Twice Bitten by Lauren Dane

Note: Original version published as Unconditional (Cascadia Wolves #6), but this has been updated.

Twice Bitten by Lauren DaneThis is a paranormal romance heavy on the explicit romance with elements of menage (sort of), so you need to know that going in. The relationship and lovemaking is a primary focus of the book throughout, overshadowing the other story several times, and yet ultimately, it’s all interwoven both into the characters’ lives and the culture of Others (mostly werewolves).

I found the writing a little rough at times while the extensive explanations in the dialogue made this feel like a first book introducing the world. I was surprised to discover it was originally a sixth book, except there were mentions that felt like they would have been other books in this series.

That said, I really enjoyed the story, the characters, and the overall world. Despite what I said above about the explanations, they also offered a fascinating glimpse into the transition between the Others being hidden and just the shifters becoming out in society, as well as how that transition had not resulted in across-the-board acceptance. Little details about both the integration with “normal” human culture and the revelations of the shifter culture were well thought out and nicely crafted.

Since Michelle, the female lead, is a witch but not integrated into a witch society, she offers both an insider and outsider view of the Others and Other culture. Josh, who’d cut and run when they were in a relationship as teens, becomes her guide through the Others as she learns he left not because of her, but because he’d been turned by a rogue werewolf and couldn’t control the wolf.

They’re both dominant people in their lives, her a cop and him leading the enforcers for a major pack. This leads to some authority conflicts between them, but creates a beautiful dance between instinct and acceptance as Michelle comes to recognize something Josh knew from the moment he saw her again ten years later–they are supposed to be mates for life.

The kidnapping that brings them together offers many surprises, not all of them pleasant. It’s clearly secondary to the relationship, but rather than being a lack of balance as I originally thought, it’s a bridge to a far greater problem that will stretch across many books I suspect.

Bottom line, this is not a perfect book, as you might have guessed from my comments above, but it has the key elements necessary to engage me and offered a decent amount of fascinating, intriguing pieces. I loved the cultural elements, had some issues with the writing, and found characters I wanted to know more about. The first and third outweigh the second by a strong measure, and I’m curious to see where the series goes next. It did have a little more sex than I was expecting, and I know that will turn off some readers, but never did those elements break the story, or the complexity of the growing connection between Michelle and Josh, something as much entangled in their magicks as in their emotions.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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