Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3) by Charlie Adhara

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Agent Cooper Dayton is going to meet his boyfriend’s werewolf family. Unarmed. On their turf.

And he’s bringing his cat.

When Agent Cooper Dayton agreed to attend the funeral for Oliver Park’s grandfather, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Turns out, the deceased was the alpha of the most powerful werewolf pack on the eastern seaboard. And his death is highly suspicious. Regardless, Cooper is determined to love and support Park the way Park has been there for him.

But Park left him woefully unprepared for the wolf pack politics and etiquette. Rival packs? A seating order at the dinner table? A mysterious figure named the Shepherd? The worst is that Park didn’t tell his family one key thing about Cooper. Cooper feels two steps behind, and reticent Park is no help.

There are plenty of pack members eager to open up about Park and why Cooper is wrong for him. Their stories make Cooper wonder if he’s holding Park back. But there’s no time to get into it…as lethal tranquilizer darts start to fly, Cooper needs to solve the mystery of the alpha’s death and fight for the man he loves—all before someone else dies.

Rating: A-

Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series has been something of a surprise hit for me.  I’m not normally into stories about werewolves, but AAR’s review of The Wolf at the Door convinced me to read it, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Although each of the three books features a self-contained mystery that’s solved by the end, the romantic relationship between the human FBI agent Cooper Dayton and his werewolf partner, the enigmatic, coolly-collected Oliver Park, develops throughout the trilogy, so I wouldn’t recommend jumping into this one without having read the other two.  And if you were waiting for the final book before starting the first, be warned that there are spoilers for The Wolf at the Door and The Wolf at Bay in this review.

Cooper and Park have come a long way since they first teamed up in order to solve a case involving a string of vicious murders.  Moving from suspicion and animosity to professional trust, personal friendship and more, they’ve struggled, at times, to admit to the truth of their feelings for one another and talk through their issues (just as you’d expect of two stubborn, alpha males!), but by the end of The Wolf at Bay they’re committed to each other and to their relationship, even though there are still a few bugs to be ironed out – not least of which is the fact that Cooper is sure there are things about himself Park is still keeping from him.

When Thrown to the Wolves opens, Cooper and Park are on their way to Nova Scotia in order to attend the funeral of Park’s grandfather Joseph, the alpha of the Park pack. Oliver has been on edge ever since receiving news of the man’s demise a day earlier, and although he is no longer a member of the pack (having turned his back on it when he learned they’d been concealing the truth about the deaths of his parents) he decides to return to the family estate to attend the funeral, and asks Cooper to go with him.  Unlike Cooper, who wasn’t out to his family before the events of The Wolf at Bay, Park’s family knows he has a boyfriend and accepts his sexual orientation without a problem.  But as soon as Cooper and Park arrive – following a life-threatening accident – Cooper realises something is off; and it doesn’t take him long to figure out what it is.  The Parks may be fine with the fact that Oliver is gay – but the fact he’s in a relationship with a human?  That, they’re not pleased about.

It’s going to be a difficult few days, and the fact that Park has told Cooper almost nothing about what to expect doesn’t help.  He’s always known Park’s family was loaded and obviously some kind of big deal in the werewolf community, but discovering they’re like werewolf royalty and they control all the packs and pack land in the northeast of the continent of North America comes as something of a shock.  Cooper is trying hard, every day, to live up to his decision to be completely open with Park and talk through any problems or issues, but the suspicion with which he’s viewed, his lack of knowledge of werewolf society and pack etiquette, and the amount of pressure being brought to bear on Park (who was obviously groomed to be the next alpha) make it difficult for him to do that.  He’s determined to be what Park needs; to love, support and be there for him in whatever way he can, but Park has retreated behind the cool mask of self-sufficiency he’d worn when they first met, and that, combined with the Parks’ obvious belief that Cooper isn’t good enough or able to truly understand what it means, day after day, to have to protect the secret of their very existence, sows seeds of doubt in Cooper’s mind. Is he holding Park back from having the life he needs and wants?  Would he really – as his formidable grandmother insists – be better off with a partner of his own kind?

And while Cooper is trying to adjust to this new view of Park and Park is struggling under the weight of expectations and long-held secrets, a foiled attempt on the life of his grandmother, whispers about the return of the Shepherd – the most powerful and feared werewolf on the east side of the continent – the jostling for position by a neighbouring pack and the murder of a researcher out to collect data on the wolves in the area all point to foul play – and raise the possibility that Joseph Park’s death may not have been the result of natural causes after all.

Thrown to the Wolves is a terrific read and one I found impossible to put down.  Charlie Adhara has penned a complex mystery rife with family intrigue, divided loyalties and pack politics, and juxtaposed it against the difficulties faced by a newly-committed couple who are trying to find their path together in the face of a great deal of external pressure.  Park’s long-awaited backstory doesn’t disappoint, and I really admired the way Cooper is following through on his promise (made in The Wolf at Bay) to be more up-front about his feelings. He’s still prickly and snarky and great at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but he’s also a lot more confident in himself and secure in Oliver’s love for him, even though that confidence and security are sorely tested here.  As was the case with the previous book, there’s a lot going on, but it never feels cluttered or overstuffed; Ms. Adhara makes some pertinent points about intolerance and conservation, but doesn’t hit readers over the head with them, and the amount of character and relationship development that goes on amid all of it is really quite something.

But throughout it all, the strength of the connection between the leads and the depth of the love they so obviously feel for one another is never once in doubt.  Cooper wonders if he’s not what Oliver needs and Park is being pulled in many different directions, but never, ever does either of them question their love for one another, and neither does the reader, because it’s like an unbreakable thread woven throughout the story.  They have crazy chemistry and the sex scenes are hot (these guys like to play 😉) and very well –written, illustrating the extent to which they’ve become comfortable asking for what they want and the degree of trust that has developed between them.

Thrown to the Wolves is a superb finale to a wonderful series, and it gave me pretty much everything I wanted; Park’s backstory, Cooper meeting his family, a twisty mystery, sizzling naughtiness, snark, humour and a well-deserved HEA that’s romantic and perfectly in character.  I can’t help hoping that the final lines indicate that this might not be the last we hear from Cooper and Oliver – although if this is the end, then I’m really glad to have spent this time with them and watched as they stumbled their way into love.

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