Title: Unexpected Demands (Hidden Wolves #2)
Author: Kaje Harper
Cover Artist: Winterheart Designs
Publisher: MLR press
Amazon: Buy Link Unexpected Demands
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Length: Novel/305 pages/100,000 + words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A joint guest review by Raine and Sirius
Summary: In this book Aaron struggled both with being an Alpha for his complicated pack and his newly found love interest, but we had our own concerns.
Becoming Alpha made Aaron responsible for protecting his new pack against outside threats, but fighting his own desires might pose an even bigger challenge.
When Aaron took down a crazy dominant wolf and inherited half a pack, he knew the Alpha job wasn’t going to be easy. A week later, he’s finding out what an understatement that was. Having a gay wolf in his pack brings lethal threats from other werewolves. Then humans locate his wolves and move in to try to capture and exploit one of them. Aaron has enough pressure and demands without letting his long-suppressed sexuality escape his rigid control. But keeping his distance from a young man who appeals to all his senses could be Aaron’s biggest challenge.
Sirius: After we reviewed the first book in the series, Unacceptable Risk (reviewed here), I could not wait for the second one to be released, probably since the moment I heard it was coming out, and that it would be the book about Aaron. I have had my issues with the werewolves in this society, but I most definitely wanted to know more about this character because he was such a mysterious, sexy, powerful enigma, who takes charge and makes no mistakes … just the kind of werewolf Alpha I don’t particularly care for 😉 (the “takes charge and makes no mistakes” part, not the “sexy and powerful one” 😉 ). What about you Raine? Were you impatient to read this one and if so, could you tell us briefly whether the book worked or did not work for you – no details please, we will provide details later in our conversation?
Raine: I’m not always thrilled when a book ends up being part of a series, but with this one I was really excited. I love, but just love first person narration and with it being Aaron’s authoritative voice was really looking forward to Book 2. So yes it was a bit of a blow when I actually felt some things were unconvincing.
Sirius: For me the book both worked and did not work. What were your favorite parts?
Raine: Oh yes I know too well you weren’t quite happy with this one, you sent me a scary email………I quote…….”Sorry my friend, we may have to do dueling reviews, if this was a five star book for you…….”
The one important element that shone out for me in this book was the continuation of Simon and Paul’s relationship. I really loved seeing them through other people’s eyes, but in particular Aaron’s point of view was insightful, as when he talks about how beautiful Paul is. “All the more so because he seemed unaware of it. Simon, anything but unaware, practically pissed circles around him when other men came too close.”
Sirius: Oh absolutely for me Simon and Paul were the favorite part of the book. I thought they were just as great as they were in the first book and I was happy that we actually get to see the development of their relationship instead of just seeing them in a bliss of happiness and them singing “Oh we are happy forever” song (you know how in romance series the couple from the previous book gets to visit and show off how happy they are — annoying). Oh they are happy, but their relationship also gets further tested, somewhat strained, due to outside stress factors. It is a living breathing relationship, not a stale one if that makes sense, and I think for a romance book it is the best type of relationship to read about. But as happy as I was to read about these two, this book, as promised, was Aaron’s book. Were you happy or disappointed to get to know him more “up close and personal”? Did his first person narration work for you?
Raine: There isn’t really an easy answer to that, so bear with me while I mutter a bit. The thing is, as you know, unlike you I prefer my Alpha male heroes to have that very dominant know it all aura. At the end of the first book, Aaron displayed real statesmanlike authority. Unfortunately as we are seeing Aaron grow into the role as Alpha we heard a lot of self doubts, anxieties and uncertainties, which was very human and realistic but left him no hiding place. For me his voice worked really well when he was being empathic and caring for his wolves, but not when he needed to be more of a tactical leader and commanding presence.
Sirius: For the most part Aaron’s narration worked for me quite well, even if it meant that his mystery was pretty much gone. Instead of an alluring, powerful presence we get to meet a “man” who is still quite good and strong, and who really likes his wolves and wants to lead them by example, but who is new at being Alpha and who makes a lot of mistakes at it. I agree with Simon — in some ways it was very fun to see Aaron losing control in response to some of the plot events and hopefully learning from them and becoming a better person and better leader. Unfortunately, some of the plot events which were meant (I think?) to test Aaron’s leadership skills felt quite contrived to me and I was not sure why he would instigate at least one of those events in the first place, but since if I remember reading there are other books planned in the series, I am inclined to be in a forgiving mood about that aspect of the book (Aaron’s character development I mean). Now, we will not divulge the name of the guy Aaron falls for, but it is clear from the blurb that he does fall for somebody, so we can talk about it. 🙂 What did you think of his love story?
Raine: I kept having doubts, and although I could line up points why they should have been good together and very boringly did inflict this on you…..sorry Sirius……. my gut feeling was that they just didn’t have the connection Paul and Simon have. You described them beautifully as having an “organic” relationship. Aaron and his partner never quite felt natural together to me.
Sirius: It did not work for me either — at all. I don’t know why it did not work, but they just did not click for me. I can try to explain it, though. I know that if I encounter a couple with a big age difference, usually the author has to work harder to convince me of the couple having a future. BUT having said that, I can name several couples with big age differences where it worked for me and very well. No, I think a couple either has chemistry or it does not, and while I really liked Aaron and his love interest as characters separately, together they left me rather cold and this is really unfortunate and my main reason for the significant lowering of the rating.
I think we covered pretty much all the major points we wanted to cover except one. I think you know that the tendency these werewolves have to solve their problems with murders really bugged me in the first book. As much as I hoped Aaron would bring change, I did not feel that his stance was strong enough, and I was curious to read more about what he really feels about it. I was happy to see that he does want to change things and really prefers to avoid violence if he thinks that it is at all possible. There was only one scene in this book that really bothered me for that reason, but having access to Aaron’s thoughts really did help. I also realize that the scene meant to be an additional bonding reason between Aaron and his man. Did it work for you?
Raine: I thought this situation was rather too contrived; I could see the strings being pulled and that took me out of the story. While I liked most of the action elements of the book, I don’t think they always revealed Aaron’s best side. What I did enjoy about the set up to this scene was the interaction between Aaron and Hanson, the experienced, very tough Alpha of the neighbouring pack. It showed that Aaron’s hopes and efforts for a more rational response to gay werewolves were having some results. Are you ready to start playing the numbers game Sirius?
Sirius: Sure. My favorite part of every review — not. I inflicted my calculations upon you already, so it should not come as a huge surprise.
Raine: Yes, but now you have to really share……..
Sirius: I found the writing to be very good and I really like her style. I did like the main characters a lot and I liked that they actually undergo growth and change. I thought that if the book was purely about Aaron learning how to be an Alpha during the trials and tribulations of his pack, I would have given it a much higher grade. Unfortunately the book is also a romance. I say unfortunately because as much as I liked Aaron and his guy separately together they left me cold as a cucumber emotionally. I am still not sure what they saw in each other as lovers. If I thought they sizzled on page, no rationalization would have been necessary, but on the scale of one to ten I would grade their chemistry as a zero. I think it merits at least one point deduction from the overall grade and if the writing overall was not as strong I would have deducted more. I hesitated a lot and could not choose between 3.75 and 4 stars, but I guess I can be okay with 4, even if my rating keeps fluctuating between these two numbers. 🙂
Raine: It was quite clear when we started emailing about this book, it didn’t quite do it for either of us. I had problems with Aaron’s fallibility and his relationship. At one point Paul was in real danger because of the situation Aaron instigated. Though on my third read through I was less skeptical about the guys together – but that might have been wishful thinking, because I wanted to love this book. Instead it gave me a mixture of pleasure and irritation. Which I inflicted on you as I tried to figure out why it wasn’t working, and you rightly said I was trying to rewrite it……..blush. I love this world of Kaje Harper’s, so even with my discomforts, it was still a 4 star book.
Sirius: Please, let’s not forget all those scenarios I presented and wondered whether it would have worked better for me or not, so I am guilty of “what if”s myself. But definitely I wanted to love this book, too. Let’s hope the third one would be a hit for both of us.