Title: Inhabiting the Night
Author: Carolina Valdez
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Vampire/ Shapeshifter/ Interracial/ Multicultural
Length: Novella (106 pdf pages)
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
***This review contains what might be considered spoilers***
Summary Review: A weak plot and some very far fetched premises made this otherwise decently written book ultimately disappointing.
The Blurb: LAPD Detective Trent Edwards rents a house in a mountain community near the only reported sighting of his brother, who’s disappeared without a trace. Martin Longhouse, who owns the local fitness center, takes Trent under his wing and introduces him to townspeople who might have seen his missing sibling. Soon, the lust that flares between the two men settles into something deeper. But Trent doesn’t know Martin has a secret, nor does he know exactly who lives in Little Grizzly Lake. Or who, and what, inhabits the woods at night. When the secrets unravel, Trent discovers his rational cop’s mind has a choice – let go of his love for Martin, or open himself up to other realities, other possibilities for his life…
The Review: Little Grizzly Lake’s biggest attraction is the zoo, unusually well-stocked for such a small town, named after its first inhabitant, a white Bengal tiger by the name of Bogha-bagh. This tiger is said to have escaped into the woods around the town many years ago; he has been killed, but his ghost still haunts the grounds. The legend comes handy for Little Grizzly Lake’s special citizens, some very considerate vampires for example, who make sure only to drink animal blood so that they don’t become a threat to their human neighbors. There’s also a group of bear shifters, members of the Iroquis nation who have found a new home in Little Grizzly Lake after being expelled from their people because of their supernatural abilities. The fitness club owner, Martin Longhouse, is also Iroquis, but he becomes a big white Bengal tiger during full-moon nights since he takes after his father, an Iroquis shaman who shared the same trait. For Martin it’s more of of a curse, though; he’s tired of being forced to spend several nights per month as a big cat when he’s got better things to do, tired of hunting, killing and eating animals (he’s actually a vegetarian). He’s also lonely as he thinks his dual nature is too much for a partner to put up with. Even in his tiger form, his human mind is always present, fighting his animal instincts.
One of these nights Martin, in his tiger form, witnesses a group of men violating another. He rescues the victim, but then he has to get him to a safe place since there’s also a newly turned vampire around who doesn’t know yet that in Little Grizzly Lake, vampires don’t harm humans. Apparently, Martin can willingly shift into his tiger form (which he does later), but not back in nights of the full moon, since he has to drag wounded, unconscious Trent home into his cabin with his teeth. Even so, the tiger notices how attractive Trent is, and the feeling carries through to the man who tends to Trent’s wounds later. Of course, Trent is a stranger, and Martin is much too tactful to give any hints.
Trent wakes up in a strange place, hungover from the drugs and in pain, to a strange, intimidatingly big, but gentle man he soon comes to feel safe with. More than that, he’s sexually attracted to Martin, although he tries to hide that at first since he’s unsure if any advances to this regard would be welcome. These misgivings are cleared up over the course of the next few days as Martin and Trent get to know each other and eventually develop a connection which soon extends beyond being friends-with-benefits.
One night Martin is called out of Trent’s arms by one of his bear shifter friends to help them with an emergency. Trent, who up to this point is still oblivious to both Martin’s and the bear clan men’s double nature, insists on coming with him. Martin lets him, and this is when Trent learns what actually is the kernel of the brute (or bear, in this case). He reacts shocked and pushes Martin away (even though he still doesn’t know that Martin is a shifter, too). But Martin won’t let the man he’s come to love run away from him like this. There must be a way to warm Trent up to the idea of sharing his life with a supernatural being. Fortunately, Fate has just the right card up her sleeve for Martin.
This was a fantasy book. I had to remind myself of that fact over and over again while reading it, given that I found some of the elements very far – fetched. First, there was Trent, who had a fraternal twin he used to be very close to. Until recently, when the two lost track so far that it takes Trent several months to learn that his brother’s missing. Trent, supposedly a seasoned LAPD Detective, goes looking for his brother after he’s been wounded on duty. Okay, he’s done everything in the department’s official powers to no avail, and since he’s on sick leave anyway, he takes the opportunity to spend his recovery time near the place where his brother was last seen, taking a picture which he plans to show the locals. But does he? No, he keeps his search for his brother a secret. The reason is given that he doesn’t want to scare the locals with being a policeman, which I could still buy to some extent. But then, Trent is drugged, badly beaten, ferried out to the woods and threatened to get raped on his first night in Little Grizzly Creek by a gang of brutes for no obvious reason. And even though Trent is a policeman, he doesn’t seem to be overly eager to catch his assailants. He doesn’t even go to the local doctor’s, it’s that important to keep the fact that he’s a policeman secret.
Okay, so these premises came across constructed, but I could have coped with that since the actual getting to know and getting together of Martin and Trent was nicely done. I liked that they took their time despite the instant attraction. They had some deeply emotional sex scenes, even a quite endearing one which they fumbled due to their mutual awkwardness. Martin seduced Trent in a very subtle, gentle way, and Trent opened beautifully to Martin. Also, the writing in itself wasn’t bad at all, the acting characters came alive during several nicely written scenes. But those fortes ultimately couldn’t save the book. For it went on like it had begun: Why did Trent insist on coming with Martin in the first place? He stated he would and Martin just allowed it. Why didn’t Martin explain anything to Trent if he was so determined to make a relationship with him work? The ending, in particular, felt rushed, a jack-in-the- box solution where suddenly all problems are resolved by a wave of the magic wand.
Aside from the weak plot, I had two personal major issues which ultimately spoiled the book completely for me.
For one, I had a problem with Martin’s Bengal tiger. Why in all worlds does an Iroquis shaman shift into a Bengal tiger? How could that happen? The question bothered me right from the beginning and throughout the reading. I understand why a tiger worked best here, but why make Martin an Iroquis in the first place if he needs to shift into a tiger? Well, there was Bogha-bagh, but he had apparently nothing to do with Martin’s animal form. Native American heritage and Bengal tiger shifter just don’t go together in my mind (perhaps this is just me, but white tigers plus America equal to Siegfried and Roy in my imagination, and although there might be a deeper meaning to this, it remained obscure to me).
Also, it gave me a queasy feeling to see the Iroquis constantly referred to as “Indians”. True, it’s the Iroquis themselves who mostly use the term, saying things like “us Indians” or “Indian land”. Yet, from what I’ve been told, “Indian” is generally looked upon as disrespectful, even offensive. As I understood it, someone who is of Native American heritage but not very connected to it might call himself an Indian on occasion, pretty much like a Mexican who calls himself Hispanic. But someone who is proud of his heritage and/ or actively living according to it, like the Bear Clan men in this book supposedly do, would certainly not use the word “Indian”. As I understood it, a Native American who’s connected to his heritage would refer to himself with his nation’s name, since there are so many differences between the respective nations. I found the use of the word “Indian” here really bothersome since it seemed so improper, but this might be just me, others may not take exception to this.
If this book was meant to be a parody to the entire shifter/ vampire theme, it would have been a good one, but there were no hints as to this; the story obviously took itself serious. Although it has some good scenes and decent writing, I unfortunately can’t in good conscience recommend this book.