A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Well written with a delightful location and enjoyable cast of characters marred by the relationship between the flawed, complex main protagonists.
Blurb: To save his lover, he must become his own worst nightmare.
Dr. Nick Sewell. Non-conformist. Werewolf. The first puts him at odds with his colleagues’ idea of how an All Saints College lecturer should behave. The second, bestowed upon him by an ex-boyfriend, puts him at odds with himself.
There’s his tendency to change into a wolf on the full moon. And his visceral attraction to Julian Lauder, a troubled young German student. Despite his determination not to act on his desire, Nick’s brutal response to seeing Julian with another man frightens them both. At first.
Then Nick learns that Julian is not only a naturally submissive werewolf, but one who has learned better how to deal with just being a werewolf. That explains the attraction, but it doesn’t make it any easier when the tables are turned, and Julian—once the student—is now teaching Nick…who still isn’t happy about conforming to the “werewolf way”.
Meanwhile, reports of a strange wolf stalking the town barely register on Nick’s radar—until Julian disappears. Accusing eyes—both wolf and human—are turned toward Nick. Even with the help of friends, hope is growing as cold as the kidnapper’s trail. Unless Nick gives free rein to the wolf’s inhuman power…
Contains hot outdoor sex, alliterative insults, allusions to abuse, and really awful sherry.
There are some very different societies being described in this well-written werewolf novel. Primarily, we have the timeless world of the rather insular cosy, Cambridge college, All Saints, with its middle class public school students; Natural Scientists, not biologists, chemists or physicists, and six am starts for the boat club. The city and the outer countryside are beautifully invoked, there is a true sense of place here; the Rat and Ferret Pub on Green St, the banks of the Cam and Coe Fen. A younger social element, is added to this mix by the secondary student characters, Tiffany with her SpongeBob duvet and Crack’s squat living. The paranormal society is that of the werewolf, the details of this world evolve throughout the book.
J L Merrow first introduces us to it through Dr Nick Sewell’s eyes. A history fellow of the college, bitten by an ex-boyfriend, his experience of lycanthropism is harsh. Essentially familiar lore details emerge. He is a monster one night a month, changes naked in great pain,and has increased sense of smell. He is also at odds with himself, alone, and celibate for fear of his wolf’s possessive traits. Uncomfortably, Nick is somewhat obsessed by a first year student, Julian Lauder. After some light misunderstandings around, ‘I know what you are’, it is established that Julian is also a werewolf. Julian shares his knowledge and makes somethings easier for Nick, so the picture of what physically being a werewolf means changes. However this also brings knowledge of Julian’s old pack in Germany. Led by his brutal alpha father, this society is portrayed as abusive, elitist and dangerous. Nick and Julian eventually are forced to decide what elements of lycanthropism their pack of two will represent.
I really enjoyed the set up to this book, and having very much liked Merrow’s, ‘Pricks and Pragmatism’ I was looking forward to reading it. However I did have problems with the main relationship and they all came from the character of Nick. If his vacillations were meant to mirror his own unresolved nature, this was a successful portrayal. He is a mixture of human insecurities and alpha wolf, consequently as a hybrid passive-aggressive character I actually found him quite irritating. Julian is a very beautiful, socially adept young man but also a weak omega wolf. His submissive, manipulative and promiscuous psychology resulting from sexual and physical abuse as a fourteen-year-old is very understandable. The union of these two complex personalities was not particularly pleasing for me. Although very hot together sexually, the warmth of the relationship was very fragile. Nick’s character does start to face up to his actions and I liked him more by the end of the book.
Another problem I had was the use of at least three silly misunderstandings between Nick and Julian used for plot or angst reasons. A little more coherent talking, with less flouncing off and misguided nobility would have improved things.
However, the misunderstandings did bring into play the book’s secret weapon: Julian’s best friend Tiffany Meadow’s. Tiff, also has a crush on Julian, but it doesn’t stop her being the voice of reason, when she says to her tutor Nick,
“Um. Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but don’t you think you’re being, um…”
A bit of a git? ” ….a bit hasty?”
I wanted to cheer. Tiff has most of the best lines in the book, and her friendship with Crush is good fun. Other secondary character’s such as Nadia, Nick’s colleague and fellow nonconformist, also offer conclusive advice: “If you don’t want to be an abusive boyfriend, then don’t be an abusive boyfriend.” and contribute to keeping this pair of awkward lovers together. When Julian disappears it is the secondary cast who step in to support and help Nick find him.
The final scenes, which contain confrontations with Julian’s abuser Boris and his frightening father force Nick to embrace both his physical animal instincts and his reasoning humanity.
There were lots of good things about this book and I really enjoyed much of it, but for me the central relationship was just too intangible and vulnerable. I liked Tiff more than Nick and Julian and I’m not sure that is quite the right outcome.