Tour’s Books Blog

November 20, 2009

Book Review: When He Was Bad by Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden

  • Title: When He Was Bad
  • Author: Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden
  • Type: Paranormal shifter anthology
  • Genre: Pack and Pride series short novel + long novella with vamp and shifter
  • Sub-genre: humorous and suspense
  • My Grade: B+ (4.2*)
  • Rating: PG-13 to NC-17
  • Where Available: Wherever books are sold
  • FTC Disclosure: book purchased at online bookstore

Well, When He Was Bad my re-read book this month.  I just couldn’t seem to get interested in anything lately, so I grabbed this off my keeper shelf and enjoyed it again.  No, it isn’t my favorite, but I actually enjoyed it more on this read through than I did the first time and enjoyed being reacquainted with Nils van Holtz, alpha of the van Holtz wolves,  in Ms Laurenston’s The Main Squeeze.  Van Holtz first showed up first in Go Fetch! with his wife Irene Conridge.  The first story in When He Was Bad goes back in time to when Van and Irene first got together in the early 1980’s.

Miss Congeniality is the ironic title given to the story of Niles van Holtz and Irene Conridge.  It takes place in the 1980’s – when a color screen for a PC was a huge leap forward in technology.  The van Holtz pack is the richest pack in the US, thanks to their hugely successful chain of high end steakhouses,  hand along with the Smith and Mangus packs, the most influential. Irene Conridge is a professor at a small but elite college in the northwest.  She went there at the age of 18 with 3 PhD’s and a chip on her shoulder that’s still there.  An only child who was so extraordinary she addressed the UN when she was only 10 years old and was once taken into custody by the authorities who feared an enemy nation might grab her (It ended badly when she blew up a goodly portion the military installation and several blocks in a nearby city – they let her go.)  Niles see her when she arrives on campus at the age of 18 to his 21 and he assumes she’s “fresh meat’ for his conquest list.  Instead, Dr. Conridge is a new faculty member.  He’s had a thing for her and her seamed stockings ever since.  Thanks to generous donations of the van Holtz family to the school, Irene tries to be pleasant – or as pleasant as her very limited social skills permit – she doesn’t kill him.  Hey, among shifters that’s almost love!

Irene’s roommate and best friend Jackie drags her from the party and gets her to agree to destroy her latest research before it can fall into the wrong hands.  Nervous and a little edgy, she hears a sound and goes after what she thinks is an intruder with   Irene agrees and drives out to a remote area to dump the small amount of material – which actually acts like a super fertilizer on plants.  From nowhere a hyena leaps at her.  Then lions appear and finally wolves.  Irene had been holding her own with 1 hyena,but lions???  She ends up using her supercharged version of a taser to kill the attacking hyena when the wolves appear.  Then the lead wolf shifts into a naked Niles van Holst and Irene allows the pain to send her into a blessed oblivion.

Niles hauls Irene back to the van Holst mansion and she has to stay there for several days while he tries to work out some kind of agreement with the hyena clan and lion pride to keep her alive once she leaves van Holst territory.  Irene has known about shifters for many years because her long time friend, roommate and fellow prodigy Jackie is a jackle.  Niles has run into intransigence with his fellow shifters and Irene’s life ends up hinging on his marking her as his mate.  Lions and hyenas don’t do that, but they know that wolves mate for life.  Niles just doesn’t believe it.  He thinks it’s all some story parents tell.  Once he bites Irene though he learns it isn’t.  suddenly, he’s lost all interest in the available she-wolves, even the lionesses do nothing for him.  In a panic, he shows up at Irene’s and demands a kiss.  Of course it doesn’t END there.

How does a womanizing wolf and genius with boundary issues connect?  Very well in bed, but with difficulty out of it.  She’s never learned to play, he just ignores her and manages her – but doesn’t control her.  Irene has to learn to be human and how to play.  Her whole life has been about the intellectual expectations that others have of her.  Everything she is, her entire self image is centered on her amazing intelligence.  Niles teaches her about the rest of life.  He’s determined, conniving, cunning and over-sexed – just what Irene needs to make her forget.  But someone is trying to find her recent research.  She held back just a little of the lethal material, but no one knows, right?  The FBI is following her – but so is someone else.

The story is classic Laurenston.  An intelligent, self-sufficient, independent, emotionally closed off female and a womanizing, vain, self-centered, alpha shifter male.  The sparks fly as Irene slowly finds out how much pleasure can be had from being ‘normal’ and Nils comes to terms with the reality of the mate bond, getting his mate to adjust to it, and the fact he must become the pack alpha, like it or not.  He deliberately drives her crazy by leaving his photo all over her office, drives away any other man, and teaches her how to enjoy life instead of just work, how to be ‘normal’, or as normal as possible, while respecting her intellectual gifts.  By itself, Miss Congeniality is a solid B+ (4.3*)

*********************************************************************************

The second long novella/short novel in this anthology is Wicked Ways by Cynthia Eden.  She and Ms Laurenston often appear in the same anthologies.  Both write paranormal, but Ms Eden writes stories that are more paranormal romantic suspense.  Wicked Ways is set in the same ‘world’ as Hotter After Midnight, but here the location is a small town in Louisiana.  Miranda Chase tries online dating and handsome Paul ends up in her house – when he bares his fangs and goes for her throat.  Her neighbor is there and rips him away.  Paul, a sadistic vampire, calls Cain ‘shifter’ like a curse.  Cain calls Paul a ‘parasite’.  In the ensuing melee, the two supernaturals damage each other and Miranda calls the police.

There have been a series of murders across state line.  All the women were, all had tried online dating, and all met with a man named Paul.  And all had there throats cut – possibly to hide the fang marks.  Her house a wreck and a crime scene, Cain takes her in for the night.  He’d love to do more, but she’s human and she’s in denial about what happened, refusing to believe there’s such a thing as vampires, despite what she saw, heard, and felt.  Cain forces her to realize there are by showing her the puncture wounds in her neck.  Miranda finds herself  learning a lot more than she’s comfortable knowing – Cain isn’t human, he’s “retired” from the FBI, and the psychotic vamp will keep killing if she doesn’t help them nail his hide.  Rather than go into hiding and let Paul move on to another victim, she decides to work with Cain and the FBI to try and catch him.  Her Spanish is rusty, but when the agent Santiago calls Cain ‘gato grande’ even she knows that means ‘big cat’.  She also learns there are a whole lot of other supposedly mythic creatures out there, like demons, djinn, and werewolves – who are usually psychotic.

Miranda is attracted to Cain and staying at his house proves to much temptation to them both.  Paul, however, is as drawn to Miranda as Cain expected.  Cain smells him – old blood – and goes into the woods near the house and lets his animal free – a big, black jaguar.  He hunts the vamp, but Paul is ready for him and shoots at him and heads for Miranda.  Paul didn’t use silver bullets, so even though the wound hurts, Cain isn’t that badly injured.  Then he goes after Paul, but the vamp does the unexpected and shoots Miranda knowing Cain will stay with her and not go after him.

Miranda decides she’ll continue to help hunt Paul.  She creates an online persona with a new name and location in hopes of drawing him out in Miami.  Meanwhile, Cain is visiting ‘feeding rooms’ where vamps find willing humans and no one has seen Paul.  Miranda and Cain go to Maimi and the very first club sees Miranda’s cover is blow by an Irish Vamp, Sullivan, who knows Cain and knows her real name.  But the trap for Paul becomes a trap for Miranda.

The story is well done, the hero’s angst minimal, and the hunt for Paul is exciting, the suspense plays out well.  The geography of the locations could have been better defined, as could the settings themselves, but other than that, it was well done.  On it’s own this is a solid B (4*).

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