Title: Wolves of Black Pine
Author: S J Himes
Series: The Wolfkin Saga #1
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
An ancient civilization long hidden from humanity is on the brink of chaos and war. Peaceful for thousands of years, the wolfkin clans are mysteriously losing packmates, kidnapped and killed by unknown foes.
The nightmare begins with an ambush by humans at a gathering of their kind, and lives are lost. Among them is Luca, youngest grandson of the two most powerful wolves in the Northern Clans. Thought long dead and gone, he is forced into a half-life, hidden in the far northern wilds of Canada and cut off from his kind. Those who raised him have no idea the creature they harbor in their midst, and name him Ghost. He begins to lose himself over the long years, and though he barely recalls his true name, the one wolf he never forgets is Kane.
Kane, Heir to the wolfkin clan Black Pine, is charged with hunting down the traitors who betrayed their kind to the humans. Years fly by, and more wolves are dying. He refuses to give up, and he vows to never again fail another of their kind, as he failed young Luca years before. His heart tells him Luca lives, but his mind tells him that it’s foolish hope, his guilt eating him alive.
Fate and magic change the course of their lives, and the two wolves long separated by the years find their paths intertwining. Though the gift of their reunion doesn’t come without price. Faced by the consequences of their growing love, and the goddess-forged bond between them, Kane and Ghost are besieged on all sides. Enemies are coming for their blood, and without the steadfast loyalty and love of family and friends, they may not be safe from the very people they fight to protect.
Book One in a series, The Wolfkin Saga. 150,000+ words, contains graphic sex between men, dubious consent, mentions of abuse. Contains gore and violence. Mature readers only.
“BURKE, take Sophia and some betas out, patrol the outlying borders and along the river,” Kane told his lieutenant, as he zipped up his leather jacket, standing at the door of their shared cabin.
It was actually the same one they’d shared fifteen years earlier, and Kane was trying not to let the memories get to him. He was thankful that the Suarez wolves were awake, and he planned on speaking to the adults as soon as he could. He should be out there patrolling as well, but he couldn’t bear the thought of going near the river.
Burke gave him a nod, and a small smile. Kane tried to hide how he was feeling, but the night before had been long and lonely, and he fought tooth and nail with the urge to Change and run along the river, looking even after all these years for a long lost cub. It was a foolish desire, and he ruthlessly battered it down, refusing to give in to the guilt and weight of failure. Luca was gone, no matter what his heart said. No matter how strongly his whole body yearned to run out there, every instinct screaming at him that Luca lived and was waiting for him…he restrained himself. He struggled to fight back the pain, the hole in his heart a screaming void of guilt and grief, and he feared it would never go away. Suddenly, he was engulfed in a hug, Burke pressing his face in his neck, long arms holding him tightly. There was nothing sexual in the embrace, and he stood frozen for a second before he let himself hug Burke back. Best friend he was, before any other role. Alpha, lieutenant, Speaker—Burke was his best friend, and he loved him. And he knew that Burke loved him back. Burke had been by his side since the day Kane arrived in Augusta, the slightly older youth looking out for the lonely Heir, and forging a friendship that neither man could do without.
“Never doubt yourself. Please. I feel your guilt, your pain. You did not fail them. You did not fail Luca,” Burke whispered in his ear, and Kane buried his head in Burke’s shoulder, tears welling up unbidden. “His death is not your fault.”
“Why does it hurt so much? I barely knew the cub. He’s dead, he must be, but it hurts, as if he’s waiting for me to save him, and I just gave up on him,” Kane bit back a sob, clutching Burke as tightly as he could, the other wolf’s warmth suddenly essential to his survival. He missed touch, he missed the connection of flesh to flesh, and it bothered him again that he couldn’t think of another wolf sexually at all. He hadn’t even hugged anyone in years. The most contact he’d had was the occasional brush of his hand on Burke’s shoulder or arm, or a few handshakes or nose touches with clan mates. Impersonal touches, or slightly friendly. Burke was the only one who he felt comfortable touching, but even then those were fleeting moments. Was he broken? Did his guilt cripple him, leave him impotent? “It hurts because you are a good man, and good men never forget,” Burke said softly, nudging his nose into the hair behind Kane’s ear, a move so similar to what they’d do in wolf-form that Kane felt the pain all the sharper. Burke’s big hands rubbed over his shoulders, soothing. He dragged in a deep breath, and held it, eyes tightly shut, and he let his last tears fall. No more tears. Coming back here to Baxter was almost more than he could handle, and he couldn’t do his job and protect the wolves in his charge if he was constantly swamped by memories of his failure. They stood like that for a while, and Kane absorbed the comfort his friend gave him. Burke’s mind was a glittering presence that hovered at the edge of his perception, the other alpha remaining distant mentally to give him some semblance of privacy, even as they held each other.
“Better now?” Burke asked, as his tears dried, his breathing evened out.
“Yes. Thank you, brother.” Kane lifted his head, and clasped Burke’s face in gratitude, kissing his forehead before pulling away. “Sometimes you leave me wondering why I’m Heir, and you are not. You’re far wiser than I, Burke.”
Burke’s arms fell away, and he gave Kane a smile that was both sweet and cocky. “I wonder that all the time, whelp,” Burke teased, gently shoving him with one arm.
“Whelp? You’re like five minutes older than me, don’t even start.”
“Five years, not five minutes. Still too young to tell time correctly, I see.”
“Be gone with you, insubordinate mongrel!” Kane laughed, and pushed Burke ahead of him out the door, where his friend promptly began to strip.
Sophia was waiting out front in her wolf-form, a dark brown and black shadow that somehow blended in with the snow, despite the contrast. She was small, but compactly built with powerful muscles, and she very politely turned her head as Burke knelt in the snow outside the cabin to Change. Kane walked on, averting his eyes as well, as Burke transformed from a tall, lean man with dark hair and light golden-brown eyes to a large chocolate-brown wolf with a deep, thick coat and brilliantly white teeth. Burke brushed past him as he sprinted to join Sophia where she waited patiently, pausing for half a second to let Kane run his fingers through the guard hairs along his back.
“Please keep me in the loop while you’re out there,” Kane told them, tapping his temple, meaning the mental pack lines, “I don’t want to lose any more wolves to our mystery enemies.”
Burke yipped in agreement, and he and Sophia took off down the path, towards the other cabins where the rest of the Black Pine wolves were bunking. Kane watched them go, and then turned his feet towards the big cabin at the top of the path. His boots slid in the melting snow and ice on the pathway, and he wondered if he shouldn’t Change as well, four paws having better traction in the current conditions than booted human feet. He dismissed the inclination, as his wolf-form was very large, and he didn’t want to intimidate the Suarez wolves. They were in a delicate place mentally and emotionally, and Andromeda’s mental call to him this morning was laden with an unspoken warning to be careful with their guests. He passed the council house, the large stone and wood building locked up until this summer’s gathering. A memory came upon him, fast. Kane sat again in that building, surrounded by cubs, as one in particular flirted with him, all sweet giggles and smart answers. He paused briefly, eyeing the structure, memories threatening to again overwhelm. He was prepared for it this time, and pushed the grief away. He took to the path again, resisting the urge to look back.
S J Himes’ debut novel is one of a series of M/M Paranormal romances that I have read recently which feature Shapeshifters. All of these stories have been good, some even great but for me Wolves of Black Pine is the one standing next to the others with a blinking neon sign above it, saying “I am awesome!”
From this sub-genre, I have grown to expect a heat level bordering on sizzling to scorching. Though there are some intense and extremely erotic scenes between S J Himes’ characters, she uses sex sparingly so that there is always a significant meaning behind the act.
From the beginning of the novel, when we enter the magical history lesson which Gray Shadow is delivering to the cubs, S J Himes works hard to form a deep connection between the Wolfkin and her reader, bringing us into their world and them into ours.
The story spans fifteen years and we witness tragedy, loss, betrayal, love and healing and we are a part of the emotional journey of these wolves. Perhaps the main reason I found myself repeatedly tapping my Kindle at the story’s end, hoping for just a little more, is S J Himes’ perfect characterisation. She creates these individuals in such a way that we understand their motives; we can empathize with their changing emotions and we fear for their safety.
Ghost is the character who we see developing the most; from the lost cub to a talented and huge-hearted Shaman. Yet though Ghost is the wolf I loved the most, every character, even the secondary ones, have an impact on the story and our reaction to it.
Wolves of Black Pine is one of those novels which captured me completely and when I put the book down I was thinking about Ghost, Kane, Andromeda, Gabe and the others – and the next part of their story. Although December seems a long time to wait at least I know I will have something to look forward to in the cold winter! I cannot recommend this book enough . . . so go and buy it now!
About the Author
I’m a thirty something bisexual cisgendered woman with way too big an imagination, but that comes in handy when I’m writing. I have been writing since I was a child, when I took a four page assignment on what I was going to do on summer vacation and turned it into a 100 page fantasy epic all written by hand…in crayons. No joke. I work a day job, but I can’t share for who, since the Old Man isn’t as liberated as the people who read my books. I’m married, I have furbabies, and I live with loved ones. I adore a certain show about a British consulting detective and his grumpy army doctor, and that spawned an addiction to Johnlock fanfiction, which then evolved into me writing it. Gawd, that’s embarrassing. Put this down in the TMI section of my Bio, okay?
I enjoy martial arts, movies where things blow up, and I wish I lived in a Marvel movie. I live in the beautiful and lonely Berkshire County in Massachusetts, and I see way more wildlife than I care to on a daily basis (bears!). My perfect day is reading surrounded by friends and family who don’t think it’s odd I want to hang out but not talk, and my favorite scent of all time is a cool fall evening with leaves burning….less a scent, and more of an experience. My writing is focused on gay and lesbian people, who are more than interesting side characters that hang out with the heterosexual MCs. My wish for the future is that when people ask me what I do for a living, I can say, “I write gay romance,” and NOT get weird looks.