Montlake / February 11, 2014 / $12.95 print, $9.99 digital
Half-shifter Shaya Critchley may hold a submissive role in her pack, but she’s done taking orders. After her Alpha wolf mate refused to claim her—but committed to interfering in her life—she took off. Now she hides from him, posing as a human in a town full of anti-shifter extremist groups. She thinks he’ll never find her again, and that suits her just fine. But she’s wrong.
Nick Axton can barely control his feelings for Shaya, but he could never claim her—not if he truly cares for her. The degenerative brain condition he keeps secret would ultimately leave her with a burden rather than a mate. But when Shaya runs away, Nick can’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. After tracking her down, he discovers Shaya’s feisty and passionate side in the process…a side he’d never seen before.
Under the menacing gazes of territorial local packs and violent human extremists, Nick vows to finally claim the spirited Shaya…and despite her initial resistance, Shaya just might find his fiery determination to be the ultimate aphrodisiac.
The third book in Suzanne Wright’s Phoenix Pack series tells the story of Shaya running from the mate claim of brooding alpha, Nick Axton. Shayla is the best friend of the heroine from Feral Sins. In Wright’s world, wolves’ true mates can be determined by something as simple as a first look and such is the case between Nick and Shaya. Once Nick rejects the claim, however, Shaya puts herself out of sight, but not out of mind for Nick.
The town Shaya moves to features a strong anti-shifter component and that does play a factor in the book, but what is really interesting about Carnal Secrets is the way Wright explores dominance and submission in terms of the world of shifters. Nick’s original reason for rejecting Shaya is that she is a submissive wolf and would not be able to physically combat other Alpha females in his pack without his intervention. Readers later find out Nick’s reasoning goes beyond the dominant-submissive reasoning, but Wright introduces a new premise to the shifter genre: a mate is rejected not because of class or emotional turmoil between the characters, but because of the inborn nature of the mate’s shifter.
Many shifter novels tend to feature alpha males who pursue a female regardless of her pack status or standing and by virtue of falling in love with/mating with the Alpha, the female then becomes Alpha of the pack regardless of her character. In Wright’s world, the Alphas and submissives each give out vibes or a certain aura that defines their nature. For example, the protagonist of the first Phoenix Pack book, Taryn, was able to produce extremely dominant Alpha vibes despite being a latent shifter. Shaya, on the other hand, while having the ability to be as emotionally strong as an alpha female will still not be as physically strong or have the aura capable of putting down a more dominant female. The way Wright handles the overall problem of Shaya’s submissiveness is an interesting surprise for readers, but let’s just say that Shaya is not a shrinking violet who can’t defend herself.
On the other hand, Nick’s status as an alpha world also poses a problem for not only Shaya, but also Nick. Nick is a loner who doesn’t like many people, yet they seem to gravitate towards him. He became the Alpha of his pack not by voluntary choice but by circumstance, so while being an Alpha of a pack is something he has experience with, it’s not the status of being pack leader that makes him dominant but rather his inherent nature.
Sexually, the terms dominant and submissive might imply mean that Shaya would defer to Nick in the bedroom. However, the progression of Nick and Shaya’s sexual relationship shows that while Nick likes to be bossy in the bedroom, Shaya is the one who chooses whether or not he is worthy of control over their shared sexual experience. In fact, Wright makes it a clear point in the novel to distinguish that Nick has had sex with both alpha females and submissive females yet the nature of the woman’s wolf, in this case, does not necessarily determine how things will play out between sexual partners.
In addition, the dominant-submissive spectrum becomes a challenge not only in solidifying the relationship between the two protagonists, but also completing the “true mate” bond. So Shaya and Nick must overcome inherent differences in their shifter selves and differences in personality while remaining connected through the esoteric true mate bond. How they overcome their personal as well as genetic struggles was a treat to read.
Learn more or order a copy of Carnal Secrets by Suzanne Wright, available on February 11, 2014:
Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.