Audiobook Review: Off the Beaten Path by Cari Z.

When Ward Johannsen’s little girl Ava shifted into a werewolf, she was taken into custody by the feds and shipped off to the nearest pack, all ties between father and daughter severed. Ward burned every bridge he had discovering her location, and then almost froze to death in the Colorado mountains tracking her new pack down. And that’s just the beginning of his struggle.

Henry Dormer is an alpha werewolf and an elite black ops soldier who failed his last mission. He returns home, hoping for some time to recuperate and help settle the pack’s newest member, a little pup named Ava who can’t shift back to her human form. Instead he meets Ward, who refuses to leave his daughter without a fight. The two men are as different as night and day, but their respect for each other strikes a spark of mutual interest that quickly grows into a flame. They might find something special together—love, passion, and even a family—if they can survive trigger-happy pack guardians, violent werewolf politics, and meddling government agencies that are just as likely to get their alpha soldiers killed as bring them home safely.

Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins

Narrated by Jack Wesley 

Cari Z. really pulled off a unique take on shifters with Off the Beaten Path and Jack Wesley did the tale justice with his reading. There was more to Off the Beaten Path than just the shifter dynamic basics we all know and love; big strong alpha rescues weaker, heart of gold omega/human, the whole pack loves and respects said alpha, omega/human is stronger than anyone thinks, omega/human has alpha wrapped around his little finger, etc., etc. I love it, I really do, but having such a refreshingly different shifter story to read was a real treat.

The world building is really well done and given the conditions in which the shifters live, it was a smart decision to have one of the MC’s be a human. It put the shifters forced way of life into a perspective that connects with the reader. Ward (the human) has had his daughter Ava, taken from him because she unexpectedly shifted during preschool and hasn’t been able to return to her human form. Shifters are only raised with other shifters in seclusion so Ward doesn’t even know where Ava has been taken and is informed he has no recourse to get his daughter back.

Ava is Ward’s entire world and there is no way he is just lying down and letting his daughter go. He pulls strings, makes calls and gets some intel as to where she is being held. He takes off on his own to be with her again. Ward isn’t the healthiest of human specimens, but he doesn’t let his asthma stop him from the brutal trek to get to his daughter. The listener can’t help but root for him and feel his pain. The narrator conveys Ward’s emotions with enough emphasis to be effective but not overly so, keeping him real and not a caricature.

Henry is the alpha of the pack that has “adopted” Ava and he’s none too keen on the idea of having a human in his pack. But Henry is overworked and disrespected by the humans he has to answer to so having Ward around is not really on his agenda at the mo. Ava isn’t doing well though and Henry’s best option to bring Ava some comfort is to welcome Henry to the pack. Henry’s character is just as sympathetic (in a different way, obviously) from Ward, but he’s no less appealing in how much I wanted to root for him and sympathize for what he has to endure to be sure his pack is kept safe.

The secondary characters were strong as well and there’s some interpack dramatics that add to the story and overall world building. The extra plotlines helped explain some of the background of the society the author built and it all flowed together pretty seamlessly.

Off the Beaten Path is definitely more than just an alpha/human love story, there’s a lot more depth to it, and the only thing I would have liked was just a little more of Henry and Ward together once the resolutions started flowing. I wanted more of a sense of them as a couple without a world of stress hanging over their heads.

The uniqueness of the story engaged me from the beginning and the narrator added to that engagement easily. I stayed and loved the story for the characters and to hear their HEA.

**A copy of this audiobook was provided for an honest review**

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