Howl

Title:  Howl
Author:  Lacey-Anne Frye
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Howl
Genre:  Paranormal M/M, Horror, Suspense, shapeshifter
Rating:  4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Cole

Summary Review: Not your typical glamorized shapeshifter story, but a suspenseful bump-in-the-night that had me leaving on the bedside lamp.
THE BLURB

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.

THE REVIEW

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.

Author

26, male, gay, baker, knitter, sometimes writer, and voracious reader of all things | contact me: cole.riann[at]gmail.com

12 comments

  • I bought this book based on your recommendation. I like shifter stories and I do appreciate a bit of horror once in a while.
    However I don’t think I had the same reading experience as you did.
    There were a couple of things that took away from my enjoyment of the story.

    First, the fact that Brent went outside in the first place bothered me, A LOT.
    I was thinking: “Dude! There’d better be some freaky werewolf mojo thingy COMPELLING you to go outside! Don’t be TSTL!!!”. But hey, he was indeed TSTL.
    Granted, it was but a moment of stupidity, but it ruined the scary atmosphere for me.

    Second, the author kept referring to Brent as ‘the older man’. After the fifth time this got annoying and jarred me out of the story.

    And last but not least there was a sentence about how Henry’s father had initially kicked him out at seventeen for his LIFESTYLE.
    Now I’m not a native speaker, but lifestyle to me says that there’s a choice involved somewhere.
    So I shudder every time I see this word used in relation to being gay. Maybe the author meant something completely different. But the way I interpreted that sentence kept me grumbling every other page. “Whaddaya mean LIFESTYLE!!! Pffft, lifestyle.”

    So these three things that may not bother other readers ruined this particular story for me. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying this author again. I did like her writing style and will probably give her another shot in the future.

    Reply
    • I understand what you mean about Brent being TSTL. That bothered me as well. Although, I think I did take it differently, because right from the start it had seemed like it was playing with the whole bad b-movie type of story, so I took the characters as caricatures with a grain of salt. It probably wasn’t meant that way, but that’s how I took it 🙂

      I also understand what you mean about the use of the term “lifestyle.” That used to bother me a great deal, but I think I’ve become desensitized to it. Its mostly because of where I live that I don’t let those little things bother me anymore. So I totally missed that in the story. I don’t remember that at all. Although, I’m glad you mentioned it because its a bit sad to think that I’ve learned to tune those things out. Maybe I’ll be more aware of them now. Thanks Saf!

      I’m glad though that you enjoyed the writing and would consider reading more of Lacey-Anne Frye’s stories. Thanks for leaving your opinion!!

      Reply
  • Great review, Cole!

    I really like shifter stories but for some reason the blurb for this one never really hooked me. Your review however, has. My TBB may be huge but I’m adding another one to it now. Thanks. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Lily!

      Yeah, I know what you mean about the blurb. I felt so so about it, and then for some reason, probably drunk buying on Amazon, I bought it and its been sitting there for two months. But it was much better than I expected.

      I hope you like it!

      Reply
    • Thanks Missy!

      Yeah, I missed reading it around Halloween and thought, what the hell. Its nice to inject a little fear around this time of year when I’m bogged down reading sweet stories.

      Reply

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