Title: Pack of Lies
Author: Vanessa Vaughn
Page Count: 185 pages
Publisher: Ravenous Romance
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review.
50 words or less: Marcus is the unsteady alpha of a volatile pack who, in a moment of insanity, attacks and changes Jack, who completely takes over his thoughts. When Jack needs to navigate his feelings for Marcus as well as his Change, Marcus figures the pack is the safest place. Oops...
Pack of Lies is simultaneously the first M/M book I've ever read as well as a unique take on the werewolf mythology and common tropes of shapeshifter books. While some elements of the story definitely worked better for me than others, this is a well-written, detailed, vivid book that makes you wonder whether the "pack mentality" that's such a common feature of shapeshifter books might not have a downside as well.
Jack was driving along, minding his own business, when BAM out of nowhere he plows over Marcus with his car; Marcus is in his wolf form and a struggle ensues in which Jack gets bitten and assumes he's just been attacked by a giant, regular animal. After a long recovery period filled with vivid dreams and a follow up day at the office where Jack catches himself thinking carnal thoughts about the copy machine, he realizes that there's certainly more going on with his recovery, and indeed between him and the mysterious guy from his dreams, than meets the eye.
Marcus is a guy whose life does not need any more complications of any kind. He's the alpha of his pack, currently, but pretty much only because Julian, his one time best friend, hasn't taken the office by force yet. The women in the pack waffle back and forth between wanting to jump his bones (which they do several times in the course of the story) or run him off for not opting to commit to one of them. Marcus didn't want to turn or fall in love with Jack; it just happened.
This gets a Scandalous Books designation, but the parts of the story that really held my interest were the dynamics between the pack members and the role of the pack in their lives. It seems like the pack is the only thing that keeps these folks from really flying off the deep end, and isn't even all that great at doing that; in light of recent events involving Marcus and his decisions, it'll be interesting to see how that works out.
The role of power in relationships and the need for people to disguise their emotions and motivations play strong roles as themes in this book, and are probably the best vehicles for identifying the thing that stood out for me about this story that didn't really work for me. At the end of the day, I got that Marcus and Jack were instantly, powerfully, and insanely attracted to one another, but I didn't get why, other than some mystical biological imperative or supernatural woo woo. I mean, for all intents and purposes, Marcus barreled out into the middle of the road and proceeded to, albeit accidentally, completely ruin Jack's life. Jack may feel the pull of the change or whatever it is, but it felt for awhile like his common sense kind of flew out the window where Marcus was concerned, and for someone who was as straitlaced and by-the-book as Jack was, that leap of logic seems like it would have been a little beyond him.
One thing that seems minor but actually really sent a powerful message for me: Ivy and her role in the story. Ivy is (was?) Jack's friend who was accidentally shifted in the same roadside showdown as Jack, but at the end of the day, Ivy has a much different experience as a werewolf than Jack does, and it basically boils down to Ivy behaving in a "traditional" way for this group and Jack wanting to be more independent. The message that any group will accept you if you meet their definitions of normal and reject you if you don't is strong, especially in the final scenes of the book.
For my first ever experience reading M/M paranormal romance, I'm putting this one down as a thorough success. Were there things I didn't really enjoy about the book? Sure, but the story was very cohesive and the writing was very detailed without bogging down, and I'm definitely interested to read more in this series in the future.
Overall Grade: B+
BWB Rating: 3/4