Friday, September 2, 2011

Review of Bonnie Vanak's The Shadow Wolf

As part of the “Write a Post, Save a Dog” bloghop, here’s a picture of my parents’ dogs, Henry and Minnie! Minnie is a border collie mix and came from the local humane society, while Henry is a mutt my parents found online from a rescue. Minnie’s been with our family a long time and is a real sweetheart, while Henry’s got the funniest looking tail we’ve ever seen. They both go nuts whenever we visit. How can you not love that? And now on to the review of Bonnie Vanak’s The Shadow Wolf.

Title: The Shadow Wolf
Author: Bonnie Vanak
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne
Formats: Print and Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Originally, I thought that this book would be the first 2 out of 5 stars review for the blog, but after careful consideration, I think it’s more like 2.5 stars, because despite the many “Oh, puh-LEASE” and “You’ve gotta be KIDDING me!” moments, at least the writing flows smoothly and the pacing is well done. The premise of the book was intriguing enough for me to request the ARC from NetGalley, but I later realized that this is the tenth book/novella in the Draicon series. This makes me wonder if I would have had a different reaction to the book had I begun the series from the beginning. For these reasons, I’m bumping the rating up to a 2.5 from a 2. I can’t recommend that you spend money on it, but while I don’t consider it a good book, it wasn’t necessarily a bad one either.

The novel begins with Megan Moraine, shadow wolf, on the run with her two young cousins, Jillian and Jennifer. In this paranormal romance, Shadow Wolves are werewolves who can turn invisible. Years ago, they migrated to an island to escape persecution from other Draicon wolves, but when a few shadow wolves tried to out all werewolves to humans, the Draicons decided to imprison Shadow Wolves on the island. Megan has escaped from the island with her 7 year old cousins to return the girls to their father. When enforcer Gabriel Robichaux shows up at the restaurant they’re eating at, Megan fears that he’ll live up to his reputation as a brutal killer and murder the three shadow wolves. What she doesn’t realize is that Gabriel has been using his Enforcer role as a cover to secret Shadow Wolves to safety. Earning Megan’s trust becomes all the more difficult when the two realize that they’re destined mates. Can the two find safety while battling an overwhelming attraction?
This novel just didn’t work for me. As I mentioned earlier, the writing flows smoothly and the pacing is well done in the novel, so Ms. Vanak is clearly an experienced writer. Unfortunately, several of the tropes that appear throughout the book are my least favorite in paranormal romance. I’ve always been skeptical when the heroine is in extreme danger and yet notices how amazingly hot or sexy or overly muscled the hero is. Really? I just find that hard to believe, but even though Megan is exhausted and starving from being on the run with her 7 year old cousins, she feels an immediate attraction to Gabriel and sparks fly. I realize that my distaste for this trope is probably a personal preference, because I’ve complained about this to the DH when reading romantic suspense, and he finds it completely believable that under stressful conditions you would be attracted to someone. When I’m tired, I’m really cranky, not horny, (as the DH well knows) so I’ve never been a fan of the “the world’s about to end, let’s knock boots” trope. Also, I’m not a fan of the one true mate concept, and Gabriel and Megan are “destined mates.” To me the “destined mates” concept in paranormal romance feels like a shortcut that allows the author to skim over the romance and skip to the smexy times. So this just felt like one more coincidence among many that pop up throughout the book.
Speaking of coincidences, they occur so frequently throughout the novel that it strained my credulity more than once. There were several “deus ex machina” moments that felt heavy handed. The further I read the more incredulous I got, because special powers and creatures with different abilities seem to appear at random as needed. The three female shadow wolves were gifted with psychic powers that conveniently aren’t mentioned until just when the group needs them, and they would be attacked at random moments by creatures called morphs that can turn into anyone or any animal at will. I kept thinking, “Whaaaaat???? Where did this come from?”
The appearance of Tristan, the Immortal Justice Guardian, really pushed my buttons. He appears at pivotal moments in the text when the plot seems to have stalled a bit and finagles events to achieve the happy ending for everyone. I was hoping that this was limited to this novel, but the same thing occurred in the novella “Darkness of the Wolf” that’s included in the book, so I’m guessing he’s a recurring character in the series. I found him to be incredibly frustrating, because just when the author seems to have written herself into a corner, he magically appears and straightens everyone out.
The biggest “Oh no, she DIDN’T” moment came when we learn that Megan’s a 26 year old virgin. Yes, they do occur, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility, but we learn that female Shadow Wolves are being sold to brothels and that Megan has had to fight off Draicon wolves repeatedly, so this just seemed a bit too old-school romance for me. Her being a virgin adds nothing to the plot or characterization whatsoever and strains belief. But the absolute limit for me was when Gabriel and Megan made love for the first time, and he tells her that he gets “bigger” after coming, and they’ll have to wait awhile before he can withdraw. After that I just had to put the book down and walk away, because it was just too ridiculous for words.  
Clearly I was not a fan of this book. I first read the ARC at the end of July, believing that the book was releasing August 2, but when I realized it wasn’t coming out until August 23, I put off writing the review. Last week I decided to reread the book in order to refresh my memory for the review, but I just couldn’t finish it a second time. It felt too contrived and over the top. The novella included with the novel is completely in keeping with the style of the novel, so I just can’t recommend this book.

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