Secret Chemistry  - Chris T. Kat This review can be found at The Armchair Reader.

At a gathering, thirteen year old Tim notices a strangely enticing smell but before he can figure out what it is, chaos starts to rein within his pack. Some of the pack want to hunt a den of hybrids, which causes hostility among the wolves. Forced to go home when the wolves turn violent, Tim can’t resist the smell for long and follows it to a mother and a young fox/wolf hybrid named Jay. Noticing the hybrid is his mate, protective instincts compel Tim to do everything in his power to get them to safety. Unfortunately, while trying to save Jay, he ends up getting injured and forced to leave Jay’s side. Now, eighteen years later, Tim’s life hasn’t exactly been alluring but he’s finally put into a situation to reconnect with Jay when Jay and his father want to buy a horse from Tim’s family’s ranch. Jay, though, doesn’t understand the instant connection between the two, which causes Tim to explain to Jay his own existence. Not only that but now Tim has to break it to his family that the mate he’s been yearning for is not only male but the very shifter that caused so much unintentional chaos and hatred almost two decades earlier.

This story starts off a bit odd in that the Jay and Tim meet when they are very young. In fact, the first third of the book revolves around their first encounter at such an early age. Some readers might have an issue with this because, while they don’t mate, the connection is there and very real even though Jay is only three and Tim is thirteen. In my opinion, it worked with this story because the separation they are forced to endure for eighteen years has molded them into the individuals they are in present day. More than that, it allows the reader to get a sense of how their connection formed and grew without there being flashbacks throughout the story, which is part of why I adored this book so much because I’m not that fond of sporadic flashbacks.

Another reason I loved this book is because of the characters. When you first see Jay, he’s a toddler and probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever read. He’s so innocent and trusting of Tim right away because of their mate bond so there are a few sweet moments between the two when they’re young, which I found completely adorable. Jay, at twenty-one, is much more bolder and feisty. He won’t put up with Tim’s irrational or possessive behavior (at least not often) so it made for an entertaining read watching Jay put Tim in his place. Tim, on the other hand, is fiercely protective of Jay from the start and those feelings didn’t diminish in their eighteen-year absence. Actually, I really loved how alpha male he was. I found his jealousy and possessiveness extremely amusing but he was also very gentle with Jay. Their chemistry is really hot and the sexual tension between them is even better.

The plot deals with a few things. First is the fact that Jay is a hybrid and, therefore, wanted dead. Tim’s father has a hatred for hybrids because of what happened to Tim’s mom for trying to protect them. So, one of the conflicts is getting Tim’s family to understand their mating and accepting it. The other major conflict is the fact that Tim has made some rash decisions in the past eighteen years that has made him unfit for being an alpha. This means not only is their relationship forbidden but there can only be one alpha pair and that is not supposed to be Tim and Jay but Tim’s brother, Robin, who is more submissive than anything else, and Robin’s eventual mate. It’s interesting how it all plays out and the emotions that run rampant through every character in this book but there’s also a whole host of interesting shifter capabilities (like sensers and their healing ability) that I loved reading about because it made this shifter story unique in its own way, which made this read stand out from ordinary shifter stories. One of the highlights of this book is definitely Tim’s little brother Robin. He’s such a delight to read about because of his mischievous behavior and his very naughty comments. I loved reading every scene he was in.

I really adored this story but it’s not without its problems. First off, the story ends with the assumption that trouble will strike again. I don’t want to go into too much more detail because that will ruin the enjoyment, I think, but I’m just going to say that while it’s an HEA, it’s left open-ended because there’s the realization that more conflict is bound to happen because of their mating. My only other problem was the sister, Debra. She was a real piece of work and I would have happily strangled her if I could have. I’m curious, though, with all her animosity if she’ll be the cause of the problems sure to come. More than that, I’m still left wondering, what does Tim look like? Being from Tim’s POV, we never really know (and if it’s told, I unfortunately missed that). I feel like I should also warn readers that this book has shifter sex in it. While this didn’t bother me, I know that is not some readers’ cup of tea.

Overall, this was a delightful read that was both adorable and hot. It’s intense at times but the characters are definitely loveable and entertaining with a plot that is very intriguing. The world is different but easy to follow and even though it has a sort of open ending, I’m curious where the story will head from here. I’m also wondering if the sequel will be about Jay and Tim or about Robin and his eventual mate. Really looking forward to finding out!