Author ~ Kate Sherwood
Published ~ 15th December 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Noah Reed has his life planned out. There was that one glitch, years ago, but he's back on track now and determined to reach his goal of becoming a veterinarian and building his own practice.
Shane Black's hard life has taught him there's no point in looking forward and even less in looking back. He takes life as it comes, and his only real need is medical care for his young pup, Dodger.
When Shane stumbles into the clinic where Noah volunteers, Noah’s instincts tell him to run away from the dangerous, unpredictable ruffian. But the puppy needs help, and maybe Shane does, too.
The young men soon discover that Dodger was poisoned, and so were several street people Shane knows. As they search for the source of the poison, Noah learns about the dark underside of the city where he’s spent his whole life, and Shane learns that there is light in the world, even when he’s stuck in the shadows.
But when their relationship begins to grow from a partnership to a romance, new challenges appear. Their worlds are so different—can they ever make sense together? Is there any room in Noah’s carefully planned life for someone as unpredictable as Shane?
Noah is a young intern at an animal clinic. His ultimate goal is to become a veterinarian, but he’s still just an undergraduate. He’s been blessed with the great good fortune of nabbing this volunteer intern position. There’s no pay, but it will look great on his resume when he applies to Vet Schools. Another stroke of fortune is the veterinarian he’s working for. Dr. Tori Anderson is a talented vet, a Lesbian whose partner, Lena Cho, is a social worker, an activist on behalf of the poor and homeless.
It’s their care and concern for both pets and people that creates the opportunity for Noah to meet the young man who will, one day, become the light of his life. It certainly didn’t seem possible when the two first met. Shane came to Dr. Anderson’s clinic as a last resort. Dodger, the beautiful little black puppy Shane saved from the dumpster after a heartless moron tossed him and his siblings out like garbage, is very sick. He appears near death. All the vets Shane had approached, so far, took one look at his ragged clothes and demanded payment-in-full, up front. But Shane is homeless, a young man who lives on the streets. He has the face of an angel, is powerfully built, likes to work, but with a record of being rousted by the cops, can’t get regular employment. He works when he can get work. He has some friends, but the puppy, Dodger, is the first living thing he’s ever loved, and the only living thing to ever love him back, unconditionally. He’s devastated at the thought of Dodger wasting away and dying. Dr. Anderson is more than willing to treat Dodger, regardless of his owner’s ability to pay. That’s just who she is.
Noah and Shane dance around each other, Shane seeing a spoiled, naïve, suburban boy without a clue, Noah seeing a potentially dangerous and dirty young man who’s a threat to the clinic and himself. He’s also a threat to his preconceptions, because despite his disgust and fear, Noah feels an incredible attraction to this unkempt street person. He’s as beautiful as a work of art, and his dedication to his sick pet verges on the kind of love a parent feels for a child. As a product of America’s dysfunctional foster-care system, Shane hasn’t had the advantages Noah’s had, particularly knowing that someone cares about him, will cherish and protect him, will always have his back. He has given up any hope for himself, but is known, on the streets, as a protector of friends, strangers and abandoned puppies, innocents less able to take care of themselves than he is.
Their meeting was fated. They are both hired by Dr. Anderson and her partner to help them with a pilot program – inviting disadvantaged owners in for free exams, inoculations and treatment for their pets. And while they’re there, Lena and her crew help them obtain the assistance they need to get a leg up, to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
This leads in several directions, some good, some not so good. Noah and Shane get to know each other. As it turns out, Shane, the brave protector, prevents the naïve Noah from getting in some potentially serious trouble on several occasions. And Noah sees himself as someone who can teach Shane about hope and trust, show him what it is to be loved unconditionally, even if just as a friend. Of course, these are two passionate and sexy young men, so at some point, they move beyond friends to something much more.
There’s action, adventure, and a beautiful relationship forming that bridges their gaps in culture, experience, attitude and hope. They have fallen in love. In fact, the whole animal shelter thing, the confrontations, the very title of the book, are metaphors for Shane, Noah and the disadvantaged people living on the streets of Seattle. The author compares and contrasts Shane and Noah; the charitable clinic and the well-off doctors who refuse to treat animals that guarantee neither payment nor profit; the police who treat the middle-class and rich with respect, the poor with disdain and harassment. And when Shane and Noah find some common ground in a kiss and a cuddle, they prove that we can all find common ground if we’re willing to look beyond tattered clothes and difficult circumstances to see each other as fellow humans, with the same dreams, fears and aspirations we all share. Watching the wall around Shane’s heart breeched is exciting and beautiful. Seeing Noah grow up, losing his naiveté without losing his innocence is extraordinary. Ms. Sherwood does a beautiful job of evoking the thawing of the boys’ hearts, the replacement of their fears with trust. She’s a fine writer and, as befits her talent, “Feral” is incredibly evocative. How could it not be with two beautiful boys and a puppy, all of whom grow, open up their hearts, and do much more than survive – they thrive, together? It’s heartwarming to see hope grow where there was none.
This is a story about good people, people who care, coming to love each other, living side-by-side, becoming a family. It is a great object lesson for the rest of us – a book about people who care about those who are suffering, those who go without, those who are dispossessed by an American society that celebrates wealth and turns a blind eye on those who struggle.
There are many metaphors at work here, at many levels, but you’ve got to hand it to Ms. Sherwood for not beating us over the head with them, for her subtlety and clear affection for her beautifully-drawn characters.
I, for one, can’t wait for the next installment in this series. If it moves my heart and soul, half as much as “Feral” did, it will be a great accomplishment by an author with a huge heart.
I can’t recommend “Feral” near as much as it deserves. So read it for yourself and discover the passionate and masterfully-written world of Kate Sherwood.
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