Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path - Cari Z. Originally reviewed at Sinfully.

Cari Z builds an interesting world for these wolf shifters with their origin story seemingly a nod to Captain America. The wolves are known to the public, but kept in check by the US government. Kept isolated on remote reservations, only in part for their own protection, the government controls everything including the media they are exposed to, the supplies they are given and who can come and go from the property. The alphas are forced into military black ops and not everyone in the government departments dealing with the wolves cares about their well-being.

Henry is one such alpha, who has just returned from another harrowing mission and has been away from his pack for too long. His newly married human sister Sam has been in charge while he was away, but as the Alpha he needs to be there to settle the pack’s newer arrivals and care for the young child shifter, Ava, who has failed to return to her human state. He returns to find the girl’s father has found them and although he is conflicted about the man’s presence, he has to agree that it may be the best chance to save the child. There are also some grumblings among some pack members that perhaps Henry doesn’t have what it really takes to be the Alpha. Henry is under a lot of stress between the military requirements and the unrest and changes in his pack and it’s starting to show in his behavior.

Ward’s young daughter Ava left for her first day of pre-school and he never saw her again. Shifting in class she was immediately taken by the government and placed with a werewolf pack. Months later he has found her and he will die before he will allow himself to be separated from her again. He has made his way into the compound surprisingly easy, but that’s before the Alpha arrives. Ward may be small, but he is feisty and not going to let his daughter get away without a fight, even if it’s with an Alpha werewolf that will surely mean his death.

As Henry and Ward work together to encourage Ava to shift and Ward begins to make himself useful to the pack, their initial physical notice of the other grows into more of a relationship of mutual respect. That, more than anything is what leads to their eventual coming together. They find a sense of peace together and become a solid team. While there is plenty of shifting and werewolf feels, the romance is more traditional. An interesting dynamic that I haven’t really seen in other shifter books, this is really a slow burn. That’s not to say there isn’t the eventual feelings of possessiveness and need to claim and protect, it’s just not an immediate reaction to the situation.

Aside from the main characters, the secondary characters were all well-formed and played an active role in the story. Henry’s sister (who is a wonderful, strong female character) bringing home her new husband has changed their family dynamic, their pack’s guardian seems more aggressive and angry, some of the younger pack members are taking risks that they might not understand the repercussions of and pack politics are rearing their ugly head. This all added an extra layer of tension to the story and I really liked being immersed in this community with the differing ideas and outlooks.

Not sure if there is a series planned, but I would like to see more stories in this world, perhaps Dr. Tennyson and Davis? If you’re looking for a bit of a different take on a shifter story I’d recommend giving Off the Beaten Path a try.