I will start this mini-review with a bit of funny that happened. The other day I sat down to continue reading Wolf Signs, the awesome Elizabeth Reeve popped up on IM, and we had this exchange (mostly paraphrased):
Eliza: I read some short stories I liked. They were about werewolves. You like werewolves. Let me tell you about them! (She also thoughtfully provided links, because she is awesome. Because I am also awesome, I will pass those links on to you: “First Howl” and “Second Howl” by Vivian Arend.)
Eliza: *talks a little about the short stories and the things she likes about them*
Eliza: And a female lead who is deaf!
Me: *double take* I think I am reading these books! I was just going to tell you about this free book I got for the Kindle. (Because I am still awesome, I will include a link, though I can’t guarantee how long the freebie will last: Wolf Signs.)
Me: Shared brain for the win!
So these stories are so enjoyable we simultaneously found them and started reading them, then recommended them to each other before we even finished.
And now I will recommend them to you, with some spoilers. Well, I’ll recommend Wolf Signs, though I still haven’t had the chance to read the two short stories linked above.
From the publisher’s blurb: Robyn Maxwell doesn’t care that her brother has to cancel out on their backcountry ski trip. She can do it alone. The fact she’s deaf doesn’t make her survival skills any weaker. The chance to get away from it all and relax in the Yukon wilderness is just what she’s been craving.
Meeting wilderness guide Keil at the cabin starts cravings of another kind. Keil’s one hot hunk of ripped, tasty male. Now she has to deal with raging hormones as well as strange questions about wolves and mates and challenges to the death.
Keil was trying for a nice reflective retreat before challenging for the Alpha position of his Alaskan pack. He wasn’t planning on meeting the woman destined to be his mate, or finding out she’s not aware she has the genes of a wolf.
Between dealing with his accident-prone younger brother, a deaf mate with an attitude and an impending duel to the death, his week—and his bed—is suddenly full.
Far from the relaxing getaway any of them had in mind…
Mini-review: Mostly, this was a lot of fun. I really like Robyn. She’s an intriguing, stubborn, strong woman. I particularly like that she’s deaf, but still does all the things she loves. I really enjoyed the opening scene with Robyn and her brother, Tad. It’s obvious they love each other very much, and though Tad is very overprotective, he listens to what Robyn says. Unfortunately, Tad is also keeping a major secret from Robyn, which I hated. If the siblings are that close, I think he would have told her the truth. As it is, his secret starts to look like a big coincidence used to make the plot work.
I loved that Arend doesn’t gloss over some of the difficulties Robyn faces because she’s deaf, especially when meeting strangers in the wilderness, but there’s a twist later which allows Robyn and Keil to talk to mentally talk to each other which seemed like a cheat to get around the limitations Robyn’s disability poses for them.
Robyn deals really well with learning that not only do werewolves exist, but she’s a werewolf, which she doesn’t know because her parents were killed when she was very young. I’m torn on this issue; partly I am glad to see a character not waffling with disbelief, because frequently that takes up a huge chunk of stories, but partly I think she accepted it way too fast.
What there is of werewolf politics is really intriguing, but the story lets that fall flat. Throughout the story, I thought all the discussions about werewolf politics and pack law were building to an exciting, culminating official challenge for leadership of the pack, but after a too brief fight while Robyn and Keil are still on their way back to civilization, the book just kind of ends. The fight itself is quite a let down, too, and is won far too easily by Keil and Robyn despite the fact that Robyn has no experience facing werewolves and can’t yet shift herself. Though Keil says he can’t handle three wolves attacking him at once, he deals with that and more. The story really feels incomplete, like this is only one half of the actual tale. I’ll check out the sequel and see if it fleshes out the abrupt, too brief ending on this one.
Though the sex scenes are hot and fun, there were moments when they were also incredibly cheesy, which knocked me out of the story. One example is this description: Kisses like a ten-car pile up. It has the scared virgin trope, and I’m definitely tired of that, as well as the pain during the first penetration, which yes, does happen for some women, but not for a lot of them, and in romances seems to happen to every single one. As active as Robyn is, I’m not sure I believe she’d feel pain. Keil also frequently comes across as a bit of an ass, especially when it comes to sex; not only dominant but demanding, and frequently pushing for anal sex, which actually seemed out of place with the rest of the story.
Finally, I really am not a fan of the mating for life concept which shows up in so many werewolf stories, but many people love that and expect it and if you do like it, it fits well in this story.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story. It was a quick, fun read with some interesting werewolf politics and the potential for a really fun series. There were a number of characters I’d like to read about in sequels and I’m looking forward to reading more.