Review of Almost Paradise (Pine Hollow Wolves #1) by Caitlin Ricci

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Liam Glass is on a errand for the Alpha of his pack, Sampson.  His mission?  To buy gifts for  Evangeline, Sampson’s twin sister and equally powerful wolf.  With him are his two young Neapolitan Mastiffs, Lucy and Ethel.  As he is finishing his business at the jewelry shop they frequent, a frazzled man enters with his young daughter.  The stranger is looking for work when his daughter notices the dogs with squeals of joy.  Everything about the man and his daughter speaks to Liam’s inner wolf and his need to protect them both.

Travis and his daughter, Hannah, have been left in dire financial straights after paying off the lawyers in his custody case. After winning his case, Travis was forced to sell everything he owned to pay the bills.  All his attempts to find a job have met with failure when he and Hannah walk into a shop on their way back to the hotel. When an attractive customer in the shop offers Travis hundreds of dollars to watch his dogs for the weekend, he accepts the offer without question as it means a roof over their heads and food to eat however temporary the security is for their small family.

When Sampson calls and orders Liam immediately to leave the city on pack business, Liam uses his need for someone to care for his dogs as a means to aid Travis and Hannah without offending the man’s pride.  Then he realizes that Hannah can see his true self and everything changes. Liam must protect Hannah and tell Travis the truth.  But will Travis be able to accept the fact that Liam isn’t human and cost Hannah the security she needs?

Almost Paradis is a short story full of neat twists on wolf shifters and serves as a great introduction to characters in the new Pine Hollow Wolves series.  Where to start? Liam and his pack are chock full of intriguing characters  in a pack structure that appears to be  a little different from those  I have gotten in other shifter books.  For starters their Alpha, Sampson, has a twin sister who is he equal in power, dominance, and statue. And while the author  doesn’t come right out and say it, I believe the Alpha and his sister are both black (a diversity lacking in other shifter  tales).  She is also “the tallest woman” Travis has ever seen with an outrageous love of jewelry and sense of humor.  I can’t wait to get more of her character and her brother’s if she is anything to go by.  I also fell in love with Liam as well.  Who wouldn’t love a wolf shifter with two Mastiffs pups he has named Lucy and Ethel and obviously adores? Elegant and comfortable with who he is as a wolf high in status with his pack, he still loves children and falls under Hannah’s spell immediately.  I loved their interaction as well.

Travis is heartbreaking as a father who has given up everything he owns to win custody of his daughter only to see themselves made virtually homeless, with no support system and no income to rely on.  He and Hannah are statistics all too common in today’s economic reality.  Travis is totally believable right down to the bags of washed and unwashed clothing in the hotel room.  Those who might scoff at a father getting into a car with a stranger who offers food, shelter and money have no idea how desperation effects a persons actions.  In this case, Travis got lucky, he and Hannah bring out the protective instinct in Liam as well as feed Liam’s desire to have children.  Then there is Hannah, a totally endearing tot as well as Lucy and Ethel, the Neapolitan Mastiffs with personalities to match their size.

There is no case of instant love here which I appreciate.  It is definitely a case of HFN and Travis asks for certain rights and promises before he agrees to Liam’s proposal.  I was so happy to see that this book serves as a expositional setup for the additional books to come. I will eagerly await the arrival of Pine Hollow Wolves #2 and the chance to reacquaint myself with Liam, Travis, Hannah, Evangeline and the rest.

Cover: Artist Lee Tiffin.  I love this cover.  How cute is the father/daughter duo?  This would be perfect except that the animal on the cover is a Husky and not a wolf.  How could the artist make that mistake I don’t know but it takes the whole cover down several notches.  They should have done their homework, put a wolf on the cover, and then this would have been one of my Best Cover of the Month.