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REVIEW: Prey by Linda Howard

Dear Ms. Howard:

In a recent podcast, Sarah Wendell and I talked about how there are titles we would like to have rebound into collector’s items so that they can sit on our shelves and be read and admired.  Some of your titles would be on that list. After the Night.  Now You See Her.  The Diamond Bay/Kell Sabin series.  Yes, even Dream Man.   But ever since your move to hardcover, I have felt that you’ve taken your work in a direction that I wasn’t prepared.  For that reason, I have a hard time grading “Prey.”  Maybe if I was a mainstream fiction reader or a mainstream thriller reader, I would read this book differently.  My assessment and my disappointment stems from the fact that I wanted more interaction between the male and female protagonists.

Prey Linda HowardInstead, the book treats me to several scenes from the primary antagonist, an accountant who is fleecing his mobster boss, a long scene from a random hiker, and yes, even a black bear.  I don’t read a lot of mainstream so maybe this is normal? Having scenes from an animal’s point of view.  The bear is an antagonist.  It’s not presented as a particularly loveable, lumbering bear, but one that is intent on eating, well, hikers and whomever else it can get it’s jaws on.

He studied the sheep. He was downwind of the heard, the cold mountain air bringing the scent sharp and clear to his nostrils…He went into a frenzy of destruction, bellowing his rage and frustration
as he took out his killing fury on the vegetation…

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to take from seeing the bear’s point of view.  Was it to show him as sympathetic? Was it to create increased atmosphere?  Was it some unique literary technique they are experimenting with in the litfic world?

As for the accountant, he was supposed to be very clever, so clever that he as leading his mob boss off to this wilderness trip to go bear hunting and plans to kill the boss and the hunting guide and then will escape to Mexico with his money.  He is afraid of the mob boss’s associates.  Yet, why does he think that shooting the mob boss makes sense? Why not just escape to Mexico?  I was never quite sure why the mob boss went with the accountant. After all, the accountant believed that the mob boss was starting to get suspicious of the accountant’s activities.  Why would the mob boss be by himself?  But when the bear shows up, the accountant thinks to himself that he never planned for a bear despite the fact that they were going BEAR HUNTING.  If you are going out to hunt bears, wouldn’t you plan for bears?

The small glimpses of interaction I saw between the hero and heroine were fun and interesting but so so few.  According to my notes, I was up to 244 of 300+ pages and I think we had about 10 pages of dialogue and interaction between the two.

Angie Powell runs a wilderness hiking business she inherited from her dad and not very well.  She doesn’t recognize her own strengths (catering to families and other women) and instead runs the business focused on hunters and fisherman, like her dad did.  She’s been losing a tremendous amount of business to Dare Callahan, a war veteran, who has set himself as a guide in Montana.  People, particularly the big game hunters, prefer to hire Dare. Plus his website is up to date and his facilities are more modern.  Angie decides to throw in the towel and sell her spread, the land and her home, and move on with her life.  Before her father died, she had been happy as an admin in a Billings hospital.  But before she sells her land, she has a client to guide into the wilderness and that client is the aforementioned accountant and his mobster boss.

Harlen, her friend and Realtor, gets worried about Angie going by herself into the wilderness with two guys and takes his concerns to Dare.   Dare decides to trail Angie, just to make sure she’s okay.  In another life, Angie and Dare would be lovers, not these barely speaking acquaintances.  Dare had asked her out, twice, when he first got to town and had gotten shot down twice.  She still does it for him but he’s too dim, I guess, to figure out that she resents his success.  Or he recognizes it, but is still irked at her refusal to date him? I don’t know. Not much time is spent contemplating this.  Dare isn’t a deep guy and that’s not an insult.  He knows what he wants. He tries to get it and in Angie’s case, he fails.

Angie’s very competent at what she does and maybe in a better economy and without the mortgage her father took out to encumber the land, she could have made it.  She’s a no nonsense kind of girl and while it pains her to give up the land, she knows it is the best thing for her.

I liked Angie and Dare. It was obvious how they were going to end up together. Hinted early on is Dare’s hatred of paperwork.  Good thing that Angie loves doing the admin stuff.  The bear stuff, the not so clever accountant, the danger, none of that turned the pages for me, primarily because the minutae of planning and detail was dry.  I kept reading for more glimpses of Angie and Dare but I felt like I was a desert traveler having to suck the juice out of a cactus.    When I got to the third POV scene from the bear, I was utterly defeated.  There was no hope for me.  Even the cactus juice can’t keep me going at this point.

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

38 Comments

  1. Kim
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 12:23:22

    SPOILERS!!

    SPOILERS!!!

    I agree with most of your review, except I would have given the book a C. While I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read or a keeper, the scenes with Dare and Angie were good.

    The POV of the bear just didn’t work for me and the description of the killings were too graphic. I also didn’t care for the predictable ending. It was so obvious that the bear would eventually kill the accountant. Also, while it was terrible that the groom smashed the cake in Angie’s face, I’m not sure if a bride would handle it the way she did.

    Finally, the only area of disagreement I have with your review is Angie’s competence. Overall, I didn’t think she was that good at her job: She didn’t know how to market the company, she didn’t have a good safety plan in place when dealing with all-male customers and she was terrified of bears.

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  2. Sarah
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 12:53:26

    Excellent review! Echoes my thoughts well. And for me, I tend to blanch at gore and I thought the bear scenes were incredibly gory and grotesque. I’m sure I’m one of the few but that was a huge turn-off on this book for me. I don’t want that much blood and pain in my romance stories. (Especially when it’s so pointless in the story.)

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  3. Gennita Low
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 13:25:33

    Only ten pages or so of interaction in the whole book?! Is this book labeled suspense or romantic suspense?

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  4. DS
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 13:49:18

    He studied the sheep. He was downwind of the heard, the cold mountain air bringing the scent sharp and clear to his nostrils

    “Heard of sheep? of course I’ve heard of sheep.”

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  5. Barb in Maryland
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:07:51

    @4-DS–
    LOL! I thought that sheep came in flocks. But then I’m not a bear…
    I gave up on Linda Howard years ago. I can’t say which one so turned me off, because I’ve blocked all memory of it.
    I don’t think this book is going to change my mind about reading her new stuff.

    Jane–Add me to the list of readers who wants a ‘keeper’ edition of the Kell Sabin books–I loved those! and my copies have gone missing!!(sob,sniff)

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  6. Jane
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:09:18

    @DS: That is wholly my fault. I had a paper ARC and had to type my own quotes!

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  7. Jane
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:12:03

    @Kim – I really struggled with the grade. You are probably right that it is not a D. But I wondered if giving a C or C- was because she is Linda Howard and if I took her name away from the book, what grade would I give it.

    I did think angie was competent. She didn’t have the money or resources that Dane had.

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  8. library addict
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:24:04

    Think I will pass on this one, too. Sadly, I think I have given up on Linda Howard. Her books of late read more like giant infodumps than romances. I never read last year’s wedding one either.

    But I do still love my worn copies of the Kell Sabin series and some of her eraly hardcovers.

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  9. DianeN
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:33:49

    I too am officially over Linda Howard, and that’s very sad because I’ve loved her for years. I thought her last book showed flashes of the old Linda, but everything I’ve read about this one has been negative. I know that some publishers have been steering their romantic suspense authors more toward the suspense side of the story in recent years, but you’d think Linda could write anything she wanted to write, wouldn’t you?

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  10. Lynn S.
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 14:46:01

    @Barb in Maryland: Are you implying that bears don’t known the proper terminology for groups of sheep? Dying to Please was my turn off point on Howard. Anything after Open Sesaon is a big no.

    For anyone who hasn’t read it, Son of Morning is one of the best books out there.

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  11. Willa
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 15:06:30

    @Lynn S. I agree. Son of the Morning is the only Linda Howard book I’ve held on to all these years. I’ve actually tried to figure out what made it so great. After all, Grace and Niall don’t even meet until the last quarter or so of the book. I guess it’s what happens when they do meet. I’ve been planning to reread it, but I’m afraid it won’t hold up all these years and so many, many books later.

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  12. Brandy
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 15:07:50

    I’ve been a long time fan of Howard’s books until the last five or so years. They seem to have lost that spark that made them keepers or even, well, good reads. I tried to read Prey. But, I only made it a third of the way through the book before closing it and returning it to the library.

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  13. Maili
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 15:19:06

    Great. Now you got me remembering The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II where we get to see a flashback of horrific events through a family dog’s eyes.

    I’m glad Linda Howard is still writing, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adjust to her current style and approach. I tried her last category romance, the one she paired with Linda Jones. It read as if she wrote it while she was distracted with something else, like researching black bears maybe.

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  14. Jennie
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 16:00:21

    Angie Powell runs a wilderness hiking business she inherited from her dad and not very well. She doesn’t recognize her own strengths (catering to families and other women) and instead runs the business focused on hunters and fisherman, like her dad did. She’s been losing a tremendous amount of business to Dare Callahan, a war veteran, who has set himself as a guide in Montana. People, particularly the big game hunters, prefer to hire Dare. Plus his website is up to date and his facilities are more modern. Angie decides to throw in the towel and sell her spread, the land and her home, and move on with her life. Before her father died, she had been happy as an admin in a Billings hospital.

    I stopped reading Howard a while ago, and this reminds me of why. Her gender stereotyping makes me absolutely nutty. Of course, Angie’s strengths are with administration, and working with women and children. Probably also with cookie-baking and needlepoint!

    If another author wrote this, it might not in and of itself be a big deal to me, but Howard is so relentlessly “traditional” in her gender roles, it really colors her writing. I wonder is she still describes her heroines as fragile and “doll-like”?

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  15. Jane
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 16:05:16

    @Jennie I didn’t feel like Angie was written “gendered”. Angie’s strength as an admin is a gender stereotype? Angie is not written as fragile and doll like. In fact, I don’t recall many of the Howard heroines written as fragile and doll like.

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  16. AnotherWilla
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:09:05

    Linda Howards books hit the D and DNF levels for me some years ago. They just lost all the strengths of Howard’s previous writing – which was the romance and the relationships between the central characters.

    A lot of her suspense plots were underwhelming and didn’t make sense . . .

    When I found myself repeatedly checking the copyright page to see that she had actually written what I was holding . . that was the point when I said enough.

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  17. joanne
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:09:30

    Oops, I feel your pain when you feel all hope is lost when you want to like a book!

    She’s still an auto-buy for me. As soon as I got it through my thick skull that Ms Howard was never going to go back to her old style of writing I learned to like these newer books.

    This one and Ice and the airplane crash one (sorry, don’t remember the title) do feel more like strong women’s adventure stories with some romance then Romantic Suspense but there’s no category for that.

    I did learn more about bear sh*t & human innards then I ever, ever wanted to know but I still found Prey a satisfactory read. I thought Angie held her own in the Ickiest Business In The World (vegetarian here) but it all kind of worked for me.

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  18. Loosheesh
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:14:46

    Why “even Dream Man”? Of course Dream Man!! It’s my absolute favorite Linda Howard!

    From just reviews/comments etc, I’ve decided to stay away from the newer Linda Howard books … and reading Veil of Night helped convince me ;)

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  19. Jane
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 18:56:22

    @Loosheesh Heh. Dane is a neanderthal.

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  20. Claudia
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 20:43:51

    I think that “Cry No More” is the last good book by Linda Howard. Since then, the thought has crossed my mind that maybe the husband had taken over the writing while Linda was going fishing. Recently, however, I read somewhere that she has admitted that her writing has been lacking and blamed the different style of writing on some kind of health issue she apparently is dealing with. Thyroid problems? I don’t know how that would make one write from the bear’s point of view but there it is.

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  21. Danielle D
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 21:38:39

    I was going to get this book. I think I will wait!

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  22. Moth
    Sep 21, 2011 @ 23:35:20

    THREE bear scenes? THREE?!

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  23. Amy
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 01:33:05

    I stopped buying Linda Howard’s books awhile back as well. Each time a new novel comes out I wait for reviews to tell me whether her old voice has returned. I’m sad to read that it has not. All this talk about the Kell Sabin books makes me want to locate my copies! But I still haven’t unpacked the boxes containing my old keeper stash. Maybe I’ll get an ebook version for my Kindle.

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  24. Melissa
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 07:34:48

    I gave up on new Linda Howard books after Cover of Night but still reread her oldies all the time. A bunch of them just came out on Kindle too, like Mr. Perfect, Open Season, Heart of Fire and Kill and Tell (all awesome!).

    For those looking for the Kell Sabin books, they rereleased Midnight Rainbow and Diamond Bay in print together under the title Trouble last year, which was nice because Diamond Bay was hard to find.

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  25. sallah
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 08:32:59

    A few years ago, Linda Howard came out with a facebook post talking frankly about the direction her books have taken. She talked about how her thyroid quit working, and that it impacted her writing. What I took away from it is that she now feels disconnected from the emotional aspects of her characters. It made such sense to me, because that was exactly the difference I saw in her recent books.. Lots of exposition, very little emotion..

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  26. dick
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 09:51:15

    “Prey” doesn’t number among Howard’s best efforts, but I thought it was OK. Including the bear’s point of view doesn’t strike me as any different from including paranormal elements. It made for a good comparison between the human and animal predators. That the accountant’s motivation for taking the money-launderer on a bear hunt, I thought his characterization as thinking himself cleverer than everybody else made that relatively clear. His not having taken the bear into account fit well with the rest of his mis-calculations and his egoism; the failure of his intrigue couldn’t possibly be his fault.

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  27. Kim
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 11:11:13

    Prey debuted at #5 on the NYT Bestsellers List.

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  28. willaful
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 12:50:25

    Uh oh, there are three Willas in Romancelandia now? :-)

    I’ve been saying this everywhere, but I’m going to say it again: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE ABOUT VIOLENCE. Or maybe that’s not even the right warning, because I’m not all that sensitive in general. But seriously, I gave up on the book days ago and the bear thing, it’s still frightening me half to death. Maybe a better warning would be DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF JAWS SCARED YOUR PANTS OFF WHEN YOU WERE TWELVE.

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  29. LSUReader
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 13:37:27

    Oh,no. I just got this book from the library, and I was hoping Howard was back to her old self. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the review! Thanks, though.

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  30. Another Willa
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 13:46:54

    @willaful: I spotted that too! ? Had to post under AnotherWilla!! Lol! *waves*

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  31. HellyBelly
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 15:30:02

    @willaful: Jaws DID scare me pantless when I was 12, almost as much as The Shining when I was 15.
    ~
    I think it must be hard for a writer to change their writing style like Ms. Howard has obviously done (I haven’t read anything by her, but have been recommended her early work by fellow readers). All the people who loved her are going to wait and hope with each new release that they will have their “old” Linda Howard back. Only to be disappointed.
    I guess that since this one debuted at #5, she has found another type of readership.

    The cover looks kinda romantic/sexy tho. No sign of the bear…

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  32. joanne
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 16:35:40

    @HellyBelly: As I said above, she’s still an auto-buy for me but her covers have NOTHING to do with the books inside. Nothing. I think Ms Howard lost a bet and has to use photos that have absolutely no significance to the story inside the cover. jmo

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  33. Lindsey
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 22:24:40

    Linda Howard’s recent books have been hit and miss with me. I didn’t care for Cover of Night, Veil of Night, or Up Close and Dangerous, but I liked Ice and Burn, and I thought Prey was an enjoyable read. I really liked the interaction with Dare and Angie; they reminded me of my absolute favorite Howard books, Mr. Perfect and To Die for. I just skimmed over the parts with the villain and bear.

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  34. Sandra Levitz
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 15:02:39

    I didn’t feel that this book was either as good or as bad as previous reviewers have found. It’s nowhere near the best of Williams (Mr. Perfect, All the Queen’s Men, Kiss Me…) but I think I know what she is going for in more the mainstream..but maybe she should step back. Her characters are better drawn, particularly Angie (really quite a piece of work,and I agree, crazy in the wedding thing–but she’s realizing this now). The interaction between Angie and Dare ( I loved that she made fun of his name and was betting he was actually a Darryl)was very enjoyable.

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  35. shirley davis
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 21:44:06

    About ten pges of Pray was worth reading…not a keeper. the bear was unbelievable… l don

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  36. Beth44
    Feb 02, 2012 @ 19:24:12

    I love Linda Howard, however, after reading these reviews I think I’ll hold off on buying Prey. I buy so many books that I actually have a library and I keep a list of “keepers” and “give away” books. I find I gave away To Die For and Up Close and Dangerous. I was very disappinted with those. But up until those I have every book she has written and have loved and reread every one of them. I loved Lady of the West, after the nights, shades of twilight, Heart of Fire, Heartbreaker and I could go on and on. I sincerely wish Linda would return to that style of writing. They could not be beat.

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  37. Allie
    Apr 24, 2012 @ 18:12:18

    This is so funny. I just listened to this book as an audio and loved it. Loved loved loved it. The only thing I did not like was the bear throwing a temper tantrum. I don’t think bears do that. I don’t think any animal does that. It is a waste of energy, and animals generally don’t waste energy unless they are playing and having fun (i.e., dogs and dolphins play for fun, and large cats play with their food just like small cats do). I also was a little irritated that we spent so much time with the horses and they did not all have names (I have 30 years experience with horses so this often irritates me). I found this review because I was looking for other books like this – this survival kind of romance thing. I guess I’ll go check AAR and see if they have a list.

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  38. REVIEW: Shadow Woman by Linda Howard
    Jan 01, 2013 @ 14:20:11

    [...]  In the year’s previous hardcover release, we were even treated to a bear’s point of view.  Shadow Woman was so plodding, however, I found myself longing for the [...]

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