I would rate this 2.5 stars.
When cops can’t get undercover in the LGBT frat house, Sheffield taps his brother Drew to help the police on their exotic animal smuggling case because he has a degree in animal psychology, specialising in felines…which the reader only finds out about later. Drew poses as someone in need of shelter, which the frat is know to help LGBT students with. This get weird, intense, and sexual right away with how Rylee acts when Drew arrives. What the reader is shown and told about Drew and sex at the beginning of the book conflicts entirely with the second half of the book. For instance, while Drew does allude in his thoughts to an abusive past at the beginning of the book, he was horny because he hasn’t had sex in two years and wonders if seducing Rylee is a good idea to get evidence. If this is because the fated mate trope is supposed to override his normal insticts or judgment, it’s not well written enough for that to come across. In fact, I think it is because fated mates still resemble dubcon to some, that the author differentiates this pairing much later in the book as true mates, but that might be me trying to make sense of the behavior. After only a few days, they give in to passion, but they had been avoiding each other, so I never really felt the sexual tension build. None of the sex scenes nor the romance worked for me at this point. Once the whole second half of the book focuses on his rape and abuse by a former boyfriend, all of the sudden he was so afraid of men he couldn’t look them in the eye for a year. I thought the memory of rape Rylee pulls from Drew’s mind was unnecessary, but I think that is meant to have Rylee automatically be on Drew’s side and believe him. Apparently it was also videotaped and sent to the press, yet no one on campus saw it?
The POV switching from Drew to Rylee is abrupt thoughout the book, happening seemingly at random as opposed to by scenes or chapters. Rylee is the only one out of twelve characters that comes close to being described physically enough for me to attempt to picture. Of those twelve the largest roles go to Keon who become Drew’s friend, Lorcan who is Rylee’s best friend, Sheffield who is Drew’s not very nice brother who seems to only care about making arrests for his own career, Selly who is one of the trans frat brothers, and Aniel as the villian. The writing is convoluted and unfocused trying to keep secrets from the reader with one plot twist after another until each big reveal. Unfortunately there are plenty of plot points that are contradictory or not explained at all. This is an interesting take on shifter mythos, it’s just not well executed.
It’s foreshadowed from the beginning that Drew is likely a shifter too. When the paranormal element to the story comes to the fore, they have to have sex or something terrible will happen! The main confusion is caused because Rylee believed Drew had been raised by Vihaan expats who hadn’t taught him how things worked there. Drew is the only one in the frat house not from Vihaan, which he believes is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere that has a cult all of his frat brothers escaped from. Vihaan is never explained to my satisfaction. It apparently has cat, wolf, and fox shifters that live in different towns and that is as far as it went. I’m going to save you a lot of trouble and say the full blood shifters have different abilities that the half blood shifters called Foame, which is super important to know or you won’t understand any explanations of the comings and goings of Vihaan for most of the book. Speaking of Vihaans, WTH happened to Rylee’s sister?
Sheffield’s boss is threatening to “pull the plug on his undercover work and drag his ass off campus, revealing his dirty secret.” Why? Drew is actually an enrolled student there and his father is paying his tuition. “Vihaan’s never meet a human who isn’t a guide or a potential mate. If we met a human by accident, the human was one of those things.” They are all students on a college campus! How does that even work? The humans don’t see the food truck, that is parked on campus because it is run by a Vihaan? Can’t humans see the line for food, especially if it has Foames in it?! The final confrontation is crazy. Drew as a civilian puts himself in a dangerous situation and when he calls the police, the police woman says, “I understand, Mister Colley. God be with you.” Does that sound logical? Why would Drew let someone beat him up if the cops are going to come and take him to the hospital, where he can’t go because he has cat DNA? Even worse, is that his brother doesn’t take him to the hospital. Even if the exotic animal case is closed, the cops wouldn’t just drop this whole case when they know none of the people in the house really exist. They all have fake IDs. By the time the University conveniently sells them the house next door to expand their frat house, I am just sad that the intriguing blurb didn’t live up to it’s promise.
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