All Brent wanted was a week alone with his boyfriend Henry. Of course, he just had to choose a vacation spot occupied by a werewolf… and of course, he just had to make the stupid decision to venture outside on their first night there.
When he wakes up the next morning, he wants to believe it was all a dream—but when he starts to change, Brent knows that his life with Henry will never be the same.
After promising his younger boyfriend Henry that he would take him away on a summer vacation and failing to keep his promise because of work, Brent decides to surprise Henry with a week away in the woods at a small and isolated inn. He’s excited to finally get away from prying friends and nagging mothers and ready to revel in the serenity of time alone with the man he loves. Yet, the further they travel into the dense forest, the more uncertain Henry seems to become. Brent is not quite sure he did the right thing in springing this trip on Henry. He knows Henry would have rather gone to the beach during the summer like he had promised, but the important thing is that they’re together, right? Though he knows that Henry loves him, Brent needs this time with his lover. He knows what other people think when they look at them — that he’s too old for Henry, how incompatible they are. He’s been called the moon and Henry the sun. While he knows he tends to be introverted and at times broody, a natural light seems to shine from Henry, and he’s only happy to be able to absorb and reflect it.
They arrive at The Mistwood Inn, which seems to be straight from a Hitchcock movie, and meet the mysterious innkeeper — Valerie Beauregard, who explains to them that they’re the only guests for the week and that she has only one rule: not to wander outside after dark because of the “creatures of the night.” Obviously a quack, Brent and Henry settle in to spend a week languishing in bed and bantering about their strange hostess. With humor to ease the tension of feeling caged in by darkness and eerie quiet, they go to sleep until Brent is awakened by a disquieting dream. After hearing a noise outside, then seeing a shadow slinking around the inn, he heads off to investigate only to be confronted with what must surely be a nightmare — the yellow eyes of a beast, the fangs of a hunter, and paralyzing pain where he’d been caught in the giant wolf’s maw. He drifts off into darkness, knowing he is dying, cursing losing Henry by his own stupidity, only to wake up in bed refreshed, invigorated, with only a torn shirt and scar to prove it wasn’t a dream.
I was a little unsure at first whether or not I would really enjoy reading this book. It starts out like such a typical B-movie horror flick I was afraid it would have a hard time getting away from the format that usually follows in such a story — couple is away in the woods, one hears a noise in the night and of course goes to investigate it, and when it is too late to turn back realizes how utterly stupid they’ve been to not just lock the door and hide in the closet (as I would probably have done). Yet, in the recent years that shapeshifter stories have shifted themselves to stories about a human who falls in love with a tortured shifter, whose shifting becomes glamorized and sexy, I found that I started to realize how much I missed the good old days when werewolves were still more beasts than human. What I found that the author did best in this novella was slowly bringing us into that setting, building the suspense. I felt Henry’s tension when he looked out at the woods and Brent’s confusion about what could be happening to his mental state now that he’s starting to feel things and see things. Thats when I turned the lamp on.
What follows is a story about a man’s struggle to remain sane and a couple’s struggle to find some way to come back together after a horrendous event. Even though Brent does everything he can to keep what is happening away from Henry, to shield the younger man from hurt, Henry is very astute and starts putting together pieces of what is going on. There is a reason that people say the sun shines on him and it seemed to me that he deserved that kind of praise. He was a golden boy, but not just through youth, vitality, and beauty. There is a wholesomeness about him. He is the first to see good in people and he is quick to forgive them. He’s a bit of a old soul and, it seems he might be Brent’s only path to survival.
Though I ultimately really enjoyed the read, this is the point where I started to have a few problems with the story. As Brent succumbs further and further to the beast inside of him, the point of view changes to Henry, so that by the climax, we aren’t really sure what is going on inside Brent mind. We know he’s going through a struggle to assert his humanity, but we don’t actually get to see it. I loved being inside Henry’s head because I liked his character so much, so maybe if we had had alternating viewpoints from the beginning I wouldn’t have minded. Because I felt like I missed getting to see the climax from Brent’s point of view, the story felt anticlimactic. There were no grand machinations leading up to the finish, which was fine, but because of that the ending fell a little flat. I also wondered about their backstory. How did they meet? How long have they been together? We don’t really get to hear about much of this, which I would have liked, but I didn’t hold it against the author because ultimately it gave the story a detached feel, which fed into the mystery and suspense of the setting.
In the end, it was a great read, except for a few little things, but the detail in setting and suspense eclipsed that enough to be a very enjoyable read. I loved the innkeeper, Ms. Beauregard, who was a great character and the descriptions of the werewolves themselves were beautiful. There were only a couple of sex scenes but they were hot, sensual, and very tactile as we got to experience them through Brent and his wolf senses. If you like shifter stories or horror, I would definitely check out Howl.