As a reader and a reviewer I try not to be too set in my ways, so every once in awhile I take a chance on an author I don’t recognize. Sometimes that leads me to a D or F review, but with Wolf Unleashed it most certainly paid off. While it may not have made DIK status, Wolf Unleashed hit on everything I like in a romance novel, keeping me hooked over the course of three days and 352 pages.
Alex Trevino is an alpha werewolf working on a SWAT team comprised of other alpha werewolves. In many stories this might have posed a problem since werewolf packs are often presented as having only one alpha; however, Ms. Taylor’s world is perfectly balanced, with the entire SWAT team operating as a family, a band of brothers who just happen to grow claws and pointy teeth when they’re grumpy. Together the pack is cleaning up the Dallas crime scene. Recently, this has involved helping the Dallas PD hunt down the dealers of Fireball, the latest and greatest drug on the streets.
Lacey Barton is a veterinarian whom Alex meets when he brings the team’s pet dog, Tuffie, in for a checkup. After seeing how careful she is with Tuffie, who was shot earlier in the year, and hearing her short impassioned outburst against dogfighting, Alex’s interest is piqued enough that he asks Lacey out. Although she turns him down, the poor guy can’t help coming back around every few days to ask her out again. Everything he learns about Lacey makes Alex like her more, until he begins to wonder in the back of his mind if she’s The One, that mythical one-in-a-billion soul mate that existed for every werewolf out there.
Lacey, of course, has no idea of Alex’s inner turmoil every time she tells him no. For her, it’s just a matter of self-protection and practicality to avoid dates. Her life is busy: her father left when she was twelve and her mother struggled with depression. As a result, Lacey practically raised her younger sister Kelsey, who is now attending college and living with Lacey while she finishes off her nursing course. In addition – and because of her past – Lacey has been hesitant to trust anyone, men in particular. She is also genuinely over-occupied since she is helping the Dallas PD with a dogfighting case as well as caring for her sister and working a full time job. She’s all set to continue turning Alex down… until she sees him volunteering at a local animal shelter. The timing and circumstances are enough to weaken her resolve, and suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a successful relationship she just doesn’t have the inclination to resist anymore.
I must say, I enjoyed the simplicity of this romance plot. Lacey has trouble with the new relationship, first because of her own hang-ups, and then because of Alex being a werewolf, while Alex is comfortable and ready for commitment from the start. But all of this feels natural and straightforward. Lacey is honest with Alex about her doubts, and he in turn respects her need for space when she is shocked by his werewolf form. Apart from the supernatural aspect, it’s the sort of healthy relationship I could imagine in real life, where the couple discusses and works through their issues rather than hiding behind them and creating huge misunderstandings.
Beyond the romance, though, I found myself caught up in the mystery plot. As the reader, you have a sense that the drugs and the dogfighting somehow fit together, but it’s not until the end that all the pieces gradually fall into place. This allows time to first get to know Alex and Lacey, and then the chance to see them at work and under some stress, where the foundation of their relationship grows stronger. Ms. Tyler manages to strike a nice balance between Lacey and Alex falling in love, and their increasingly dangerous jobs.
Based on the bits and pieces of prior stories that I encountered in this book—and in the reviews I’ve since read—I know that the other books in this series run along similar lines to Wolf Unleashed. I may not have room on my shelf for all of them, but I’m more than ready to begin hunting down Ms. Tyler’s backlist. This is a solid, well-written book which manages to be both interesting and delightfully realistic (even though the hero is a werewolf). I would definitely suggest it to anyone ready to dip a toe into the paranormal world.