Review – Unconditional (Cascadia Wolves #7) by Laure Dane

Unconditional cover image
Publisher: Samhain
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Their second chance generates a dangerous kind of heat…

A Cascadia Wolves Story

As a cop, Michelle Slattery is familiar with the dark side of human behavior, but this case is way above her skill level. Mages have been scouring the country kidnapping witches, draining their energy, and leaving their broken bodies behind.

With Michelle’s best friend among the missing, she appeals to the Owen witches, who send her to the last place she’d thought she’d see a familiar face. The werewolves.

When a witch seeking help shows up at the Pacific Pack headquarters, Josh Neelan gets the shock of his life. She’s none other than his high school sweetheart, the one he left behind when he was bitten and turned. Their intense sexual chemistry still sizzles for a reason—she’s his mate.
As they begin to work through their issues, their rekindled romance quickly flames red hot. But the closer they get, the more dangerous the outside world becomes. And they realize magick-thieving mages are just the tip of the iceberg.

This blurb came from the author’s website.

I don’t remember which Cascadia Wolves book was my first; I just remember from the moment I picked it up at Borders (RIP) I became a Lauren Dane fan. Over the years, I proceeded to read her work both new and backlist and she maintained her place on my auto-buy list. When I realized that she had set a couple of her paranormal series in the same world as the Cascadia Wolves only focusing on cats, witches, and a distantly connected wolf pack I was really excited about putting the pieces together. In those stories the Cascadia Wolves were distant supporting characters. Having recently re-read the first six Cascadia Wolves books, I was eager to go back to my beginnings and visit some old friends. I found myself enjoying this story on two different levels. One was the story itself because Dane always delivers and the other was seeing the growth in her writing and the changes over time within the Cascadia Wolves. For those of you who have read Dane’s de La Vega Cats and Bound by Magick series, this installment takes place in the middle of Chaos Burning.

Michelle grew up a witch in an area that did not have a large or very well organized supernatural population. It did have its fair share of those who were against any form of “other” so Michelle was accustomed to hiding her heritage. As a local police officer, she learned to make sure that any information she provided on a case could have been discovered without using any magick or at least appeared as if it could have been discovered. Because of a series of abductions, torture, and ritual murders of witches around the country, Clan Owen, the largest of the witch covens, started sending groups out to raise awareness and offensive magick skills. Michelle made sure she took the training because she wanted to learn plus it would help her protect others. Then her best friend became one of those abducted and her world changed.

Josh on the other hand really lived two separate lives. One was as a regular human, ignorant of most supernatural information, dating Michelle, and enjoying college life. The other was after he was turned and entered the world of the others. There as he came to terms with the fact that there was more to the world then he imagined he built a new life, one that actually allowed him to become more. He never went back to his hometown after he gain control of his wolf because he did not know how to explain to Michelle that he was no longer human. She had kept her heritage secret from him so he kept her in his past. Then a witch walked into his building and his world changed.

I enjoyed watching Josh and Michelle together. Their old attraction flared back to life almost immediately but neither of them gave into their urges at once. Josh explained what happened and why he did what he did along with apologizing, which made me really like him. Instead of remaining upset about past events, Michelle took a step back and gave Josh credit for doing what he could under the circumstances as much as it had hurt at the time. I loved how patient Josh was with Michelle even as his wolf was pushing him to claim her. He was great at answering questions and not hiding things. Michelle was also good at being honest with Josh, as much as she couldn’t hide her arousal from him despite her best efforts. She carefully considered everything he told her and did not have problems telling him that she needed to focus on finding her best friend but she was open to exploring what they had. And explore they did. I can’t wait to see them in action in future books because I think they make a very effective team together.

As I mentioned earlier, not only did I enjoy the story but I also enjoyed the progression of Dane’s writing skill and that of the Cascadia Wolves. I thought it was wonderful to see how the wolves had become much more welcoming of new people who had other skills then they once were. It seemed as if the passing of time and the common threat had worn away some of the hidebound closed traditions. This installment also seemed to contain a richness to the characters that wasn’t quite as evident in the early Cascadia Wolves books so that was an extra treat.

Dane had mentioned in her Bound by Magick series that the wolves were also facing similar problems of mysterious disappearances. Unconditional brought the struggle to the front and center and fleshed out the world a great deal. I really enjoyed how Dane made both Josh and Michelle strong characters with a fierce protective instinct that was sometimes at odds with practicality much to my enjoyment. She also brought in a character whom I really hope gets his own story because WOW! **puppy dog eyes** Once again Dane provided a great love story set against danger, loss, fear, and the unknown. She brought flawed entertaining characters to life and continued moving the overall world arc forward. She also reached back and showed how time and outside influences had worked on the insular wolf pack structure until a witch felt welcome. I am curious to see how the Cascadia wolves will deal with what remains after the conclusion of the events in Chaos Burning.

I give Unconditional a B+/A-

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