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Review – Mate Bond (Shifters Unbound #7) by Jennifer Ashley

Mate Bond cover image

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: Out now
Reviewed by: E
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Together but unbound, they must learn what it means to love completely, in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Wild Wolf.

To cement the leadership of his North Carolina Shiftertown, Bowman O’Donnell agreed to a “mating of convenience.” Two powerful wolf shifters, he and Kenzie keep the pack in order and are adored by all. Bowman would do anything to protect Kenzie, for in each other’s arms they’ve found far more than friendship. But as strong as their attachment is, they still haven’t formed the elusive mate bond—the almost magical joining of true mates.

Now with a monster ravaging the countryside and threatening the Shiftertown community, some in the pack fear that a pair without a true mate bond isn’t strong enough to lead. Bowman and Kenzie will have to rely on their instinctive trust in one another to save their Shifters—and the ensuing battle will either destroy them or give them the chance to seize the love they’ve always craved.
This blurb came from Goodreads

It has been a little while since I picked up one of Ashley’s Shifter stories so it was good to dive in and see some changes in the same species shifter-shifter relationship dynamic. In doing so, she grabbed one of my favorite tropes – marriage of convenience kinda spun it on its head. In addition to twisting the romance, Ashley also revealed some things about additional challenges her shifters face as they struggle for freedom.

Bowman and Kenzie were members of the same Shiftertown but Kenzie’s Uncle felt he and his family should be in charge not Bowman. The tension grew until Shifters started to pick sides and the human authorities threatened to disband the town and send everyone to separate Shiftertowns. In an effort to calm the tension, Bowman decided the best way was to join the two factions via marriage (mating) and he chose Kenzie. Unlike most marriages of convenience both were interested in each other and hoped convenience would turn into an actual mate bond. Sadly, even after having a pup, Kenzie and Bowman were still without the mate bond. This was a source of tension between them because if one or the other met someone who they shared a mate bond with they would be expected to join with the other individual.

I really enjoyed that additional aspect of tension between Kenzie and Bowman because it impacted so much. They had such trust, attraction, and comfort around each other yet deep down there was the fear the other would find someone better and leave. It really took an extended life or death situation for them to realize the impact of their choice to stay together and to accept not every relationship manifests the same way.

Previous readers of this series will already know Shifters and most individuals from Faerie tended to have a hate/hate relationship so they were my immediate guess for the culprit behind a new monster. And while they or maybe Faerie itself did play a role, there was so much more involved which really kept me wondering as I tried to determine the mastermind. There were so many possibilities and I never really suspected the actual villain, even when I reread the story the clues were subtle.

With each installment, it seems as if the Shifters are both becoming more accustomed to working together across species and Shiftertowns. They also seemed to be collecting a variety of different allies I think they will need in their major confrontation with humans and those in power in Faerie. As part of their slow transition to a coherent people, Ashley also brought in some interesting facets about Faerie, and a reminder not all in Faerie are evil just like not all on Earth are good.

I enjoyed Mate Bond and thought the resolution Ashley brought to various threads and how she tied romance along with what individuals were willing to do for love was very nicely done. I look forward to seeing what Ashley brings in her next Shifter story.

I give Mate Bond a B

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By E_booklover

E is addicted to books. She discovered at an early age that not only were they her transport to far off worlds, adventures, and exotic cultures, but that she ran into far fewer objects if she walked while reading then if she wasn't reading. She reads across several genres, such as: romance, western,mystery, SF/F and its derivatives. She isn't too picky except for good characterization, settings she can imagine, and a story that flows logically... umm so ok -- she wants a good story. Have any to recommend?

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