Carly Silver is the owner of Bodice Rippers, a bookstore dedicated to all things romance. One night while closing up shop, she finds a huge injured dog on her doorstep just as a snowstorm rolls in. Truth be told, it looks a lot like a wolf, but it seems friendly enough. Being a serious animal lover, Carly can't leave the beast to die, so she takes him home with her. The next morning, she awakens to find that her "dog" has morphed into a very big, very gorgeous, and very naked man who happens to be sharing her bed and they also happen to be snowed in together.
Gideon MacInnes has been trying to run away from his duty as the alpha of his pack of Scottish Highland werewolves. They've been tasked with protecting a mystical stone, which holds great meaning for their kind, but little does he know just how important and how powerful it is or that his cousin, Malachi, is trying to get his hands on it. However, possessing the stone won't be enough to make Malachi pack alpha, so first he must also kill both Gideon and his father. Malachi sends a group of strong, fearsome wolves like none Gideon has ever seen before, and they nearly succeed in their mission. If not for Carly - who Gideon instantly senses is his mate - saving him, he might have died. After watching his mother die in an attempt to make the change from human to werewolf, he can't allow himself to fall in love with Carly. As soon as the storm passes and he's certain she's safe from Malachi's henchmen, Gideon has every intention of leaving her, but when the assassins come back to finish off the job, he may have no choice but to keep her close.
I've been looking forward to reading Call of the Highland Moon for quite some time. Werewolves. Highlanders. Heroine who owns a bookshop dedicated to romance. She also loves animals and finds the hero on her doorstep in his wolf form, mistaking him for a large wounded dog. Stranded in a snowstorm. All of these things I would typically love in a romance, and it sounds awesome on paper. I mean, what's not to love about those things? Well, as it turns out, a whole lot. All throughout reading it, I kept thinking things like Where's the plot? Where's the world-building? Where's the character development? All three of these things were seriously lacking, IMHO, and that combined with an overabundance of introspection and passive narration made for a slow, plodding read that never really captured my imagination or engaged my attention well at all.
One of the few reasons I didn't give the book an even lower rating is because I didn't dislike the characters like I have in some other books. But then again, I didn't really get to know them well either. Both Gideon and Carly seemed like decent people, but I just didn't feel connected to them at all. Their characterizations simply didn't have much meat on their bones. We know that Carly owns a cute little bookstore that's dedicated to romance in a touristy-type town in New York and that she has a rather overbearing but well-meaning family. She also loves animals, which is why, when she finds Gideon injured in his wolf form on her doorstep, she takes him home. Gideon, for his part, is apparently running away from his destiny as the alpha male of his pack, but I never really understood why. His mother, a human, died while trying to make the change into a werewolf, and he has a father and brother back home in Scotland, where he supposedly helps run a Bed & Breakfast in his family's castle. Other than that, I couldn't tell you much about either character. Unfortunately, these things are all external factors in their lives and don't really speak to who they are inside and what makes them tick. Also I found it a bit hard to swallow that Carly was so quickly accepting of Gideon being a werewolf. She also has a tendency to get upset with him at the drop of a hat and oftentimes over things I thought were rather silly misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with better communication. Quite simply, both characters were distinctly lacking in motivation, which made it hard to fully understand or become invested in either of them.
Probably in part, because I didn't connect well with Gideon and Carly on an individual level, I also didn't feel the connection between them as a couple either. There just wasn't much to grasp onto, such as expressions of feelings, body language, or other things like longing looks and lingering touches that would stir my emotions. Apparently they're fated mates, which makes them really hot for one another, but I couldn't feel much of anything passing between them, much less this all-consuming attraction. I've read plenty of paranormal romances where the hero and heroine are mates and their attraction to each other is immediate, powerful, and palpable, which can also help me to buy into them making a lifetime commitment within a few days time (like in this story), but with Gideon and Carly I felt nary a spark. What passes for a relationship between them is told much more so than shown, which is a major problem throughout the book.
Normally I'm a fan of rich introspection, but IMO, it's way overdone here. It can drag on for paragraphs or even pages, leaving my mind wandering and making me forget what's happening, because there's so much space between the character's actions or dialogue where they're not doing anything except simply thinking. Eg. The hero says or asks something and then we get paragraph upon paragraph of the heroine thinking about stuff before she finally responds or vice versa. If someone took that long to think things over in real life before responding verbally or doing something action-wise, it would be stupendously boring and awkward, and I can't say it's all that much different in a book. This book is so overwritten, it, quite frankly, was difficult for me to read. It was like constantly reading stream of consciousness narration from the characters, leaving very little room for actual storytelling. Introspection can be an extremely useful tool for building characters and plot, but here there are lots and lots of words that just didn't say much of a meaningful nature.
This also makes for extremely passive narration. Very little happened from an action standpoint until the last few chapters of the book. There were several instances where the author told about something after the fact when showing it in the moment would have made for richer and more interesting storytelling. Eg. She jumps from Carly finding Gideon in his wolf form, injured on the doorstep of her shop and deciding to take him home, to her waking up in bed with him in his human form in the morning. I wanted to know how she got him home since he was probably far too big for her carry and whether she did anything to tend his wounds. Instead we get barely a mention that she had to somehow coax him into and out of her car. Another example is that Carly apparently had a conversation with Gideon, asking questions about werewolves, but rather than showing that discussion, the author throws in a few minor parenthetical comments about the mythology in Carly's introspections. Yet another skimmed over scene that I think would have been much more fun and interesting written out was when Gideon helped Carly out in her shop one day and practically got mauled by her customers. Again, disappointingly, it was only told about, not shown. There were also lots of other instances where some intriguing tidbit would pop up in their introspections, making me say things like What does that look like? or Show me that; don't tell me! It all made for a pretty frustrating reading experience.
As a writer, I've learned that writing effectively and making that all-important connection with your readers isn't just about the words that you choose, but also how you put them together. It's like taking building blocks and figuring out the best way to construct them into something solid. In this book, some of the sentences are constructed in a confusing way, so that I had to re-read them several times to figure out what was being said. Other times, it wasn't just confusing, but that they weren't constructed in such a way as to engage the reader's attention. Many, many sentences could have been broken up or easily reworded to say the exact same thing, but in a much more succinct way that also would have been significantly more vibrant and dynamic. Instead the prose really drags most of the time, because the author insists on over-explaining things. Eg. There was a huge overabundance of phrases such as "she saw," "she thought", she asked herself," etc. that to my way of thinking, were totally unnecessary. Of course, she saw, thought, or asked herself those things because it was written in her POV. And it wasn't just this but other things as well. IMHO, the author should dispense with the hand-holding and trust her readers to be intelligent enough to grasp the nuances of her writing without telling them every little thing. When I first started reading the book, I wasn't certain if there were any hard and fast rules about using parentheses in fiction, but I knew that I rarely saw them. Later, I looked it up and most sources tended to concur that parentheses are generally too jarring for fiction and should probably be used sparingly, if at all. Yet in this book, they're used to excess. This is yet another example of the hand-holding I was talking about where the author seemed to feel the need to insert sub-level introspection into a character's main introspections. IMHO, 99% of what was inside the parentheses didn't adds anything to the story, but instead slowed it down. I'm really surprised the editor let her get away with this.
Last but certainly not least, I thought that for a paranormal series, the world-building was pretty weak. I didn't really understand what was going on in this regard throughout most of the story, mainly because until the very end, we only get tiny tidbits of the werewolf mythology that are muddled in with the overabundant introspection. All I understood is that the werewolves are the guardians of a mythic stone, which Gideon's cousin, Malachi, is trying to get his hands on. Also Malachi is trying to kill Gideon to prevent him from taking his place as alpha. I thought the villain was rather weak too, because for the most part, he's a distant threat, far across the ocean. He sent some henchmen to do his dirty work for him, and these wolves, known as Drakkyn, are different and more powerful because of an amulet they wear and perhaps some other reasons that aren't entirely clear yet. Unfortunately, none of this made much sense to me until the climactic scenes at the end, but by then, I couldn't really be bothered to care much. And as an aside, (this doesn't really have anything to do with world-building but it did bother me greatly), I absolutely couldn't buy into a guy carrying an unconscious woman through an airport and onto a plane. TSA would never allow something like that to fly (pun intended :-)).
Anyway, despite having a number of themes and story elements that I typically would love in a romance novel, I'm sorry to say that Call of the Highland Moon was largely a disappointment. Aside from generally liking the hero and heroine, the only other thing that kept the book from getting an even lower rating from me is the three or four scenes that were written more actively and with a better balance between the dialogue or actions and introspection. It appears that Gideon's brother, Gabriel, will become the hero of the next book, Dark Highland Fire. Although he seemed like yet another nice and perhaps even fun character, I have no real desire to repeat this reading experience, so I'll likely not be continuing with the series. Readers who are more forgiving of passive narration and sub-par character and plot development may enjoy this book (and the series) much more than I did, but I have a plethora of new authors to try, as well as the backlists of far too many favorite authors to read to spend any more time on a book series I'm not enjoying.
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