Big Bad Wolf, by Christine Warren

10 Aug

Big Bad Wolf, by Christine Warren

Two quick caveats: this novel contains quite explicit depictions of sex and is not suitable for minors (or people who are easily offended, by sex1 and/or adult language), and it is one of the many shiny books I got at the RWA National Conference last week.

This is the first novel of Ms Warren that I’ve read—and I realized too late that it’s actually part of a series (in fact, it is the expanded and revised version of the previously published second story in the world of The Others). It follows unassuming kindergarten teacher Missy and hot werewolf Alpha Graham during their whirlwind…courtship? marathon to HEA? (if I understood correctly, the novel takes place in exactly seven days).

Here is the back cover blurb:

Missy Roper’s fantasies have revolved around Graham Winters since the moment they met. But the imposing leader of the Silverback werewolf clan always seemed oblivious to Missy’s existence. At least he was, until Missy collides with him at a party and then abruptly runs away—arousing Graham’s interest…and wild desires.

Lupine law decrees that every Alpha must have a mate, and all Graham’s instincts tell him that the sensual, beguiling Missy is his. Trouble is, Missy is human—every delectable inch of her. Convincing his clan that she’s his destined mate, and keeping her safe from his enemies, will be the biggest challenge Graham has ever faced. And now that he is determined to have her—as his lover and his mate—Missy’s world is changing in ways she never imagined…

The first thing I have to mention is that Ms Warren excels at the difficult art of writing believable (and yes, arousing) sex scenes. In them, there is some internal dialogue going on, from both of the protagonists’ points of view, but it doesn’t get in the way of the (heh) action.

Pretty early in the story it is made clear that Missy and Graham have met more than once during the previous couple of months, which would make the whole “her scent told him she’s his mate” a bit iffy for me, if Ms Warren hadn’t made a point of explaining it: each time they have met before, they’ve been surrounded by many other humans, whose perfumes, soaps, etc. have all but obliterated Missy’s own natural scent. It is only when alone with her that Graham identifies her as his mate.

Given the really short time frame, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that things move really, really fast—from attraction to sex to mating, zero to sixty in less than thirty seconds. Still, I was honestly enjoying the novel—even if at times I felt a bit lost about some issues that clearly derive from the previous story—but there were some stumbling blocks.

Okay, well, mostly one big stumbling block: Missy herself. Or rather, her humongous case of the poor self-esteem.

Look, I understand a woman wondering whether it can be true that a gorgeous, successful, attractive, sexy hunk of a guy (also the man of her fantasies and dreams) is as interested in her as she is in him, but it’s not as easy to believe that she’s still fixated on ‘men like Graham Winters couldn’t like, let alone lust after, women like Missy’ after Graham has told her—very explicitly—that a) she’s his mate, and b) that for Lupines mating is for life.

Now, if her internal conflict had been more focused on the free choice (or lack thereof) aspect of the situation, I would have liked her better.

On the plus side, Graham’s reaction to Missy’s incredulity is really, really good (perhaps good enough to make Super Librarian Wendy rethink her aversion to the “fated to be mated” trope?)

Humans, he reminded himself, were contrary beasts by nature. They wrote books and made films and told stories about the concept of love at first sight—what Lupines would call mating—and yet expressing a genuine belief in the concept often met with derision and scorn. Apparently, it was acceptable to fantasize about an instantaneous and lasting connection with a romantic partner, but not to actually make one. (page 184)

In the end, I found the sexual chemistry between the protagonists quite believable as I did, in somewhat of a reversal of the usual order of business, Graham’s feelings for Missy (both lust and love). However, I found that the addition of the external conflict with Curtis not only didn’t add anything to the novel, but actually distracted from the character development.

Big Bad Wolf ends up with a 6 out of 10, but I’m sure I’ll read more of Ms Warren’s books in the future.

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1 Particularly when it’s sex between hot, furry werewolves and humans
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