human as possible based on the belief that the best way to survive with humans is to beat them at their own games. I confess to liking the dynamics of the Quarry Pack better than those of the Moon Lake Pack–the latter is less interesting simply because their motivations and thoughts are, in large part, very similar to our own.
Every paranormal world has its rules and in that of the Five Packs, the rule is that females choose their mates. Or rather their bodies choose–a female, when it’s time for her to go into heat, is suddenly triggered by the presence of her mate. From that moment on, until they mate which, yes, means just what you think it does, she’s repulsed by all other males and increasingly physically miserable. In both books, nature, the cruel matchmaker she is, pairs a female of very low rank with the leader of the pack who… promptly rejects her because she’s of very low rank. But a rule is a rule so, in each book, our star-crossed lovers have to figure out how to be together. Really, what happens is the stupid males too sold on their specialness come to realize the chick who has chosen them is perfect, not just for them but for the fate of the pack.
Wells’ heroes are, to a man, less interesting than her heroines. The male leads in the books that I’ve read–with the exception of Cash, from Against the Wall, are the leaders of their community, large and very strong, handsome, and somewhat clueless about what women want. I find them sexy–what can I say? There’s no accounting for taste!–but I’d much rather be in the heads of the Wells’ females all of who are fascinating. (All the books are narrated in dual voice.)
Rosie, this book’s low status lead, is a scavenger. In the Moon Lake Pack, the pack hierarchy is based on wealth and power. And, just like it is in the real world, those with money and power tend to think that those without just don’t try hard enough. The scavenger class is seen as the welfare class–they’re not smart enough or human enough or motivated enough to hold the human jobs the nobs in the pack do and they’re grudgingly supported with “donations.” Rosie and her friends–Wells does friend groups beautifully–spend their time scavenging, hunting for things they can use and trade, and, in general, being there for one another.
Rosie mostly scavenges for herbs. The pack’s witch–they’re supposed to call her a wise woman but hardly any does–the fabulous Abertha, chose Rosie as her apprentice when Rosie was a child. Years of combing the woods–Rosie has developed a grid system–for ashbalm, dragon’s tongue, and wolf’s bane have given her a deep connection to the land the Moon Lake pack occupies. She loves her family and is happy with her life until the day fate completely f*cks her over and pairs her with Cadoc Collins, the Moon Pack’s eventual leader–his father is the pack’s acting regent.
Cadoc is well-intentioned but patently idiotic about what his pack is really like. When the book begins, he’s bought into the bullsh*t that the scavengers are lazy morons and that being more human than human is the best thing he can do to take his pack safely into the future. When Rosie claims him – in the school dining room (they’re eighteen and nineteen), he’s sure the right thing to do is send her packing. They’re too mismatched–a scavenger and a future alpha–and it’s much better that he spend his time meeting with his staff about quarterly projections (the Moon Lake Pack make a lot of money) then listening to the bond that now beats in his chest and tells him to be with Rosie asap. His super obnoxious friends – think the nasty rich kids on every teen TV show ever–agree and, whenever they see Rosie, they’re nastier to her and her friends than usual which is really saying something.
But the bonds of true love – and profound sexual connection – must have their way and therein lies the novel. Here, however, it’s just not very novel. Cadoc is a good guy from the get go and the reader knows it’s just a matter of time before he claims Rosie and it’s a bit dull waiting around for him to do so. The parts of the books in his head left me impatient – come on, dude, follow your heart! Literally.
Fortunately, more than half the book is in Rosie’s head. Rosie is not just smart about what matters, she’s funny and insightful. She’s well aware that Cadoc doesn’t understand the true nature on the Moon Lake Pack – basically bad news for all concerned – and that if she could just ignore this stupid fated mate thing, her life is worthwhile. She may be younger than Cadoc but he’s blandly immature, whereas she has a finely honed emotional intelligence that gives her insights gravitas.
Even the Hamlet like secondary plot which is centered on whether or not Cadoc or his evil uncle will be rule the pack lacks oomph. Cadoc spends a lot of time training – beating up other shifters who’ve agreed to be his punching bags – futilely preparing for a fight he knows he’ll lose because his uncle, Alban, can flipswitch. Killian, the lead in book one could do this too. They’re the only two wolves in all the packs (that we know about thus far) who can instantly shift from wolf to man and back. The rest of the wolves all take time to shift which means that a flipswitching shifter could, while a wolf is trying to change to a man, for example, quickly become human and easily knife to death the still shifting wolf. Cadoc cannot do this and thus no matter how strong and agile he becomes, he’ll never be able to best his uncle in a fight. Cadoc frets about this again and again and again which, over time, gets old.
When Cadoc and Rosie are together, they’re cute. Cadoc is deeply protective of Rosie–a trait all Wells’ men have–and it’s fun to watch Rosie not give a sh*t. They have chemistry although not as much as I’d have liked–this book could have used more sex scenes because initially, an unshakably need to bone is all that bonds the two. Over time, however, as they learn more about each other, their emotional bond grows believably, making Cadoc a better man and Rosie able to still be true to herself and mated to the alpha heir.
Wells, in all her books, mines class well. She shows with a gimlet eye how poverty, almost always undeserved, is used against those with little by those with much. All her heroes–all of whom have money and power compared to their mates–have to relearn how to see the world with compassion and, even better, in order to earn the love of the person who is perfect for them, must make the larger world a fairer and better place for all. Her books are wonderfully ethically grounded even as they embrace heroes who begin their stories with profound flaws.
I’ll keep reading the Five Packs books = while this one isn’t my favorite, I enjoyed it and I’m curious to know where she’s going with the storylines that tie all the packs together. If I were grading the series thus far, I’d give it strong B+. Hanging out with Wells’ heroines is always a good time and her heroes are sexy. Book three, The Lone Wolf’s Rejected Mate, comes out later this year and, even though it’s an age-gap romance which is definitely not my thing, I’m looking forward to it.