|Hot chicks, hot dudes, hot wolves.|
What more do you want?
Today I'm reviewing Howling Passion, which is the first of the Passion Moon series. The very first
thing I want to say is... the cover is much, MUCH improved from the last. It's very appropriate for an erotic romance, and it tells you what you need to know right off the bat: paranormal, shifter, m/f sex. Looking at the cover, I was excited to dive in and see what was in store!
The plot is pretty typica of romances, e-roms, and YA books. Kotie, which is short for Dakota (and girlfriend, I wouldn't want to be named after those states either. Your mom couldn't have named you after another state? Also, I can only imagine that the kids in her class called her "kotex" when teasing her), is running away from her abusive boyfriend Burt, and picks a small town in Montana at random. She meets a stranger on a bus who starts creeping her out, and when she gets to Moonrise, MT, she meets a handsome cop who sort of "saves" her from the creeper. She settles in very quickly and things start happening.
Now, I don't want to give some stuff away, but I think I'll end up doing that later on by accident as I both rant and rave about the end of the book. I'll try not to, but be aware there may be spoilers.
Ok, so it's an e-rom, so we all know there's going to be a HEA or HFN ending, and that's fine. It's a staple of the genre, so it's expected. The writing is fairly well done, and Renee was able to paint several characters easily with a few brush strokes of her pen, which is a good feat. I especially liked the giggly plump waitress. One line, I saw her in my head. Excellent description! The sex is alright, sexy stuff, nothing too outrageous, but nothing too tame either, and there were a few scattered through the book. The plot was a bit tropey, but I'm so used to the 'I don't know I'm special, whoops, guess I am' trope for women these days I just sort of... expect it. (As a side note, I think that's why I started Villainess, to break away from that particular trope) It's not done badly... and this is where I'm going to start both ranting and raving about the book, ranting meaning "WHHHYYYYY???" and raving meaning "I WANT MOOOOOORE!"
Without giving too much away, the world the author created was good. I was very interested in it. Not so much the characters, as they were... expected in a romance or erom, but the world itself sparked my interest and curiosity. There was a simplicity about it that really appealed to me, a direct cause and effect. This place is mystical, so of course it attracts mystical beings. I don't think enough authors realize that sometimes it just takes a simple premise like that to build on. The idea of ley lines not just containing mystical power, but power "flavored" by an idea (ie, life, death, nature, love, hate, etc etc) was brilliant. I literally groaned when I read it and thought, "Why have I never thought of that?!" How could such a simple concept pass me by? Yet it was the first time I read about it, in any book, anywhere. Brilliant simplicity.
That being said... I feel there was a missed opportunity with the world. I think this book could have easily been twice the size, and maybe bigger. It wasn't the romance that riveted me, it was snippets of the world the romance was set in. The first half of the book, I was like, yeah yeah yeah, whatever, but then the scene at the spring with the "Passion Moon" came up and I was suddenly glued to the book. How Renee described werewolves and their relationship to the moon... again: it was a simple idea, and executed well. She hit on all marks on the paranormal aspect of this book. The end was like, "Fuck yeah!" And yeah... there ... is some tropey things that happen too, but Kotie does assert herself (I'll explain in a minute why this is important) instead of just standing by idly with a thumb up her butt waiting to be saved.
All that being said, ranting time comes The romance was missing a beat or two. When you read a lot of romance or e-rom, you expect certain beats, a certain rhythm. While the romance was ok (and yes yes, it was fast, like almost all of them are in e-roms), I think it could have been much stronger if two things had been done. First, stretch out the tension between Kotie and Forrest for a while. Don't have 'em just hop in the sack, but you know... let us watch the push and pull between them. The romance still worked, but it could have been stronger. The second I think is the more important point: Christian, the creeper from before, could have been a rival for Kotie's affection if done correctly, yet still turned out villainously villainous at the end. I think instead of coming on so strong, if he would have been more subtle, turned on the charm, and been, well, a seducer instead of a creeper, it would have added much to the book. I really hate love triangles, but romances and e-roms thrive on them. With more choices come more 'will they? Won't they?' in books, and it could have really pushed this one into the stratosphere. Tension comes from relationships, and if both had been wooing her... then I would have been much more interested. Alas, Christian turned out one dimensional.
The last element I have to roll my eyes at is that everyone just tells her what seems to me should be a secret, and she's... a little awed, but mostly ok with it. Yeah, she saw some stuff, but she just accepts, "Oh, there's werewolves." It's a paranormal romance, so it's kinda expected.
One thing that some reviewers blasted the author on was Kotie always comparing Forrest to her ex, Burt. I am firmly in the opposite camp. Of course she's going to compare Forrest to Burt. She lived with an abusive man for two years... it's kinda on her mind. That was probably the more realistic part of the book. I'm not saying it's fun to read about at times, and it could have been a shade lighter, but that relationship affected so much of her personality for so long that's it's a BFD when she tells our villain to fuck off and that she's not going to submit to him. That was vital for her character arc. On the other hand, that she jumped into a relationship right away was both bad and good. It's good because yeah, rebounds are there, and if someone's nice to someone who has been abused, they'll latch onto them. However, it's problematic in that when she talks about her ex and how awful he was, and Forrest continues to pursue the relationship without giving her space to be by herself and heal those wounds, he's taking advantage of her vulnerability.
All in all, it was a decent read. I enjoyed it, and I could see how the author had really grown in her writing. I would like to see more of the world, and I would like to see Kotie grow more. I am all for a take charge woman, and Forrest is laid back enough that I think he would enjoy watching her grow. I'll probably pick up the second one, if it's out is it out? I dunno, at a later date to see what's shakin'. I give this seven passion moons out of ten.