Series: Coveted, Book 1
Rating: 2 Stars
Length: 304 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Ballantine Books publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Stumbled Over the Heroine's Issues
Five years ago, werewolf Natalya Stravinsky lost the man she loved to a job across the country and the responsibilities inherent to the pack alpha's son. The devastation from that loss changed her, turned a quirky werewolf with OCD into a shadow of herself. While she was still reeling from that loss, she was put into an untenable situation at a pack event and she went a little crazy, making a scene and embarrassing her family.
As a result, she was kicked out of the pack. Her alpha refused to tolerate any individual weaknesses that could threaten the strength of the pack as a whole.
Now Nat lives on the outskirts of her own town, skulking around the edges as a lone wolf. Her home, her job...even her life is solely at the discretion of the pack alpha. With a word she could be banished from her town, even killed. Her relationship with her family is tense, she has no love life, and her OCD has worsened and expanded to include compulsive hoarding behavior.
On the bright side she's got the most diverse and extensive set of Christmas decorations...in the world.
She's living her life as best she can, getting through the days, when her ex-boyfriend Thorn returns to town to assume the mantle responsibility for a pack in crisis. The heat between them is still intense, the need as clear in his eyes as it is in Nat's heart. Problem is, Thorn is promised to another werewolf, a high ranking female of the pack. And that pack crisis, attacks from an encroaching pack intent on gobbling up their territory, paints a target on Nat's back because of her lone wolf status and her lack of pack protection.
I'm glad I went into this book knowing that it was an urban fantasy instead of a paranormal romance. I was able to focus on the world building, plot, and evolution of characters. In that regard, though, this is one of the more difficult types of books for me to rate and review.
I fully appreciate the originality and unique story elements Madison introduces in this series debut. I admire the risk she took with a main character not just flawed, but suffering a mental illness. There were also many lovely aspects of solid storytelling here on every level, and I can completely understand why this book would appeal to many.
After a promising prologue, the first half of the book was a little slow for me, but that was more a minor issue. Unfortunately, this is just one of those stories that has a main character who is the absolute antithesis of my preferred type for heroes and heroines. I was completely incapable of connecting to her or garnering much in the way of sympathy for her myriad of psychological, ideological, and situational troubles.
This is my peccadillo, not the fault of the author, but I have little patience and less enthusiasm for demonstrably weak characters, especially female characters, and there aren't many I've read who are as excessively passive in their subjugation as Natalya.
And let me just say, I was so disgusted by Thorn and his treatment of Nat, treatment masquerading as concern and star-crossed emotion, of course, that I would have happily turned him into a wolf-skin rug and nailed his furry butt to my wall. Every time Nat turned around after he'd returned to town, Thorn seems to pop up, even sneaking into her room and stirring her body, mind, and heart.
That'd be all kinds of all right if he wasn't virtually engaged to another woman. He flat-out says he has no choice in his future, but if that's the case, man the hell up. Don't torture the woman who still loves you with yearning, passion-filled looks and soft caresses even as you're telling her she can't have you. That's not only wrong, it's pathetic and cruel. Especially with Nat's obviously unhealthy mental and emotional state.
It sure as hell didn't endear Thorn to me as a character.
This is such a character-driven story, with the narrative told from Nat's perspective in first person, that my issues with her made it almost impossible for me to really enjoy the strengths and many pluses that the book offers. I was a little heartened as the end drew closer, though, and the climax of the book started to get rolling. Several enjoyable elements came together and Nat finally flashed some fang.
It was too little too late to pull this one out for me, but it may speak well for the next book in the series, or give a hint of future progress for Natalya. I'm just not sure yet if I'd be willing to return to this series and see if and how any character evolution develops. Unless of course, Nat suddenly switches the focus of her hoarding to male wolf statues with their head's forcibly removed. Bitten off would be good, too. I'm pretty sure I'd be all over this series at that point.