Tour’s Books Blog

July 16, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: White Wolf by Jianne Carlo

  • Title: White Wolf
  • Author: Jianne Carlo
  • Type: Romantic Suspense
  • Genre: Paranormal
  • Sub-genre: non-shifter wolf
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating: PG-17
  • Where Available: Loose Id

White Wolf was a full length romantic suspense novel and not at all the usual ‘werewolf’ trope, though it had some of those elements.  White wolves had deliberately  cross bred to remove their shifting ability.  The young males were unable to control it and as they became known and feared by other Native Americans and white settlers alike they were killed.  To protect them, they needed to keep many of the wolf senses, but stop shifting.  Another group of wolves chose not to make alteration – the Black wolves.  They became a cult and practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism. Gray White’s grandfather annihilated the Black wolves years ago – but now there are deaths that are following the same frightening pattern.

Sorcha McFadden has returned to Lake Wickia in Washington, just south of the Canadian border, for the first time since her parents murder/suicide when she was 15.  Her grandmother has died and she left Sorcha her cabin on the lake.  She was raised by Gram since her parents death and misses her dreadfully.  And she’s been having nightmares. Sorcha was shot the night of her parents as well and nearly died.  She’s suffered nearly complete traumatic amnesia the event and much of her childhood.  Her skinny dip in the lake is interrupted her youthful crush, Gray White, now the local sheriff.  Though white wolves don’t shift, they have all the heightened wolf senses and the lake nymph passes Gray scents his mate.  Staggered by what she is, he is more staggered by who she is, his younger sister’s playmate.  Talk about, “You had me at hello!”  Sex happens almost immediately, but Gray is called to crime scene and has to leave.  At least he didn’t fully mate, so they didn’t have ‘the wolf talk’.

This fairly complex story unfolds as a series of murders break the pattern of serial killings and other crimes happen.  Sorcha goes her her grandmother’s closest friend, Miss Lillian, to collect the medicine for one of her Grams two cockatoos – Harold and Kumar.  Miss L’s friend, Mr Morgan had his shop broken into and vandalized.  She meet Wicks of the sheriff’s department there – and he’s a very unpleasant fellow.  Then a stop at the diner shows he’s not the only person in town who’s a bigot when Mr. Morgan’s slice of pie is half the size of theirs. Her night isn’t over – she’s no more back at the cabin when Gray shows up again.  He takes her to the lake and she sees his eyes turn yellow and glow – now they have to have the ‘wolf talk’.  As if that isn’t enough, he’s talking about installing a large flat screen TV so he can watch the football games.  He’s a Seahawks fan.

Then Gray is off to another crime scene – this time the murder of the one of the teenage twin sons of a senate candidate, former classmate, and target of a major criminal investigation – Bruce Hazard and his wife Tonya.  Once he’s gone, Sorcha catches her breath and she and White, her black lab, are alone – when she hears a pinging noise and White starts growling.  She heads for the bathroom and grabs the only weapon she can find – shampoo and a razor.  Then Gray is banging on the bathroom door.  Someone stole her grandmother’s cockatoos.

In an exhausted overload, Gray wakes her and drags her to church to sit with his family and then home for Sunday dinner with the whole gang.  His nieces announce their roles, dress style and color for their wedding.  Sorcha is beyond overwhelmed and even I wanted Xanax – or a bottle of red wine.

The cast of characters grows to include more cops, Gray’s extended family, and townspeople.  The threats to Sorcha continue and it’s apparent that someone fears she’ll remember something about the night her parents died.  If it was a murder/suicide, there should be nothing to hide, but how could it have been that where two different guns were used and NEITHER was at the scene?  (That this got past anyone’s notice even 15 years ago seem beyond incredible to me.)

The story moves quickly as bodies pile up and slowly the pattern of deaths start making sense.  Perhaps one of the things I liked most about this story is the wolf ‘punishment’.  This is a typical scene in werewolf books and always involves sex – as it did here, but not in the usual fashion.  It was Sorcha’s reaction to it that I found more realistic than most – and Gray’s sense of shame over what he’d done made him a better man than most.  I was impressed by the plotting, normally a major shortcoming with romantic suspense where logic can often go out the window.  Ms Carlo didn’t try and cover logic flaws with action, but like most police dramas lately, forensic information seems to arrive at amazingly fast rates for a rural police force.

Sorcha’s character is fairly well developed, Gray’s less so, but neither is very deeply drawn.  Gray is mostly two dimensional, his character being defined mostly by his ‘white wolf’ traits.  Sorcha has the bulk of the backstory, but for some reason I couldn’t quite connect.  It’s the lack of engagement with the protagonists that made me feel strangely disconnected from their story.  For romantic suspense, this is an unusual shortcoming.  There are some logic breaks in the ‘world building’, especially when you learn who is responsible for all this.  It made no sense that Gray’s sense of smell wouldn’t have detected the perpetrator long ago.  Still, it had intricate plot, fast pace, and believable solution.

The sex here, though frequent, is neither too graphic nor kinky.  In fact, it’s quite tame all things considered.  The violence is also mostly toned down.  Combined with the character issues, it gave the overall impression of ‘romantic suspense light’.  White Wolf held your interest more by dint of solving the many puzzles than characters engagement.  In this sense, it read more like a mystery than a typical romantic suspense novel.  Regardless of what niché you assign it, it was a good read with enough romance, suspense and mystery to be very satisfying – and a very welcome break from the run of the mill werewolf novels out there.

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