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This post was revised and updated on 1/31/14 to include a review ofHow to Run with a Naked Werewolf,the third novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first two novels.
NOVEL 3: How to Run with a Naked Werewolf
We've waited a long time (nearly three years) for the third entry in this terrific series, and the wait was definitely worth it. Once again, Harper presents the reader with a simmering romance, a straightforward (if predictable) plot, and a pair of engaging lead characters. The heroine is Anna Moder (aka Tina Bishop), who was formerly the human doctor for the Crescent Valley werewolf pack until she had to flee because her abusive ex-husband had tracked her down. Her hero is Caleb Graham, a bounty hunter who is a cousin of Maggie Cooper, alpha of the Crescent Valley pack. In the first chapter, Anna witnesses Caleb being shot in the parking lot of the store in which she works. Not knowing at first that he is a werewolf, she drags him into his truck and takes him to a seedy motel so that she can treat his wound. Knowing that if she returns to her apartment she will be faced by questioning by the police, she turns her back on her possessions and her meager savings (hidden behind the dresser) and agrees to go along with Caleb as he drives south to Anchorage, stopping at a few places along the way to pick up some of his contract targets. So…a road trip—one that includes lots of Harper's authentic, snarky dialogue and a romance that warms up, simmers, and boils over as the days go by. Anna has been on the run for years, ever since she left her abusive husband, Glenn Bishop, and her beloved medical practice back in Tennessee. Several years ago, she linked up with the Network, "a widespread group of people who helped women escape from abusive domestic situations, particularly when those situations involved stalking. Operating beneath the radar of law enforcement, the group arranged for new, untraceable driver's licenses, social security numbers, and birth certificates in new names.…They were discreet, well funded, and frighteningly good at making people disappear." (p. 63) Anna's Network contact person (Red-burn) notifies her each time Glenn gets close to finding her and helps her set up a new identity. Anna had hoped that she had found a permanent place with the Crescent Valley pack, but Glenn's tenacious stalking ended that dream. When Anna meets Caleb shortly after her escape from Crescent Valley, she knows immediately that he is a werewolf, but she doesn't let on to him that she knows exactly what he is. She also doesn't (at first) reveal her true identity, her connection with the pack, or why she is on the run. Eventually, Anna is forced to choose between living the rest of her life on the run or figuring out a way to solve her problem with Glenn once and for all. Caleb has his own problems with his past, including a mother who abandoned him. He makes a decent living as a bounty hunter, mostly outside the justice system. Caleb doesn't ask any questions about his clients or his targets, and he charges big fees for his tracking services. He enjoys his simple, uncomplicated life and doesn't spend much time thinking about the future. Caleb falls for Anna very quickly, but realizes that she is keeping secrets—as is he. When one of his jobs collides head on with his budding relationship with Anna, Caleb is forced to make a life-changing choice. This is a great story—one that I read in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. As far as I'm concerned, Harper's talent for dialogue is unsurpassed in the genre of paranormal romance—filled with both wisecracking humor and emotional poignancy. It's like listening to real conversations between clever, amusing people you'd like to have a drink with in real life. Although the resolution of Anna's problem is predictable, the road trip events and conversations are so entertaining that you won't mind that at all. This book can definitely be read as a stand-alone, but I would also encourage you to read the first two novels in the series. Want a preview? Click HERE to go the the amazon.com page for How to Run with a Naked Werewolf. Click on the cover art at top left to read an excerpt that includes the parking lot scene in which Anna and Caleb first meet. To listen to an audio version of a few pages from chapter 2, click HERE and scroll down a bit.
Depending on your generation, this series is eitherMen in Trees or Northern Exposure with fur and fangs. Grundy, Alaska, is a tiny, backwoods, one-street town in Southwest Alaska with a population of quirky characters and a few werewolves. The series tells the soul-mate romance stories of members of the Crescent Valley pack, who live in a wooded valley some miles outside of town.
In this world, werewolves are born, not made, and they live in packs, generally in isolated, wooded areas. Although they live amongst humans, they keep their furry nature a secret, except for a select few humans who have meaningful relationships with the pack and its members. There are also other types of were-creatures in this world, but the stories are focused primarily on the werewolves.
NOVEL 1: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
In the first book, Mo is a sweet southern girl who leaves her Mississippi hometown for the wilds of Alaska, mostly to escape from her interfering, hippie parents, who run a commune. Mo rebelled against that life early on, and her yearning for normalcy keeps driving her to get as far away as possible from her parents. When Mo arrives in Grundy, she soon gets a job as a cook/waitress in the local restaurant/saloon, where the male population thinks that she is manna dropped from heaven. The man who really turns her on is Cooper, a sexy but surly hunk who runs his own wilderness travel service. One other man also attracts Mo's attention: Alan, the local park ranger—handsome, sexy, and absolutely willing to win Mo on any terms. Soon after Mo arrives, dead bodies begin to turn up, seemingly killed by a huge wolf. As Mo settles into her new life, she makes some romantic choices and gets involved in the investigation of the murders. Eventually, she learns that her true love is a werewolf alpha estranged from his clan. The identity of the serial killer is predictable, but Harper keeps the action moving right along, so we don't really care.
NOVEL 2: The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf
Cooper's sister (Maggie), who is now the pack's alpha, has to deal with Nick, an outsider who is researching werewolf legends, which is a threat to pack security. Maggie already has her hands full with everyday pack problems so she doesn't need this extra trouble. The pack elders are pressuring Maggie to mate and produce werewolf offspring, but she's not sure she's ready to settle down. There are two likely werewolf candidates for the husband position: Lee, Maggie's distant cousin, and Clay, a new pack member. Unfortunately, Maggie can't stand Lee, is indifferent to Clay, and is irresistibly attracted to the totally unsuitable human, Nick. All of a sudden, a series of attacks puts the pack on the defensive, and Maggie has to track down the perpetrator. Eventually, Maggie learns that both Lee and Clay have some dangerous secrets that must be dealt with before the pack can be safe. She also decides on Nick's role in her future. Once again, the identity of the villain is fairly predictable, but that is forgivable because the characters are so much fun.
Harper writes humorous dialogue with a rhythm and an accuracy that is both amusing and authentic. I could actually hear the characters in my head as they delivered their affectionate wisecracks and entertaining witticisms. This series would make a really great TV sit-com. Although the plots are predictable, the books are enjoyable because of the characters and their relationships.