5 Stars! Perfect from beginning to end, this was an extremely engaging and beautiful love story that I found impossible to put down.
Axel Carmichael owns a pub and leads a motorcycle gang. The gang is his family, and he's generally a happy person. He's also an amazing Dom, and he's fortunate enough to find the perfect sub in Bayden. Bayden Wolf is completely focused on the single goal of making enough money to take care of his mom and grandfather. The fastest way to make the money he needs is by winning fights and getting paid for sex. As a wolf shifter, he heals quickly from physical damage, but the psychological damage these activities has caused is a different story. Fortunately, the love and support of Axel will eventually help him heal.
The focus of the story is on Axel trying to help Bayden heal and learn to respect himself. I enjoyed the dialogue between Axel and Bayden and felt it really helped to make the characters and their relationship believable. The aspects related to the wolf shifter world were extremely interesting. There was rampant discrimination against the wolf shifters and it was heart-breaking reading about how it affected their lives. The same type of discrimination continues to take place in the real world making it even harder to read about. Seeing the direct impact it had on Bayden's life, including his battered-down emotional outlook, was very challenging. Axel recognized this and spent the necessary time trying to truly understand the world Bayden lived in. It was just one of the many ways that Axel showed his love for Bayden. Bayden thought it was an acceptable part of his life to fight and have sex for money as long as he felt he was controlling the situation. It was very hard to watch Bayden endure, among other things, sadistic knife play without the use of a safe word. Watching Bayden heal under Axel's guidance was touching. Bayden's desire to truly and completely submit to Axel was the best gift he could give Axel.
The majority of the story was spent in Axel's pub but they also spent time riding their bikes and visiting Bayden's family. The interactions with the other friends and family helped to further develop the world and the characters.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the steamy sex scenes between these two people who cared about each other so much. There was bondage, spanking, caning, and some breath play. Although Bayden performed sexual acts with other people at the beginning of the story, it was only related to his need to earn money.
You have to wonder when you read a story of this length if there is going to be unnecessary filler, endless narrative and wasted pages. You definitely won't find that in Axel's Pup. No doubt, it's a hefty book, but I was so consumed by the story that the pages flew by. Every word and scene contributed to the building of the relationship and the deeper understanding of the characters. It will be in my top reads for 2015! I'm thrilled that this is the beginning of a series which means I might get a chance to see these two characters again.
I highly recommend this Dom/sub love story with its richly developed characters and interesting shifter world.
Originally reviewed for Swept Away by Romance. Complimentary copy provided by author for an honest review.