Review of Splintered Lies (In The Shadow of the Wolf #3) by Diane Adams and RJ Scott

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

When cop Joe Christie’s shifter wife and unborn child died, a part of him died with them.  Since their deaths, he has just been going through the motions of life, running on his own in wolf form and avoiding all former friends and partners, including Nick.  That would be Nickolas Alexander, Joe’s former best friend and lover before his marriage to Mara.  Once Joe married Mara, Nick stepped back from their lives and away from Joe.  But Nick has continued to love Joe all through his marriage to a woman that he grew to like as well. And when Mara and their unborn child was killed, Nick stood by Joe as the shattered man tried to cope with their loss and failed.

One piece of information about the ongoing investigation into criminal acts against the shifter population shocks Nick to the core and then galvanizes Joe into action.  Mara and Joe’s unborn child were the recipients of an illegal drug and unknowingly part of a criminal experiment on female wolf shifters and their babies.  They were killed to get rid of evidence of the experiments not in a car accident as Joe and the others had been told. Only two others of their group know the truth and when Nick tells Joe how Mara really died, Joe explodes in rage, determined to find and kill the people responsible.

With Rob, Sam, Doug, and Jamie to help, Nick and Joe set out to find the truth behind the torture, kidnapping and deaths of the shifters.  Nick tries to keep his love for Joe quiet but working next to him in the investigation is unbelievably hard.  And Joe is also finding  that the love and lust he thought he had buried when he married Mara is coming back in full force.  Will his guilt and love for his dead wife make any future with Nick impossible?  And will the conspiracy to kill wolf shifters mean their deaths as well.

Splintered Lies (In The Shadow of the Wolf #3) completes the investigation into a wolf shifter conspiracy that started with Shattered Secrets (In The Shadow of the Wolf #1) and continued in Broken Memories (In The Shadow of the Wolf #2). All the couples from the first two stories are back as well as the auxiliary characters who are now the main characters here, Joe and Nick.  There is a conspiracy aimed at the destruction of wolf shifters.  Shifters have been captured, kidnapped and tortured, experimented on and then killed but the investigations into each case has proven that the leadership behind the criminal acts goes higher than anyone had anticipated, reaching into the top levels of the government itself. Authors Adams and Scott more than accomplish their goals in giving the reader a horrifying mystery to solve as each new angle or case makes the conspiracy behind it even more terrifying in scope.  Before we had abused wolves who can’t or won’t shift back, cases of multiple rapes and prostituted shifters, now it is revealed that pregnant wolf shifters and their fetuses have  been the subject of gruesome experiments.  And when those experiments have failed, the subjects have been deposed of, including Mara and their unborn child.  The subject matter alone here raises the horror factor considerably and thankfully most of the experimentation has been left to the reader’s imagination.  Again, this is such a huge element of the series and it is very well crafted.  Splintered Lies brings the hunt for the people behind the atrocities to a conclusion that is 99 percent satisfying as not all of those who participated are counted for at the end.  Are they setting us up for another book?  It would seem so.

More problematic are the characters of Joe Christie and Nick Anderson.  Joe is lost in his grief over the death’s of Mara and their child. And all the emotions he is going through seemed grounded in reality.  You can feel how shattered he is,  how his grief has immobilized him in his loss. But when it comes to the backstory of his and Nick’s earlier relationship, you want to know what was the pivotal point that made Joe choose Mara over his very real love for Nick.  Over and over Joe reveals how guilty he felt over dumping Nick for Mara and that Nick still appeared in his dreams but the reader never understands why Joe felt the need to make the choice he did and that serves as a huge disconnect between the reader and this character.  How can the reader mourn the loss of Joe and Nick’s relationship is it never feels completely real to begin with? Then there is Nick who in his love for Joe steps back and away from the man he loves.  He says he understood Joe, but again, we never feel either his passion for Joe or the bargain he made with himself.  Nick just comes across as way too passive with regard to his past with Joe.  Ultimately, while the confused sexual tension between the men had a certain gravity to it, the rest of it felt flimsy in its construction.  So while I liked the characters I never bought into a loving connection between them and the story suffered from it.

An intriguing angle I wish had been more throughly explored was the idea of  shifter assimilation versus shifter integration into human society. Sam posed that part of Joe’s behavioral problems was that he was trying to act “human”, from his method of dealing with his grief to crowded human conditions.  I loved this concept.  It came about  very late in the book and has so many great elements to it, so many places you could go with it that I wish it had been the focus of the story or  maybe the central idea behind its own series.  Again I felt like it was given short shrift but maybe that’s on purpose.  I certainly hope so because an exploration of what it means to be a wolf shifter in a human society could certainly benefit from another great perspective or even two.

So if you love shifters, add this series to books that you should read.  I adored two out of the three couples but the rest of the book has so many good elements that I don’t think it should be missed either.

Here are the In The Shadow of the Wolf books in the order they should be read in order to understand the long reaching plot and characters:

Shattered Secrets #1

Broken Memories #2

Splintered Lies #3

Another splendid series cover by Reese Dante

 

Review of With or Without Series by JL Langley

Standard

ating: 5 stars for the series

My first introduction to JL’s shifters came when I picked up the Hearts From The Ashes anthology and read With Love, the first in Langley’s shifter series.  It featured a young clutzy Omega wolf named Laine Campbell who was perpetually in hot water over things he said or creating chaos with the things he did.  Everything about Laine was adorable, from his hair to his manner of speech and I fell in love immediately.  So did Dev, the Alpha wolf moving to Ashton with his betas and business partners.  He was hooked on Laine and I was hooked on Dev.  I could not believe it when the story was over. I wanted more shifters, specifically I wanted JL’s shifters and I wanted them now. This is a reoccurring theme with JL Langley’s books so be prepared.

Then came Without Reservations in 2007 and my addiction was official.  Without Reservations is the story of Chayton Winston, a veterinarian living in New Mexico.  He is also a shifter and all his life he has been dreaming of a fair haired mate, much to his Native American  parents chagrin.  His entire life Chay has considered himself heterosexual until an injured wolf is brought into his office.  The wolf is a gorgeous male shifter and his mate.  He is also Caucasian something he is sure his mother will never accept.

Keaton Reynolds wakes up in a veterinarian ‘s office to find himself injured and being treated by his mate.  He should be overjoyed except he just got out of a relationship from a shifter who had a girlfriend on the side but also said he was Keaton’ mate.  Keaton is not one to repeat his mistakes and a hetero shifter is not someone he wants to take a chance on, no matter what his body and even his heart may think.  But Chay won’t give up on Keaton and finally Keaton agrees to get to know Chay better.  And slowly they start to build a relationship together.  But there is Chay’s mother’s disapproval to overcome and a power struggle in Keaton’s Georgia pack that threatens them both.  How will they overcome the odds to find the happiness they both deserve?

I reread this book all the time.  Chayton Winston and Keaton Reynolds are such wonderful creations that I return to their story time and again.  Chayton is one of the nicest people you will meet in the author’s novels.  He is both elementally patient and rock solid in his beliefs so that when presented with a man as a mate, he accepts it.  If it switches his sexuality over to gay, ok as long as he gets his mate, something no wolf shifter would ever turn down.  And you believe this paradigm shift absolutely as being in character for Chayton because he is so real from the moment we meet him.  Keaton also engages our hearts and affections with his prickly nature  and forceful personality packed into a slight build.  A small white wolf, he has the personality and power of an Alpha without needing to lead. Keaton would rather teach and help educate so the fact that his mate would be a healer, a veterinarian makes complete sense.  JL Langley surrounds these two with people as authentic and believable as they are and gives us a mystery to boot.  Just an outstanding novel.

With Caution came next.  It remains my favorite of the series and again one I read over and over again.  With the characters of Remington Lassiter and Jake Romero, JL brings a level of complexity and depth to her characterizations that I had not seen before.  And added to our main characters, she introduces us to the rest of the men who will become their pack.  Each man is a unique unforgettable creation as they sit astride their motorcycles and roar into our hearts.  Remy is a shifter we meet in Without Reservations and he makes a rather disastrous first impression upon us in that story.  But here we discover the dark background that surrounds him in shocking detail as well as the reasons for his actions.

There are parts of this novel so bleak and despairing your hearts will bleed for Remy and his brother Sterling  even as our hero bleeds out from the abuse.  Remy’s sexuality and his acceptance of a male mate is a huge part of this story and his past as well.  I cannot give Langley enough credit for the sensitive way she deals with child abuse and recovery as an adult.  There is also a murder mystery to be solved, and the exploration of a naturally submissive nature.  There is some mild bdsm that works beautifully within the plot of the story and the glimpses of new couples, mates, for future stories.  One couple in particular has had the fans clamoring for their story since this book was published.  This story has depth, multi-layered characters and a multitude of themes running through it, not the least of which is how Reservaton law can also isolate the members it is supposed to protect, control issues and child abuse.  Heavy themes indeed but this book is also packed with love and redemption.  With Caution is an incredible read you won’t want to put down.

Next comes a series of free stories that can be found on the Fiction With Friction website until JL Langley’s site is back up and running.  These are in order:

A Lot To Be Thankful For (With or Without Series 3.1) Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (the fans just wouldn’t shut up for their story)

A Sterling New Year (With or Without Series 3.2)  with Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (love, love these two and so will you, get on the bus)

With Abandon (With or Without #4) brings back Aubrey Reynolds and the rest of the Georgia pack that we met in Without Reservation.  Aubrey is Keaton’s brother and our introduction to him in Without Reservation was not exactly a positive one.  Matt Mahihkan, one of Gadget’s sons from With Caution is back and going to college in Georgia. Matt was a quirky young man who we got to know only superficially but JL Langley brings him together with  Aubrey Reynolds and that combination sparks all sorts of problems not the leasts of which is that Aubrey is not out to his family or the pack. And Matt is not only out and proud but turns out he is Aubrey’s mate. It took me a while to like Aubrey, perhaps some of that was left over emotions from Without Reservation.  But his reluctance to accept Matt officially as his mate made him hard to like.  He has to grow on you, something none of the other characters has had to do.  Matt, of course, is absolutely adorable and we entrust our affections with him from the get go.  And with Matt, comes some of the members of the New Mexico pack we have come to love as well.

Next come three free short stories in succession. I am convinced JL Langley thought the fans would be showing up on her doorstep if she didn’t at least throw them all several bones. I will admit to being one of them:

Christmas Dinner at Reynolds Hall (With or Without, #4.1)

Attack of the Killer Dust Bunnies (With or Without, #4.2) 

Christmas Cookies and Garland (With or Without, #4.3)

So what and who are coming next?  That would be Sterling and Rhys.  This is the story everyone has been yelling for, myself included. I believe JL Langley said it will be done in a few month from now but isn’t sure when it will be published. That will depend upon Samhain Publishing’s schedule.  Be still my heart.

Without Fear (With or Without series #5) – coming from Samhain Publishing.

So that’s JL Langley’s shifters in a nutshell.  I am not sure I did them justice.  Shifters of all species hit my buttons. Native American shifters hit them twice.  I don’t care if they are wolves, big cats or even weresloths of London (thank you, Charlie Cochrane for that memorable story).  But thinking back to the beginning, it all started with JL Langley’s wolves who come to life on the pages of the With and Without series, grabbed both my attention and my heart and have never let them go.  I have these books in paperback (prior to my Kindle) and I have them now in eBooks as well.  From their killer covers to their outstanding characters and plots, I return to them often.  To reacquaint myself with old friends and find comfort in their presence.

Some find JL Langley through her cowboys and others through her sci-Regency series.  I found her through her shifters.  If you are new to JL Langley as an author, try them all.  Start from the beginning of each series and work your way down.  You will find yourself with a new  addiction just as I did.  Write me. Let me know what you think. I will be waiting.