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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Savanna Welles: "The Moon Tells Secrets"

Author:  Savanna Welles  (pseudonym for Valerie Wilson Wesley)
Title:  The Moon Tells Secrets 
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—2   
Publisher:  St. Martin's (3/2015) 


     The story takes place in a working class neighborhood somewhere in New Jersey. The supernatural aspect is announced early—in an introductory definition of a Navajo skin-walker (taken from a Wikipedia entry). Really? A Wikipedia essay? I would have expected the author to dig more deeply than that in order to add some depth to her villain. Reading that introductory definition carefully will remove all of the suspense from the plot because it pretty much points a finger at the villain. 

     The main characters are a widow named Raine Loving and her eleven-year-old (soon to be twelve) son, David (Davey), whom Raine named after the biblical King David. Supporting characters are Raine's cousin Luna, who provides friendship and sanctuary for Raine and Davey, and Cade Richards, an elementary school teacher. Cade is Luna's neighbor, and he has been in a deep depression since the brutal mutilation murder of his beloved wife just a year ago. Oddly, Raine has clear memories of her Aunt Geneva (Luna's late mother), but she never knew that Geneva had a daughter.

     It is clear from the opening pages that something dangerous has been pursuing Raine and Davey for years, forcing them to keep moving from place to place hoping to hide themselves from detection. Unfortunately, the thing/monster/potential killer has caught up with them once again, and Raine knows that they will soon have to leave Luna's protection and move on once again.

                       PUBLISHER'S BLURB                       
    "Don't trust nobody. Not family. Not friend. Don't let it get him like it got my son, not until he is ready to meet it. And remember that blood must pay for blood. A debt must be paid. Your boy can never forget. That is his destiny."

     Raine is at her wits' end. Her eleven-year-old son Davey, whom she has raised by herself, has the power to shift into any animal—a "gift" from his dead father. Raine doesn't know how to control this legacy nor protect Davey from the skinwalker bent on killing them both. And if the skinwalker fails, she fears the sinister fate that awaits her son. 

     Cade, still grieving the brutal murder of his wife, finds solace in Raine's companionship. But as the savage details of his wife's death mirror the powers that Davey is soon to have, Raine must fight to protect her The Moon Tells Secrets by Savanna Welles. 

                    AUTHOR'S SUMMARY                       
     In a blog interview, Welles provides this summary of the plot: "The Moon Tells Secrets is a paranormal romance about fear, grief and the courage to fall in love. Raine is a frightened widow raising Davey, her 11-year-old son. He has inherited a shape-shifting “gift” that will grow more deadly the older he gets. They are being pursued by a shape-shifter intent upon destroying them both. Fear and mistrust rule Raine’s life until she meets Cade, still grieving his murdered wife. Raine and Cade are lonely and vulnerable and begin to find solace in each other’s company. Until they discover that the savage details of Cade’s wife’s death mirror the powers that Davey has inherited. Time is running out as the beast that stalks them draws closer with each full moon." That interview also includes brief excerpts from several scenes.

                      MY REVIEW                      
   As I read this novel, I reminded myself of something that I keep forgettingthe fact that the reviewers' quality ratings in RT Book Reviews cannot be trusted. RT awarded this book four stars when it should have dropped it to threeor even two. (Click HERE to read that overly enthusiastic and misleading review.)

     Welles tells the story from two perspectives, each announced in the chapter headings. In most of the chapters (11 of 17), Raine speaks in the first-person voice, while the remaining six chapters feature Cade's third-person perspective.  Both narrators spend a lot of time musing about past and present events in extended interior monologues, which slows the already sluggish pacing from a creep to a crawl. Even though Raine is supposedly terrified for her son's life, her behavior is relatively calm. She keeps telling us how frightened she is, but her outward actions do not mirror her inner turmoil. Cade, too, maintains a calm, easy-going exterior, although he confesses in his interior monologues that he is fighting (and sometimes losing) a battle with alcohol and that he is still extremely depressed.

     The story line meanders along slowly as the monstrous thing keeps showing up in various guises, scaring both Raine and Davey, but not enough for them to flee. Intermittently, it comes growling and snarling and scratching at Cade's door and Luna's door (where Raine and Davey are living). Neither Raine nor Luna has any idea how to kill the monster, and neither tries to do any research to find a solution to this life-threatening problem. As soon as we learn how Cade's wife died and what her profession was, we can put two and two together and figure out what happened to her. But Welles manipulates the story line so that Raine does not find out how Cade's wife dies until late in the story, and she doesn't share her monster problem with him until even later.

     Unfortunately, much the dialogue is so awkwardly written that when Raine and Cade fall for one another, I was at a loss to understand why. They have little in common, except for their current proximity and their shared loss of a mate through a gruesome murder. Raine's focus is solely on her son's safety, and she is keeping all of her personal secrets from Cade, so the love story has a false feel to it, even after she opens up and lets Cade into her scary life. The best-written, most natural scenes are in Cade's chapters as he befriends Davey and then stumbles through his early attempts to hit on Raine, especially when he invites her over for a talk and then has to quickly clean up his bachelor-messy home, then makes popcorn (because he has no other food in the house) and burns it to a scorched, smelly crisp. 

     The slow-moving plot line is quite straightforward—no twists or turns—and the identity of the villain is soon clear even if you didn't read the introductory definition carefully. The addition of Luna as a probable psychic doesn't really work because she is as much of a mystery at the end as she was in the beginning. I had trouble finishing the book because I figured out how it was going to end long before I reached the final chapters. On the whole, I'd have to rate this novel as average, or just below. 

READ AN EXCERPT: Click HERE to go to this book's page where you can click on the cover art to read an excerpt.

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