Review: Phantom Wolf

Reviewed by Jen

I had some mixed feelings going on as read this book.  I was really drawn into the romance. It was angsty and full of mistrust and old hurts. It was sexy and held my interest from beginning to end. But.  There are some strong racist overtones that disturbed me throughout the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the color of anyone’s skin, but make-believe species or not, the prejudice was hard to read at times.

Sam and Kelly are two different classes of mage.  He is Elemental. She is Arcane.  In their world, his class rules, while hers is maligned and treated as servants.  But 12 years ago, they were young and in love and committed to making things work between them. Until it appeared her father killed his family. He left her that day and they have been apart ever since.

Now Kelly works to rescue kidnapped Elemental children.  The Arcanes who are fed up with oppression are taking the kids to drain them of magic, in the hopes to conquer the Elementals who have mistreated them so long.  Kelly is willing to risk everything to stop her misguided people. It’s as she is trying to rescue one of the kids that she is reunited with Sam.  He is now a Navy SEAL and his team mistakes her for one of the kidnappers.  She must make him believe the truth and convince him to help her in her mission before it’s too late.

Kelly and Sam are clearly two people who have never gotten over each other. But they are both so damaged by their past.  I think the author tried to make Sam more sympathetic by showing us how torn up he was over his family’s deaths. Unfortunately, it was hard to look past how he and everyone else treated Kelly.  Society sees her as less than nothing. The mages of Sam’s class can basically do anything to her. The way people speak to her is appalling.  And while Sam isn’t like that all the time, there are parts of the book he clearly judges her… not just for her father’s actions, but for her race. Neither is fair. He LEFT her alone all those years ago. She lost just as much as he did that day.  Now he still acts like she was someone who did him wrong.  It’s just not fair.  She is truly a good person and she gets shit on over and over again.  Mostly by other people, but by Sam too. It’s hard to get over.

That aside, there is good sexual tension there –and real emotion as well.  Kelly is an extremely sympathetic character.  I really wanted to see her happy ending.  The thing is… when she finally gets it… it’s wrapped up in a bow that is just a little too shiny. The end is just a little too easy.  Especially in the bigger picture.

Like I said, mixed feelings.  I didn’t want to put it down, because it held my interest… but the treatment of the heroine was hard to take.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Phantom Wolf
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: The Covert Wolf

Reviewed by Jen

Matthew is a Draicon wolf who serves in an elite Navy SEAL team of supernatural soldiers.  Their existence is a secret, but their service is invaluable, as they help fight demons and other evil entities bent on chaos and destruction.

The story begins with the death of Matt’s best friend Adam.  Someone used a powerful orb to pinpoint the team’s location and send fire-wielding demons to ambush them.  Now, Matt is on the hunt for the orb and whoever orchestrated Adam’s death. His boss forces him to pair with Sienna, a Draicon-Fae hybrid, who wants to bring the object back to her people.  The SEALs have different plans for the orb, but they keep that to themselves.

Sienna thinks if she recovers the orb, she’ll be accepted by the Fae who cast her out when she came of age.  Her Draicon heritage made her an outcast and all she wants is for the loneliness to end.  She despises the Draicons, because she was told her wolfen father raped her Fae mother and was ultimately responsible for her death.  She considers the shifters to be nothing more than animals, which makes her very unhappy to have Matt as a partner.  He’s not much happier with the arrangement, since the Dark Fae killed Adam.

But despite their initial disdain for one another, an attraction builds between them over the course of their investigation.  It’s a slow build, with a lot of sexual tension, which I appreciate. I also thought the sex was great, once it finally came to pass.  My biggest problem with the relationship is that neither one of them wanted a future with the other.  All the way until the very end, Matt is determined that he is going to leave Sienna and wipe her memories so he can get back to his job. And she is so anti-wolf that she can’t see past the blinders that the Fae is her whole world.  It’s hard to get behind a relationship when it’s so devalued by both the hero and the heroine.  Even when it was obvious that only the other person could make them happy, they stubbornly stuck to their old ways of thinking. It was frustrating.

The orb arc was kind of convoluted.  I had a hard time making a connection between Adam’s death and the end-game for the bad guys.  All the scheming and plotting was complicated, with big reveals at the end.

The book is tied to Bonnie Vanak’s Draicon series, but it has a decidedly different feel.  It’s the first in a spinoff series surrounding Matt’s SEAL unit, so it would be easy for a new reader to jump in.  Honestly, I enjoyed the last couple of Draicon books a bit more than I liked this one.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Covert Wolf
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin

Review: Enemy Lover

Reviewed by Jen

What a difference one book can make. Enemy Lover isn’t perfect, but it’s a big improvement over “Broken Souls.” This book had a lot of action, a lot of heart, and a lot of really hot sexy times.

The book begins with Damian on the hunt for Jamie, his destined mate. We learned in The Empath that Jamie was in league with the evil Morphs, trying to learn magic. She even helped them with their plan to try and kill Damian. Fortunately, that didn’t work out. But despite her betrayal, Damian wants her. Because they are destined to share a bond, no other woman will do.

Destiny or not, Jamie has no plans to mate with Damian. She saw him kill her brother years ago and she has hated him ever since. But he is the only one who can help her fight a curse laid on her by the Morphs. Despite her protests, the two end up working together to hunt for an old book of magic that could contain the spell to save her. And of course, that time spent together lays the groundwork for the development of their relationship.

The sexual tension between these two is off the charts.  Poor Damian wants to sleep with Jamie so badly. But over and over, he pushes down his needs, to please her. The man deserved to get lucky way before he did and frankly, I thought he had the patience of a saint.

I wasn’t a big fan of Jamie. Granted, she is young, but she makes some excruciatingly bad decisions. She teamed up with the Morphs; she tried to kill Damian; she put him and herself in danger over and over. And she refused to accept the hard truths about her brother. I didn’t really think she deserved Daiman. Yeah, yeah… she’s damaged. (The backstory with the cat was fit for a horror movie.) But it didn’t garner enough sympathy in me to forgive her constant stupidity

Overall, I did like the book, though.  The world building continues to broaden.  And the story introduces us to Daiman’s adopted family, the Robichauxs, who will be featured in future installments. Plus, when Damian and Jamie finally get around to doing the deed… Well, you may want to have a bucket of ice water handy. Rraw.

4 stars.

Enemy Lover
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: November 1, 2008
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Review: Broken Souls

Reviewed by Jen

Before I get to the review, I absolutely have to point out that this is the exact same cover as The Empath, with a different face superimposed on the man.  Granted, I’m glad that this guy doesn’t look like he’s getting an anal probe, but still, that’s pretty bunk.

As for the story… Vanak hasn’t quite hit the sweet spot yet.  Our hero is Baylor, who we met in the last book. And as much as he was a douche in The Empath, he’s turned into a really good guy here. He just wants to prove his loyalty to the pack and mate with Katia.  Unfortunately, Katia is an idiot.  She insists that they find her father before she’ll mate with Baylor.  She goes on and on about how family has to come first.  And even once it’s clear that that her father is a morph, she keeps insisting he can be saved, even though NO MORPHS CAN BE SAVED.

Of course, we got a happy ending. But frankly, I don’t think Katia deserved Baylor or his loyalty.  3 stars.

Broken Souls
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: October 23, 2008
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Review: Seduced by the Vampire

Reviewed by Jen

“Seduced by the Vampire” is a short little freebie read over at eHarlequin that ties in to the ongoing Draicon Werewolf series by Bonnie Vanak. This novella features Indigo, a half-werewolf, half-vampire who has been ostracized from his mother’s people. Years ago, he took the blood and virginity of Avril, a full blooded vampire above his station and was cast out immediately.

He has made a home for himself with other werewolves and has turned his back on his vampire side… until Avril shows back up in his life. She needs his help to protect a powerful crystal that can grant wishes.

It’s no big leap to figure out what that crystal will do for our couple in the end, but it’s a fun, sexy read, getting to the inevitable. I like this series. Almost 4 stars.

Seduced by the Vampire
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: 2009
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Review: The Empath

Reviewed by Jen

After recently reading the latest book in the Draicon Werewolf series, I decided to go back and see where the series began. I can’t say it measured up to The Shadow Wolf. More like it suffers from first-bookitis. There are glimpses of what I enjoyed so much in the later installment, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.

The story centers on Nicolas, the Beta for his werewolf pack. Right now, he is banished from the pack. And the only way he can get back in, is to find his fated mate Maggie and return her to their people. Maggie was part of the pack as a child, but she has been lost to them for many years. She lost her memories of the wolves after her parents died… so she has no idea what she is. Not only is she a wolf, but she is also a rare Empath. She is skilled in healing and is prophesied to lead her people against their enemy race, the Morphs.

I can’t say that I loved Maggie as a heroine. She was really kind of a whiner. “Oh Nicolas, I just can’t kill animals. An ant is a living creature.” Gag. I know that she’s got a lot to take in, but I found myself frustrated with her for much of the book. Nicolas is a bit better… an ok tortured hero. But he walks the line of martyr on occasion, as well.

I can tell you that there was great sexual tension and the love scenes rocked. There was plenty of action too. The world building was fair. But if I had read this before trying out a later book in the series, I don’t know if I would have ventured on to another installment. It was ok. A little more than 3 stars.

P.S. Who comes up with cover art like this?  It looks like the heroine is doing uncomfortable things to the hero’s backside. Horrible.

The Empath

by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: December 1, 2007
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Review: The Shadow Wolf

Reviewed by Jen

Megan is part Shadow-Wolf, a breed reviled by the regular werewolves known as Draicons. Her kind are forced to live in exile, on an island, with their powers forbidden. But Megan has escaped and taken her two young cousins with her. She’s trying to find the girls’ father, in hopes of giving them a better life. But she doesn’t get far before Gabriel crosses her path. He is an Enforcer with a reputation to make any Shadow Wolf tremble. But after a short time in his custody, it becomes clear that his reputation is merely a ruse designed to hide the fact that he really a champion to Megan’s race. He’s been working for years to free her people with an underground railroad he has helped create.

It’s hard for Megan to trust him, though. And things get even more complicated when the two of them discover they are really fated mates. That would be enough to deal with all on its own, but Gabriel’s organization has been compromised and someone is tracking them, targeting Megan, Gabriel or both of them.

I found I really enjoyed this story… especially first two-thirds of it. Gabriel has a dark secret and some pretty serious self-loathing. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love a tortured hero?) And Megan has such potential to be the one person who can take away his pain and allow him to see the good in himself. She does make a pretty significant blunder that was hard to forgive her for… but these things rarely go smoothly.

There’s a big cast of supporting characters, drawing on the obviously rich history of this series. I haven’t read any of the previous books, but I didn’t feel lost. In fact, I think I’d like to go check out some of the backlist if I ever get my TBR pile under control. A little over 4 stars.

P.S. This book also included a previously published novella, “Darkness of the Wolf.” This story features two Draicons named Kayla and Guy. The two are tasked to track down a missing wolf whose pack has been destroyed, then deliver her to a new Alpha. Guy has been imprisoned for 30 years. If he succeeds, he’ll be freed. Kayla will get a hefty sum of money. Of course, when they are thrown together, they have no idea they are destined mates. But they find out quickly. Guy has to convince Kayla to embrace the wolf in her that she turned her back on years ago; while she must break down the walls he has built around himself to survive prison all these years. As in most short stories, the relationship develops quickly, but it was both hot and sweet. A welcome bonus!

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

The Shadow Wolf
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne

Series Reading Order: Draicon Werewolves

This is the reading order for the Draicon Werewolves series by Bonnie Vanack:

Phoenix Force

*Denotes short story/ novella