“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Author: Tara Lain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 202
Rating: 4 Stars
Blurb: Cole Harker, son of an alpha werewolf, is bigger and more powerful than most wolves, tongue-tied in groups, and gay.
For twenty-four years, he’s lived to please his family and pack—even letting them promise him in marriage to female werewolf Analiese to secure a pack alliance and help save them from a powerful gangster who wants their land. Then Cole meets Analiese’s half-brother, panther shifter Paris Marketo, and for the first time, Cole wants something for himself.
When Analiese runs off to marry a human, Cole finally has a chance with Paris, but the solitary cat rejects him, the pack, and everything it represents. Then Cole discovers the gangster wants Paris too and won’t rest until he has him. What started as a land dispute turns into World War Wolf! But the bigger fight is the battle between cats and dogs.
Review: While The Pack or the Panther by Tara Lain didn’t uncover any new ground in the shifter paranormal genre, it must be said that Tara Lain always delivers a good story with, I feel, very memorable characters. Her latest novel is no exception.
Cole Harker has always done what is right. And so, it comes as no surprise that this only son of the Alpha of the Harker Pack stoically agrees to a loveless marriage to the only daughter of the neighboring Marketo Pack. Loveless because Cole is gay, and, while his parents acknowledge that they are in essence shackling their only child to a sham wedding in order to save their pack from ultimate takeover and destruction, they are also unwilling to let Cole out of the agreement they have crafted to join the packs and thereby strengthen both. So Cole does his duty. Unfortunately, his bride to be has no such qualms and shows such by running from the altar, leaving Cole both embarrassed and his pack nearly defenseless.
However, there is another Marketo in the wings, Paris Marketo, and he is both unattached…and gay. He is also the obsession of the very marauding pack leader who has sworn to shred both the Harker and the Marketo packs, take their land, and, in essence, take over the state. With war imminent, pack alliances in disarray, and a marriage of some sort needed, Paris and Cole find themselves thrown together, for better or worse.
I mentioned above that this novel didn’t really break the mold of what I fondly call the “shifter bible”. What I mean by that is The Pack or the Panther is essentially like most stories in this genre; lone gay wolf struggling against old pack mentalities and homophobia and considering desperate measures to either change that or go off on his own. We have read this trope a hundred times, I daresay, so what is it that sets author Tara Lain apart?
The answer to that is found in the strength of her characters. Ms. Lain has an uncanny ability to create people who tend to have real life emotions, remarkably strong and noble dispositions, and more than a thimble full of intelligence. The result is that we find ourselves caring about the fate of these men. We are drawn to their humanity and become invested in their struggles. All this response is due to author Tara Lain taking the time to make her characters three dimensional and palpably real. She has an incredibly deft and talented hand at making us believe in the fictional figures she so carefully crafts.
Along with impeccable characterization, the author also writes a really good story. Her plots are solid—no holes here to distract or dismay. The action/adventure she unfurls is tense and realistic, fast moving and compelling to read. The reality here is that she just writes a really good story, peoples it with fully fleshed out men and women, and never falls into the trap of marginalizing female characters or introducing those tedious stock characters like female harpies, or poorly written evil dudes. No, her characters have subtle nuances to them and they are immersed in an interesting plot that keeps you involved.
All in all, The Pack or the Panther is a worthy addition to the paranormal shifter genre. You would be remiss to let this one pass you by, particularly if you are a fan of the genre.