Book Review: The Gentle Wolf, by Pia Foxhall (Perth Shifters #2)

The Gentle Wolf, by Pia Foxhall

Omega Aodhan Donne has buried his past, his life revolves around his chocolaterie, Little Star, a place where he creates sweet and happy memories. Demisexual, and used to being shoved in the friends category by the time he falls for someone, he throws all his energy into creating romantic moments for others in his store, neglecting his needs. His highlight for two years has been the man who visits his shop every Tuesday.

Beta Thomas Wilson is an historian who believes the past should be unearthed, working as the curator at Western Australia’s only shifter museum, educating children and adults about shifter history. Quiet and hard-working, he allows himself to visit Aodhan at Little Star once a week, as a treat.

When Aodhan decides he wants to get know Thomas better, he offers him a window into a complicated history that influenced the lives of shifters in the whole of Australia, and faces the possibility of Thomas learning too much about his dark past.

After deciding to take it slow, their unconventional relationship becomes a whirlwind, sweeping them up together and blowing open the doors hiding their painful pasts. They couldn’t face their truths alone, but if they’re willing to face them together, Aodhan and Thomas may get the love they’ve always yearned for.

Content warning (contains spoilers)
domestic emotional abuse, child sexual abuse

Rating: 5 out of 5!

I’m calling it now – this is the best book I’ve read in 2020. I loved Aodhan and Thomas so much, and they were so good for each other.

I’m a gay man who identifies as demisexual/gray-asexual, and many of Aodhan’s experiences and feelings as an adult really struck a chord with me. The author captures the emotions and worries of someone who is demisexual exceptionally well.

This is the slowest of slow-burn love stories, but I loved that. Both men have deep emotional scars from their past. I especially appreciate that their pasts weren’t presented and then – well, that’s over with, now on to the rest of the story. We are the sum of our history, and that can inform our emotions and needs. This is the case for Aodhan and Thomas. Over two years they have (unknowingly) laid the foundation for a strong relationship while becoming acclimated to each other. Watching these two men come to lean on each other for support was wonderfully sweet and gratifying.

While this is a shifter book in a genre that frequently treats the shifter subgenre as trope-laden connect-the-dots stories, The Gentle Wolf digs deeper. The personal histories, particularly Aodhan’s, can affect the larger world, and the hints of connections outside the immediate story setting were intriguing. I would especially love to hear more of the Noongar (SW Australia Aboriginal) shifters. Foxhall’s obvious respect for the Noongar culture and traditions is very much appreciated.

This is the second book in the Perth Shifters series, but I think it stands alone quite well. The first book (Blackwood) was enjoyable and worth seeking out (I rated it 4 out of 5) but it is by no means as deep or nuanced as The Gentle Wolf, though it is a good introduction to the author’s worldbuilding. I recommend them both, but I especially love The Gentle Wolf!

As a side note, between N. R. Walker, Keira Andrews, and now Pia Foxhall, I kind of want to spend a month in Australia to see all of the wonderful places mentioned in their books (and I know that still wouldn’t be enough time)!