Now with a monster ravaging the countryside and threatening the Shiftertown community, some in the pack fear that a pair without a true mate bond isn’t strong enough to lead. Bowman and Kenzie will have to rely on their instinctive trust in one another to save their Shifters—and the ensuing battle will either destroy them or give them the chance to seize the love they’ve always craved.
Comment: This is the 7th full length installment in the Shifters Unbound series by Jennifer Ashley. It's been a while since I last read a book in the series, if one counts up the novellas in between, but I managed to remember some characters pretty well. My issue is that the protagonists were new so I wasn't very sure I placed them in the universe...
This is the story of Bowman and Kenzie, both lupines, and they are the alpha couple in a Shiftertown. They united themselves in a "mating of convenience" for the sake of the pack but after years together and a son as well, they still haven't fully bonded as mates and that can be scary for them, not only because their relationship resents that but also due to the fact a crack between them might signify a lessening in the pack's structure and no one wants the pack to lose strength.
Faced with a sudden problem no one seems to understand or solve, can Bowman and Kenzie deal with so much at the same time?
When thinking about the story as a whole, I actually had pleasant time reading but I must say the beginning was a bit boring and the relationship, which seems to be one of the central subjects in the book, wasn't properly discussed and the mating details in a situation like the one portrayed here, when two people mate but don't have the bond mate, wasn't as engaging as I hoped for. These two elements were probably the ones that caught my attention the most in the novel and the plot felt like a secondary issue for me. But I kind of expected more the same.
I've said several times that the lovers reunited is one of my least favorite tropes in romances. I can't have the patience for all the thoughts, references, scenes, flashbacks, whatever related to the couple's past, whether they were in a established relationship or not. Although this book isn't labeled so, it almost felt like that trope because Kenzie and Bowman kept alluding to what happened in the past. I'm glad it wasn't exaggerated but I still made this connection. They have some issues in their mating but they love each other so I thought the issues would stress this more and the drama/angst over their lack of bond would be more evident. I just think the amount of time dealing with their thoughts wasn't as important and scenes of the now should have been for us to appreciate the HEA more. The end isn't as explained as I hoped for but things do end well for them as I'm sure all readers would assume so.
One good element was the balanced relationship they had when it came to decisions, Bowman might be the alpha of the Shiftertown but he didn't order Kenzie around and their team effort was very good to see.
As for the plot, the story has its moments. The main action revolves around the search for a creature and why the creature exists in the first place. I must say the whys of all this aren't new to the paranormal type of plot and my overall impression is that the whole thing isn't as complicated as it looked like initially but it was excuse enough to create certain situations and of course the story needed it.
I liked the elements related to the shifters as a group and as a community but I always hope for more details to be shown or traits to be seen as key in the characters' interactions but it seems this is already a given and not even the struggles between Kenzie and Bowman as a couple were reason enough for more information to be revealed. Or maybe the author doesn't want/need to put more details out there in order to not make the whole world too complicated.
I think this isn't a favorite book in the series but I can't say I disliked it that much. Question, however: the development on the shifters' need for freedom and social acceptance, it was barely mentioned here. I can understand why the story wouldn't focus on this but... hopefully, the freedom scenario will happen one day. I can totally imagine the stories around an eventual new found freedom and so on...