Wild by Meghan O’Brien

wildThis year sees me doing strange things – readingwise. One is that I’m giving into a passion for the supernatural that I never before acknowledged I had. Shape-shifters, vampires and witches, oh my. Yes, it’s also research for my own future endeavor to write a supernatural story but it’s also natural inclination.

Of course, there’s always the romance to go with it and Meghan O’Brien’s Wild has plenty of that. Here’s what it’s about:

When pathologist Eve Thomas is attacked by a man in Golden Gate Park, a wolf comes to her rescue and runs the attacker off. But both the masked guy and the wolf are more than they seem on first sight. The man who attacked Eve is a serial killer in the making, obsessed with Eve who helped the police catch a serial killer before. The wolf is shape-shifter Selene Rhodes with whom Eve falls in love over the course of the novel.

Life and relationships get complicated when one has to hide a part of one’s person and while love hits both women fast and passionately, complete honesty is a hard concept to learn for gun shy Selene. And dealing with a psychopathic killer isn’t easy either.

O’Brien weaves an interesting story. She’s a good story teller, her style is easy and fluid. Eve and Selene are great characters with deep emotions and some insecurities. I also like the idea of the empathetic link between them. For all those reasons, Wild is a great read and I’m confident readers will also enjoy the steamy sex and there’s plenty of it.

At times I thought it was a little bit much but as it fits very well into the story about these two, well, creatures really it at least made sense.

Something I found more difficult to take are the moments of female domination, I want to call it. In a way, it makes sense, again. A shape-shifter is at least part animal and to feel terretorial and overprotective makes sense for Selene. But why Jac, Eve’s ex-girlfriend has to exhibit these traits even more aggressively to a point where she grabs and pulls and pushes Eve around, I just don’t get. And reading scenes like that are rather off-putting. Maybe I’m too sensitive but if a woman behaves that way toward me, I’m telling her off. The whole character of Jac felt too pushy somehow and I didn’t get why Eve would want to stay friends with her. I didn’t like Jac, at all, something I regret because female homicide cops are one of my favorite lesbian stereotypes.

And with stereotypes come clichés and I felt that O’Brien uses a lot of those. I cherish a good cliché, something to be showy about and also make a little fun of. The use of chlichés in Wild seemed overdone and not at all conscious but just in a way as if to say, this has to be so because it’s always been done this way. And using chlichés in that capacity is lame, because it’s exactly how they shouldn’t be used, why they have such a bad reputation, in fact. They make the plot predictable, the characterization suffers and they become annoying when overused.

I must say that it took me a good long while to read this. That was not due to the story but because I’m still not in my regular reading-mode. I’m incredibly slow these days, but it doesn’t reflect on the story. Wild is a good romance with believable thriller elements, and steamy, animalistic sex. O’Brien wrote a great story about a shape-shifter and her characters were well thought-through. I like it, but I don’t love it.

Second Nature by Jae

secondnature1My reading habits are all over the map right now and there’s no sense or order in what I read or don’t read these days. Luckily, this fit into my research about the supernatural. So let’s talk shape-shifters:

Jorie Price is writing a novel. Unfortunately for her, the dreams that gave her the idea for her newest story are not just Freudian seductions like Stephanie Meyer’s – they’re prophecies about a species that lives in secret: shape-shifters. When Jorie’s beta-reader who is also a shifter becomes concerned about the accuracy of the descriptions of her species, she informs the Saru, a secret police force of shape-shifters who start to investigate the writer and a possible informant.

Griffen Westmore is the investigator who is send to Michigan to find out where Jorie gets her information. She’s just as private and closed off as Jorie and the two find it easier to connect with each other than with their respective families. But when Griffen’s commanding officer Cedric Jennings pushes the shape-shifters’ council to issue a killing order on Jorie Griffen has to decide where her loyalties lie or be caught in the cross fire between humans and shifters.

Second Nature is a compelling read. It has a great story and Jae conveys it expertly. She weaves a tapestry of family relations, friendship and devided emotions and doesn’t waver in her pursuit of a fascinating and exciting story. The beginning is a little slow but that is to be expected when the supernatural elements are introduced and it is never boring. Jae combines facts and fiction so elegantly that it is a pleasure to read about her creatures, their living situation and culture.

I have stated before that I’m not a great fan of writers who make their main characters writers. Too often it ends in tedious descriptions of what we writers find endlessly fascinating – the process of writing and living as writer – but what everybody else must recognize as masturbatory self-congratulation. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen here. Jae doesn’t dwell on whatever might be her own philosophy about writing, instead she introduces us to a main character who is not defined by her profession only. Jorie is interesting and three-dimensional and thus a believable target for the affections of a liger shape-shifter such as Griffen Westmore.

The love story between these two characters progresses slowly and believable. Private people like Jorie and Griffen don’t fall in love at first sight and their developing friendship is actually a greater focus of the book than the sexual attraction which happens simultaneously but more subtle than in most romances. Jae leaves her characters with enough room to figure out their feelings in their own time and I appreciate that very much.

While I really enjoyed this story and could hardly put it down after the chase for life had begun, there’s something about Jae’s style that’s a little tiring. While her descriptions are all very good, there are simply too many of them. This is especially true during conversations where the constant interpretation of emotions hems the flow of the dialogue. Jae does not seem to trust the reader to interpret scenes by themself and sometimes her explanations are repetitive. Strangely enough, this does not ruin the fun of the book as it is part of Jae’s writing style and perfectly incorporated into the story. Still, I think I could have done with less of it as interpretation is a part of reading I really enjoy – but maybe that’s just me.