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REVIEW: Caleb by Sarah McCarty

Dear Ms. McCarty:

0425230570.01.LZZZZZZZYour books have a beautiful look to them. They look and feel lush, heavy, as if the reader should curl up in front the fireplace with a hot toddy, a blanket and commence reading. Unfortunately for me, if I had done that, I would have been cooked to a crisp because this book too me a month to finish. It’s a lengthy tome, nearly 400 pages, and at the end, I couldn’t really understand why it was so everloving long.

Caleb is the beginning of a paranormal series that is populated with, at least, vampires and werewolves. The first story features Caleb, a shapeshifting vampire, who is the eldest of a group of vampire brothers. (They are a group of rogues, says the blurb. By rogues, I assume that means renegade or someone who rejects the an established group, rather than say a dishonest, knavish fellow.)

The story begins quite well. Allie, the town baker, is in lust with one of her regular customers, Caleb Johnson. She tries to flirt with him, but he seems resistant. She buys a push up bra and provides him (or hopes she provides him) with a tantalizing glance but he seems unmoved. She’s at the end her rope because he does come in every morning and her instincts tell her that something is there between them only he won’t act on that chemistry.

The reason he won’t act on the chemistry is because Caleb is a vampire but when Allie is attacked outside her bakery by a true werewolf, Caleb comes to her aid. He is badly wounded and Allie, urged by a voice in her head, gets the wounded wolf in her vehicle and drives to Circle J, the ranch of the Johnsons. Once there, she’s incarcerated by Caleb’s brothers and then, when he needs blood to live, is taken to Caleb to feed. Caleb feeds upon Allie until she is near death from blood loss. To save her “life”, Caleb has to turn her, which is easily done by having her food from him and slipping into her mind to make the blood taste like champagne.

Does Allie have problems with the fact that she was killed, taken from her family, her entire life changed without request because she tried to save Caleb’s life? A few but none that stop her from boning Caleb until he’s crosseyed. Allie’s loss of her family, contact with her brothers, is nothing more than a blip on her radar. She argues about it once and then it kind of fades away. The supposed fued between the Johnsons and the D’Nallys which brought Allie to death and then into vampirism also fades away. Caleb refers to Allie as his wife and she accepts his claim as wife. Then doesn’t. Then does. Then doesn’t. The plot threads dangle like jellyfish tentacles in the ocean; seeming dozens of them held up by nothing more substantial than gelatinous masses.

The worldbuilding was convenient, at best. When there needed to be some magical, paranormal capability, there was. When it would interfere with the story, then the worldbuilding point was forgotten. For example, why does Allie JUST NOW start hearing voices in her head? Why is she the only one to be fertile when vampires can’t get pregnant? Why is she only able to feed from Caleb?

Allie is one of the most foolish heroines to come along in a long time. She leads Caleb into a nest of bad people hoping that they’ll be interested in just talking to her. Of course, they aren’t. She’s a valuable female, after all. All breeding females in paranormals are valuable so everyone wants her and everyone wants to go to war for her. Merely by making Allie phenomenally sexually attractive to every paranormal male around her does not render her likeable, particularly when she plays the stupid role for most of the book.

To say this book is slow moving would be an understatement. Snails being chased by ground beetles move faster than this book. These characters do nothing but talk. There was a 10 page discussion Caleb, Allie and Caleb’s brothers, and their BFF werewolf neighbor have in the kitchen about whether Allie is pregnant and whether she has a special power. (They don’t know because they’ve cut themselves off from the greater vampire world so they are just guessing which is supposed to be super attractive instead of merely ignorant).

This was 400 pages of talking, talking, and more talking and it wasn’t even fun and interesting talking. It was mundane, ordinary conversations that are barely worthwhile listening to live let alone reading in print.

Toward the end, the villian makes his appearance and is clearly more powerful than either Allie or Caleb or both combined, but the villain places himself in a precarious state because of Allie’s powerful attraction: “You know, I really shouldn’t humor you, but I find that we’re so much alike, it’s difficult not to indulge your moods.”

And, the concept of the baby that the group spends so much time contemplating? Doesn’t even enter her mind when Allie is taken hostage. She is ready to die rather than help the villain. No thought to her supposed pregnancy until toward the end of her captivity (which is pages and pages and pages long but in reality is no more than an afternoon). Conveniently, a new deadly weapon that is deadly to weres and vamps is not deadly to Caleb. Why? Not sure. I think Allie makes him invincible but maybe it’s because, well, I don’t even want to guess.

I guess the saddest thing of all is that this book isn’t even that sexy. McCarty is a well known name within erotic romance circles and this book has, I think, four love scenes that were as dull as the dinnertime conversation. D

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

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

20 Comments

  1. Jackie Barbosa
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 15:33:12

    But at least you beat it into submission, Jane. Never let the book win :).

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  2. GrowlyCub
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 16:34:21

    Interesting about the sex scenes, because I just finished ‘Tucker’s Claim’ and while I liked it overall, I thought it was *way* toned down in the sex scene department compared to ‘Caine’s Reckoning’ and ‘Sam’s Creed’ or the first 3 in the Promises series (the last one was issued by Berkley and had hardly any sex or sensuality in it all). It’s a perfect example of why going to NY might not really work for the established readers of an e-pub author – see an erotic author de-fanged – terribly mixing my metaphors here but can’t think of a better way to say it.

    Since it still says ‘erotic adventure’ on the cover of ‘Tucker’s Claim’ I thought that it was pretty sad that most of the sex happened behind closed doors or outdoors but we were told about it later rather than reading about it as it happened. One cannot help but speculate about books being sanitized for ‘wider’ audiences…

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  3. Dana
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 16:46:33

    I really liked Sarah McCarty’s books with EC, but I haven’t liked her NY pubbed books as much. I loved the Promises series, but I couldn’t even finish the last one.

    However, I do like the covers. :)

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  4. joanne
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 17:12:30

    This is the first Sarah McCarty book where I couldn’t get passed the first few chapters. It makes me sad to say that, and even though I know at some point I’ll pick it up again to finish, I’m terribly disappointed.

    @GrowlyCub: I agree, I thought the sex scenes in Tucker’s Claim were just the same thing that we’ve seen before in the Promise & Hell’s Eight books but not as many and certainly nothing different from this fav author. Sex with a thee added.

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  5. Keishon
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 18:44:54

    If I’ve never read her I guess this isn’t a good place to start…

    ReplyReply

  6. Janine
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 19:16:07

    It's a lengthy tome, nearly 400 pages,

    I don’t generally think of 400 pages as a tome. Is the print really small?

    ReplyReply

  7. liz...
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 20:17:49

    I agree with this review. It was slow..slow..s..l..o..w. I won’t be buying the next book.

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  8. b.
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 20:42:37

    @joanne:

    Yeah, and if an author is going to use such a specific dialect (like the Quaker plain speech with thee) then the author should get it right [or an editor should fix it].

    I didn’t finish Tucker’s Claim because thee with plural verbs (are, have) was so grating. (Quakers use thee for the singular and use a verb to match – generally the same conjugation as goes with he/she/it {is, has}, not with the plural you.)

    Yeah, just a little judgmental — but it drove me nuts!

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  9. e_bookpushers
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 20:59:26

    I was wondering if I was the only person who thought something was wrong with this book and Tucker’s Claim. I did not enjoy them as much as her previous ones. I am hoping she just hit a rough patch and this will not be the tone/state of all of her NY pubbed books.

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  10. Edie
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 21:14:19

    @Dana: Ditto! I adored her EC titles, and while I enjoyed the first couple of mainstream releases – nowhere near as much.
    I think it was the werewolf three in one that put me off, hadn’t picked up the last two..

    And I am grateful for the review as it saves me a penny or two

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  11. Jane
    Oct 21, 2009 @ 22:02:50

    Given that Berkley Heat puts out many a title with very provocative sex scenes (Joey Hill comes to mind as does Jasmine Haynes), I can’t imagine that McCarty is being asked to sanitize her works by the publisher. That wouldn’t be consistent with what I’ve read in the line.

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  12. GrowlyCub
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 01:58:33

    @Jane: I haven’t read or finished either author. Do they include really detailed details particularly with regard to anal sex? Because there was plenty of that and in full detail in her EC Promises books and the first two Hell’s Eight books by Harlequin. I really noticed a different tone and gloss over-fade to black in ‘Tucker’s Claim’. Maybe I’m funny, but if I buy a book that has ‘erotic’ on the cover, I don’t want a fade-to-black anywhere!

    ‘Promises Reveal’ as far as I’m concerned wasn’t even trying to be erotic and was really boring. I certainly don’t read these books just for the sex, but it was an integral part of the earlier stories and so it’s noticeable that there’s been a shift in the writing of those scenes; I have no clue whether that’s from the top down or from author up or whether it’s deliberate or not, but as is clear from other comments, I’m not the only one who noticed. And I’m glad about that cause I wondered if I’d just gotten jaded. :)

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  13. Jane
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 06:40:42

    @GrowlyCub I can’t recall all the forms of sex in the books written by Joey Hill or Jasmine Haynes. I just know that they are plentiful and far beyond what would be termed “the norm.”

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  14. RStewie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 08:43:13

    This is disappointing, but I am still going to get her Hell’s 8 series, I think.

    I DO hate when an author has a good thing going and then changes it up mid-way through a series (or career)…although I guess it’s a personal decision on their part for whatever reasons they have.

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  15. Frannie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 10:15:49

    I was really disappointed with this one as well – so slow and boring in fact that I got about 1/4 of the way in and then just deleted it from my reader, my memory card and my Sony library – I’m just never going to go back it. I really don’t get the concept of the “spunky” heroine when by spunky is meant — challenges every single word the hero and anyone else with a brain utters throughout the entire book and puts herself and others into danger over and over again. And the hero and his studly brothers somehow find this adorable? Yeah, and the sex was not hot at all.

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  16. Barbara B.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 14:14:58

    When I first started reading ebooks a few years ago I bought several of McCarty’s books but I’ve never been able to finish one. I just can’t get a handle on her style at all. There’s just no intensity in her writing to me.

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  17. Has
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 07:58:28

    I actually loved Promises Reveal – although I think I was a fan of the romance and the couple in the book but I also agree that the last two books have been meh at best. I think the heroine in Caleb was really weak and annoying although I plan to pick up sequel because I hope this book is a fluke.
    I agree her stronger books were with Ellora’s Cave – but I did enjoy Caine’s Reckoning and Sam’s Creed and I thought those books was also hot compared to her latest ones.

    ReplyReply

  18. Sabrina
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 21:39:27

    Glad I am not the only one that was disappointed in this book and just like others that posted, it was beyond slow. I have not bought “Tucker’s Claim”, probably will eventhough I am setting myself up for disappointment again since the excerpt alone annoyed the heck out of me. Is it me or has this years’ books–from erotica to historical–been substandard? It just seems like the really good authors I can usually depend on for a good read are asleep at the wheel so to speak…or they have become Delta/NorthWest pilots and are involved in a “heated debate” forgetting to communicate with air traffic controllers(aka us readers).

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  19. GrowlyCub
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 03:32:10

    @Sabrina:

    I have that same impression, too. Right now I can’t think of even one book I loved without qualification. Several were good and I enjoyed them, but many were meh or were good up to a certain point and then went south fast. And the tried and true folks were most prominent in the disappointing department (Putney, Chase, Beverley, Balogh). Depressing!

    I tried to keep a book log, but gave up early, so I may very well be forgetting something or thinking it was longer ago than I think, but the fact that nothing comes to mind as outstanding speaks for itself (or my failing memory, grin).

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  20. Erica
    Nov 06, 2009 @ 19:34:33

    I agree with absolutely everything about your review, the book was not sexy at all. I do surmise that she got pregnant during her transition, not that anything about the book really matters since I won’t be reading the rest f the series.

    ReplyReply

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