TITLE: Off the Beaten Path
AUTHOR: Cari Z.
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 200 Pages
RELEASE DATE: September 18, 2017
When Ward Johannsen’s little girl Ava shifted into a werewolf, she was taken into custody by the feds and shipped off to the nearest pack, all ties between father and daughter severed. Ward burned every bridge he had discovering her location, and then almost froze to death in the Colorado mountains tracking her new pack down. And that’s just the beginning of his struggle.
Henry Dormer is an alpha werewolf and an elite black ops soldier who failed his last mission. He returns home, hoping for some time to recuperate and help settle the pack’s newest member, a little pup named Ava who can’t shift back to her human form. Instead he meets Ward, who refuses to leave his daughter without a fight. The two men are as different as night and day, but their respect for each other strikes a spark of mutual interest that quickly grows into a flame. They might find something special together—love, passion, and even a family—if they can survive trigger-happy pack guardians, violent werewolf politics, and meddling government agencies that are just as likely to get their alpha soldiers killed as bring them home safely.
I’m a mad lover of werewolf books. I’ve read many, from cute fluffy mpreg to the rip your throat out killer variety. Rarely do I come across anything that differs from the usual, so I’m always impressed when an author manages to come up with a new spin on a well-covered genre. This is the first book that I’ve read by Cari Z. but if this is a typical example of her work then she’s got herself a new fan.
The origin of these werewolves can be traced back to the 40s, when military experiments went wrong and soldiers suddenly found themselves shifting into wolves. The “virus” was incredibly contagious, although most people bitten died rather than turned. Some who survived became carriers, and now, almost eighty years later, people would randomly shift with no warning. Although humans know about werewolves, they are kept in secret locations, placed into packs, and isolated from the rest of the world.
I loved, LOVED, the different world that the author seemed to easily create here. It’s the world we know, but with a different history. And while there was no need for elaborate world building, the fact that the wolves were kept in snowy isolation meant that the setting did seem vastly different.
What I appreciated most though was the fact that the alpha wasn’t all-powerful and all knowing. Henry was the alpha of the pack, and he was made into a soldier whether he wanted it or not. But he wasn’t a hardassed leader, he was an artist who simply did the best that he could for the wolves in his care. He struggled with the difficult decisions, and all of the necessary violence was killing him inside. Ward really was created to be the ideal mate for Henry. Sickly and slight, where Henry was big and strong, Ward was just as tough deep down as Henry. Both men understood giving your life for people you love, and they were perfect supports for each other.
Romance wise though, this story was lacking. Well, lacking probably isn’t the correct word because I didn’t miss the mostly absent sex scenes. But I know how some readers feel that plentiful sex is a requirement, so I thought it was worth a mention. To be honest, I preferred the scenes where Ward was standing up to, or standing up for Henry, rather than the scenes where the two men got romantic.
I could definitely see this story becoming the first book of a series – hopefully the author sees it the same way!
I have been on a huge paranormal reading kick recently. Along with a few of my very favourite books shifter stories are always my go to when life becomes stressful or I simply don’t know what to read. The majority of shifter books follow a proven and successful formula but occasionally one jumps out at you as something that might be a little different and that is how I felt about Off The Beaten Track when I first read the blurb.
Cari Z has done an amazing job at the world and even more importantly the character building. Werewolves are not loved – they are not even widely liked. They are feared, they are thought of as distasteful and they certainly don’t have any rights. Alpha’s fare even worse as they are made to face and endure dangerous and stressful situations and they are frequently made to leave their packs for lengthy amounts of time causing problems with pack cohesiveness and order.
Ward is a very average single father with normal everyday problems in his life until his young daughter Ava shifts into a werewolf at school and she is snatched away by the Federal Government and placed within a remote and hidden pack before he can even see her. His life comes to a screeching halt and everything he does is with the aim of first finding her and then keeping her – an almost impossible task for the average person but Ward has friends (or a friend) in high places and with only luck for company he sets out to find Ava and the werewolf pack that now look after her.
Henry is an alpha werewolf and a soldier for the government. His commanding officer deals with him with nothing but contempt and is constantly pushing for more – more submission, more fear and more of his soul. Just off a failed mission and home with a fragile pack and a young pup who won’s shift Henry has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Throw in an unknown human who has broken ALL the rules by just entering pack lands and Henry has reached breaking point and is struggling holding back his wolf.
This was a gritty and powerful story. It’s a bleak depiction of a world that is often portrayed in a much more gentle and ‘fluffy’ style. I would have liked a little more information on the ‘whys’ of the world but the characters were solid and well fleshed out. I also liked hearing the story from both the characters very different and distinct POV’s. I wasn’t at all sure how the author was going to wrap this one up with all the pressure that Henry was under but in the end it worked out well and made perfect sense. It also leaves the door open for at least one further story if not more – I guess we will have to watch this space to see if we see any more from a certain young Doctor.