Lone Wolf, by Jennifer Ashley

16 Oct

Lone Wolf - Shifters Unbound(I’m hoping to post this right before the deadline, so my apologies in advance if it’s even less readable than usual)

I had a lot of trouble reading something that qualified for this month’s TBR Challenge. Not, mind you, because I don’t have a TBR pile–physical and electronic–that can probably be seen from space, but because a) I didn’t realize until the weekend that today was the deadline for October’s review, and b) I started four different (new to me) paranormal stories and couldn’t get past the halfway point on any. Kill me now, please.

Also, trigger warning: a baby dies, though not during the story.

Lone Wolf, by Jennifer Ashley

Though I’ve yet to write a review of any of Ms Ashley’s books, I’m very much a fan of most of her Mackenzie historical romances. Long ago, Kristie(J) positively raved about the first in that series, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, over at her blog. It took me a while, but I finally managed to get my hands on that book (and the next, and the next, and…), and have since read everything in that series, most with great enjoyment.

Since Kristie(J) is also a fan of Ms Ashley’s paranormal romances, when this one was on sale somewhere, I snapped it up. It took me a while to get to it–did I happen to mention my TBR pile is positively scary?–but after four failed attempts to engage with any of the pile’s unread paranormal stories, I gratefully clicked on it on ye olde kindle app in my phone. Surely, it would be the one to break the streak, right?

Yeah, not such luck.

This story is part of the Shifters Unbound series. Although there are only four full novels before it, it’s actually the eighth story in the series. Amazon–where I got my copy–states that it is 199 pages long, so basically it’s either a short category romance or a longish novella. Either way, it’s not a full length novel, and it suffers from it.

Among other things *cough*

Take my opinion with a grain of salt, because I made myself finish it just so I could review it, but some of the issues I have with it are very personal and may not faze any other reader.

With all that out of the way, here’s the blurb (from the author’s website):

Ellison Rowe is a wolf Shifter who has embraced all things Texas. He’s a cowboy through and through, complete with a Texas drawl, cowboy hat, and well-worn cowboy boots. He’s also lonely, though he feels obligated to look after his sister who is recovering from a hit-and-run accident that has left her striving to control her feral tendencies.

Enter Maria, a human woman taking refuge with the Shifters, who volunteers to look after the cubs and help Ellison’s sister. Maria too is recovering from a haunted past—she was kidnapped and held hostage by a rogue Shifter and then disowned by her family when she was set free. Now she’s on her own, but determined to put her life back together and leave Shiftertown for good.

But someone is attempting to abduct Shifter cubs, and Maria and Ellison know they must stop him. As Maria works with Ellison to track down the kidnapper, she finds her heart slowly awakening once more. And Ellison realizes that Maria may be just the one to bring light back into his life…

For once the blurb reflects the story, to the point that you now know all you need to know about what passes for plot from it, as there is truly nothing unexpected on the way to the HEA.

In fact, if what you need or want from a review is mostly a plot summary, you can stop right here and go on your merry way.

Now for all my problems with the story… oh boy, did I have problems with it. As I mentioned before, most of them are personal and have to do with the heroine, her ethnicity and her backstory.

María happens to be a Mexican human woman, and everything about her story, from the rogue shifters who kidnap her (because Mexican shifters have to be rogue, but US shifters¹ are all civilized and shit) to her family’s reaction (because of course her backwards Mexican family would disown her for having been raped repeatedly by the gang of feral shifters–it’s her fault since she thought she was eloping with one of them) to the way her speech is portrayed…every thing, but every. single. thing. about her, offended me.

Please do understand that I am not ascribing prejudice to Ms Ahsley, the author–what I am saying is that I, the Mexican reader, saw a multitude of negative stereotypes in the Mexican main character. And the thing is, it’s not just María who is, well, reduced to her nationality. In the first five pages alone, we have our hero Ellison’s “fine Texas baritone” and another character’s “Irish smile.”

Oh and will you look at that, the local crime lord just happens to be Pablo Márquez.

In South Texas.

What are the odds he’s of Mexican descent, if not a Mexican immigrant?

And let’s not even try to keep track how often characters’ traits are reduced to whichever animal they shift into (but “all of them” wouldn’t be to far from the truth).

Another problem I had with the story is that there were a number of info dumps–which are almost unavoidable when writing series, but which tend to be more noticeable in shorter stories because there is not enough space for the characters to educate the reader through normal conversations and thoughts. So there was plenty of “and this happened, and then this character did this, and then this other character did that, and then this other thing happened,” pretty much like that.

Of course, considering the truly large cast of characters–I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure all previous and future heroes and heroines have speaking parts–and the length of the story, there was no other way. Too much to say, too many people to say it, too few words to do it all.

But back to María.

We have this poor, benighted Mexican woman, who has been rescued by the brave, honorable, civilized, educated, etc. US shifters. While she’s grateful to them–which makes total sense–she’s also wary of shifters in general, because three years of captivity at the hands of the aforementioned feral shifters.

She’s also sworn off men in general, and shifters in particular–did I mention three years of hell? Not that easily forgotten.

Or at least one would think so, right? I mean, the very night the story starts, María has a nightmare/flashback to her captivity and the loss of her newborn baby, as well as the general abuse–mental, physical, sexual–during that time.

Which explains why María, who is all about not wanting to depend too much on the shifters, is studying for the SAT.² She hopes to attend college so she can become financially independent. Much is made of how hard she works at all the menial jobs–cleaning houses, waiting tables at a bar, babysitting, blah blah–and her drive to improve herself (gag).

And yet, the following morning, she’s happily kissing our hero. There is some lip service to how she “should be afraid” but obviously the magic wang is in play, so she’s not.

Why make the trauma a) so immense and b) so recent, if you are planning to have her playing tonsil hockey within 24 hrs, and full penetration sex within 36 hrs, of the beginning of the story?

But okay, let’s assume that the magic wang is indeed this powerful. Apparently, it also renders a person TSTL.

Stupid enough that, when she’s taking her SAT and she sees through the window, that one of her shifter friends is being abducted, her first reaction is…what? Remember when you took your SAT? No cell phones, right? And we are told, pointedly, that her friend–the very one who’s just been abducted–is keeping her cell phone while she’s taking her test.

Does she yell, makes a fuzz, ask someone to lend her a cellphone to call the other shifters–or hell, the human police?

Nah. Instead she takes the time to return her unfinished test to the proctor and leave the building.

Head, meet desk.

That, I’m afraid, is just the beginning of the TSTL behaviour, but let’s move on to the next issue.

Remember that I mentioned María’s speech way up there at the beginning? Here’s why: beyond the “as you know, Bob” info-dumping, there are a number of hella awkward sentences.

For example, “the brother of Sean and Liam who’d been killed.” Wouldn’t “Sean’s and Liam’s brother, who” blah blah be more natural? How about, “the man who was proctoring the test said” instead of “the proctor said”? Keep in mind that this is not María speaking these lines. The scenes are from her point of view, but you know what? If she’s just learning English then she’s probably thinking in Spanish, and if so, she would not have any difficulty phrasing her thoughts fluidly in her own tongue.

I could go on–and on, dog help me–but I think you get the idea.

The rest of the characterization, as I said earlier, also suffers from excessive stereotyping/genre conventions as shortcuts, and the plot is utterly predictable.

And the whole of the experience made me mad–see rant above–and sad. I so wanted to like this story and Ms Ashley’s paranormals in general, and now I’m just. I can’t even, you know?

It is with regret that I give Lone Wolf a 4.00 out 10–and I will stick to her Mackenzie books for a while at least.

*

¹ I am going to be extremely pedantic the whole way through this review. America is a continent, and us Mexicans are as American as any US citizen. Usually, I shrug my shoulders and keep going, but considering how much of a stereotype María’s nationality and ethnicity are, I just can’t bring myself to gloss over this one.

² And while we are here, there is no way in hell that a person who has been studying for the SAT would say, “I’ve been studying for the tests called SATs,” no matter how fucking poor her English, unless she’s trying to fail them.

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5 Responses to “Lone Wolf, by Jennifer Ashley”

  1. SuperWendy 16/10/2014 at 11:07 AM #

    Hmmmm, um, yeah. I’m amazed you stuck through to the end. And I am so with you on the HUGE traumatic past baggage in shorter books. It is very, very hard to pull off in a believable manner. Really, sometimes less being more is an OK thing.

    I had a hard time with this month’s theme as well. I wasn’t really in the mood for romantic suspense and I just couldn’t bring myself to dip into my VERY small paranormal pile. I try to stay “on theme” as the hostess, but this month I was sorely tempted to stray…..

    • azteclady 16/10/2014 at 12:58 PM #

      Well, I don’t have a formal, policy on reviewing DNF books, other that “don’t feel comfortable doing it” so I had to finish something! And I honestly just couldn’t face starting a fifth paranormal.

  2. kristiej 18/10/2014 at 6:28 PM #

    Guess what!! Guess what!! I found you, I found you. I KNEW you had your own blog but not even being on my own for such a long time, I didn’t find you.. But now I have and I’m so glad. And I totally plan on being a frequent visitor.

    I really enjoyed your review. I’ve read this book and it’s a far cry from being one of my faves. I can see why the stereotyping would be really grating. And, like Wendy, I’m surprised you finished and all things considered, a 4 out of 10 isn’t that bad of a grade 🙂

    • azteclady 18/10/2014 at 7:04 PM #

      So happy, happy you’ve found me, and I do hope you come back frequently, I’ve missed you much.

      I really wanted to like this book, because Ms Ashley, you know? The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is just so amazing, and for my money Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage and The Many Sins of Lord Cameron are almost as good. I’m also very fond of “The Untamed Mackenzie.” Oh, and I just finished Rules for a Proper Governess and liked it a lot, by the way.

      And it’s all because you introduced her books to me with that review. I owe you many hours of joy, Ms KristieJ. Thank you.

      • kristiej 18/10/2014 at 7:51 PM #

        If you want to thank me you simply MUST read Transcendence by Shay Savage and review it. We are talking Broken Wing all over again. O.M.G that book knocked my socks off – right off my feet. If one were to pick it apart, there are a lot of possible faults, but if one is a reader who goes by how a books makes the feel – well, again – Socks. Off.

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