Rating: 3.75 stars
Shifter Liam, human Travis and his daughter Hannah are still trying to settle into the new living arrangement as one happy family. Liam adores Hannah and is quickly falling in love with Travis, the man he rescued from living on the streets, along with his daughter. Travis too finds himself falling for the shifter with the icy blue eyes who protects them both so lovingly and is paying for him to attend university. But trouble is brewing from within Liam’s back and Hannah, the 2 year old human is the focus of all the discord.
Hannah can see all the shifters in their true form and calls them all “puppies” because that is what she sees when she looks at them. And that can be a problem when you are trying to hide from the human society you live in. Plus there is that all bogeyman tale of human Hunters that could see the shifters in their human form and know they were wolves. The pack is not ready to find out whether it is truth or fairy tale, they just want the little girl dealt with. Can their new family succeed and thrive when all around them want the family broken apart and the child to disappear?
Pack Business is a continuation of the Pine Hollow Wolves series started with Almost Paradise. The story begins 6 months after the end of Almost Paradise. Liam, Travis, and Hannah are living together in Liam’s house with his two Mastiffs, Lucy and Ethel. They are really starting to feel as though they are a family, and adorable Hannah is the child that Liam never thought he would have as a gay man and shifter. Travis has started back at school, and everyone is happy, mostly.
Ricci’s wonderful characters that drew me in to start with are all back and flourishing. I fell in love with Liam, Travis and Hannah immediately and became invested in their future so I was very excited to see where the story is going. Liam’s pack is an interesting one where the Alpha is almost two wolves, powerful twin brother and sister who also happen to be African American, a rarity within the shifter universe. Samson and Evangeline are two strong characters that you want more of, including their backstory, especially Evangeline. I love Evangeline. She is strong, charismatic and independent and her brother, the Alpha, loves her and depends on her judgement and strength. Less is known about her brother but I believe that is intentional. At least I hope so because i can see glimpses of Samson that just cry out for his own story.
Pack Business also starts to address the fact that Hannah can “see” the true wolf form of every shifter she meets when they are in their human shape. How do you explain to other people when a 2 year old continues to call you “puppy”? Staying hidden is to be achieved at all costs and to some that cost is Hannah’s life. Additionally, Ricci introduces a shifter legend or their own version of a Grimm fairy tale in which long ago there was a group of humans called Hunters who possessed the ability to identify a shifter on sight. These Hunters used their ability to kill every shifter they found. But as the author tells it, not even the shifters are sure if this is fact or fiction. With each new element, Ricci ups the anxiety and uncertainty about Liam and Travis’s ability to keep Hannah safe and happy.
I really love this series but recognize that there are several aspects that will not set well with other readers. One is the fact that if you have not read the first book in the series, not much of this story will make sense, In fact , Pack Business has more the feel of a really long chapter than a separate book on its own. To be a satisfying read that deserves a four star rating, this book should be folded in right after Almost Paradise, and read together. Then it makes sense and becomes an even more compelling read.
Another is that the wolf shifters here are of the I Dream of Jeannie school of shifters. Blink, they are human, blink and they are wolves sort of thing. I will admit to a certain niggling little sarcastic voice in the back of my head that goes “Really? And their clothes reassemble too?” I like this story enough to kind of overlook this but I will admit to preferring the more sensible bone jarring, skin stretching, more realistic form of shifting. It just is more agreeable to the naturalist in me.
I find the Pine Hollow Wolves series to be so captivating, so full of promising glimpses into future stories, that I am willing to shove my quibbles with the books into the background. I want to see what happens with Hannah and her gift/curse. Are Hunters in fact, real? And is Hannah is a Hunter, what will happen when a Hunter is raised by a wolf pack? This element just cries out for a YA book, don’t you think? With Hannah as the heroine? And there is Liam ready to leave the pack and his financial security for Travis and Hannah. And Evangeline, with her divided loyalties? I can go on and hope that Caitlin Ricci does so as well, while answering all the questions that keep popping into my mind.
This is a short book, only 110 pages and it cries out for a much longer length. But I will take a sequel no matter how long or short it may be. I am now fully invested in these characters and their future. I need to know what happens to them and that is wonderful story telling.
Lee Tiffin is the cover artist and this cover is just as adorable as the family pictured. It works both as a cover for this book and to brand the series.
Books in the Pine Hollow Wolves series in the order they were written and should be read, one immediately after the other:
Almost Paradise (Pine Hollow Wolves #1)
Pack Business (Pine Hollow Wolves #2)