The Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf Book #1), Kendall McKenna
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Military, Paranormal – Shifters, Contemporary, Romance
Length: 336 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
I do love a good wolf shifter book. I do love a good military book. I do love a good MM. Here I have all three in one.
What do you do when you are an officer, a lieutenant, and you have werewolves in your command but you don’t know much about them? When your Captain doesn’t fill you in on the details of what to expect and how to react? When the Marine Corps has manuals but you’re not kept in the loop? Where you only have a few weeks to form an understanding of a True Alpha werewolf that has been posted to your company; one with a legendary reputation and control over quite a few of your men, men who must submit to their alpha, irrespective of rank? And suddenly you find yourself having to dominate the sergeant/werewolf because you require his respect for your role and rank in the corps. You are in this odd position of finding out that you are the Dominant to the True Alpha werewolf and having to deal with odd sensations and physical reactions to the werewolf which are mirrored back at you. Having to deal with…..rituals after a full-moon shift, a stress-shift, a battle shift. Knowing that all the men in your company are aware that you are assisting with those…rituals in a base way. How do you handle that when it goes against your regular training?
It makes for a very interesting read that’s for sure, with a different take on the shifter theme. This is not a fairytale paranormal, it is set in America prior to shipping out and then in Afghanistan; in a war zone posting. It looks at all the technical military jargon that is used, without bogging you down, but with a paranormal slant, complete with history and original detail that this book has for its weres. I’ll be honest, I had to adjust initially to this kind of at-odds duality of melding military and paranormal. Where rank and pack take on a somewhat interesting perspective. People of rank who are werewolves will bow to an NCO if he/she is an alpha. Particularly if they are a True Alpha, the top dog of all the weres in the pack. Which is who/what Sergeant Noah Hammond is. Apart from a simpering, poor excuse for a Captain at the beginning the armed services support their werewolves and encourage the bond that has formed between Lt Young and Sgt Hammond. It’s an excellent combat resource.
Both MC’s are very likable. They both have a strong sense of duty. They both have a common goal and ideas on what is right for their men. They’re both working through a new situation in regards to the bond they have. Noah is more on the ball in regards to what’s happening and more prepared to let it happen. Lucas is more at sea learning what the hell he has to do with the werewolves and his Dominant role and place in the pack as a human. There is a really romantic connection, but in a very masculine way. Kendall McKenna’s men are always very masculine and alpha. The secondary characters are interesting, but apart from Captain Tim Maddison and Captain Stanley, the latter I would have loved to throttle, they aren’t yet as well known. There is much building here of the series backdrop, cultural differences, Ms McKenna’s wolf shifters and military action. Every book I’ll be looking forward to more and more on the other character’s development. However, I enjoyed the fact that here the primary relationship, between Lucas and Noah, was focused on.
I liked this somewhat kinder military outlook. Where the relationship between Lucas and Noah is not seen as unnatural, rather it’s encouraged. But Lucas kept feeling like he would be slighted for this physicality that the True Alpha required from him after every shift. There was a developing relationship between Lucas and Noah but because there was action aplenty, some history to be learnt and cultural differences to understand, the relationship was complicated. Lucas felt uncertain. He was unsure whether it was about an attraction or a necessity when they connected physically after shifts. He also felt a responsibility being an officer connecting with an NCO. He found it hard initially to think in terms of the pack. He didn’t realise the intensity of the relationship that was there. He wanted it but kept it in the background. Sometimes I thought to myself –‘Lucas you are being so bloody clueless’ – but I understood why he felt like he did, how that occurred. There is action in Afghanistan and there is a slow learning curve for Lucas about the pack mentality of werewolves, not to mention their overlapping history, which I found interesting and clever. Joan of Arc. Eleanor of Aquitaine? Hmm….interesting. Alexander? Pfftt, no surprise 🙂
The sex is not frequent and yet it is very physical and erotic, driven by strong shift needs. And where they are located has much to do with it as well. There are sexual encounters, believe me, and they are hot. However, penetrative sex doesn’t happen until towards the end. There are (good) reasons for that. Requests made to do with a wish for a proper bed, clean sheets, and the uncertainty that this relationship isn’t anything more than a werewolf ritual to come down after a shift, controls how this builds.
The military writing is once again so strong from Kendall McKenna. I really liked Brothers in Arms and I really liked The Strength of the Pack. While there are similarities they are unique in their own right. I am partial to a good paranormal and I do love a good shifter novel. A wolf shifter has me every time over any other kind of shifter. And this is a really interesting take on the wolf shifters, not that there are huge deviations – the pack is tactile, they shift at full moon, they get physical pre and post shift, they act wolf-like when in wolf form – with unique coats/types of wolf, and primal wolf play. They also understand what’s being said to them when in wolf form. Here there is also a psychic link/an Alpha/Dominant bond between a wolf and a human. There is biting from both sides with the Alpha liking being bitten and marked by his human mate. There is a True Alpha submitting, interesting, and it worked really well. Another difference – there is not just full moon shifts, but stress shifts and post battle shifts as well. There is also another occurrence here because of the strength of the True Alpha/Dominant bond; and that is mirroring – where both parties mirror intensely what the other feels, what is happening to them, even if they are not together. It comes in very handy when out on a mission but can also be a hindrance if the pair don’t learn to block everything they’re feeling (when necessary) as strong emotions can be relayed. The werewolves heightened senses have strong defensive uses, aiding in combat
– they can smell the enemy, chemicals, hidden explosives etc. Having the Marines True Alpha bond so totally with a human officer also makes the connection between pack and Marines very strong and a very cohesive, powerful military weapon.
The Strength of the Pack is book #1 in a new series by Kendall McKenna, which gives me a new series I want to follow. I don’t actually follow many series. I’m really picky about this, but I will follow this one. There are pointers right at the end as to who one of the next book’s main characters might be and I look forward to this book very much as I liked his character here. Highly recommended for lovers of contemporary shifters who just happen to enjoy a man in uniform and military jargon as well.