REVIEW: Running Wild by Sarah McCarty
Dear Ms. McCarty:
You’ve been a long time member of the romance blogosphere and I’ve wanted to read one of your books for quite some time. Your fan base is deep and devoted and you clearly write work that resonates strongly with them. Unfortunately, I never really connected with the stories in this collection until the end.
Running Wild is a collection of stories featuring three male werewolves and their mates who are conveniently all sisters gathered in the small Montana town of Haven. The first one features Donovan, a Protector (with a capital P) and middle sister, Lisa. The second features the youngest sister, Robin, and Donovan’s twin, Kelon (also a capital P Protector) and the last is Wyatt’s and the eldest sister, Heather.
The first novella, Donovan, plot is more about convincing Lisa that there are werewolves than anything else. Robin and Kelon’s story has a small suspense plot with a villain who could make a great serial killer for a full length book. Wyatt and Heather’s story is about the changes Wyatt wants to bring to the Pack as the new alpha, including doing away with the law that Pack members cannot mate with humans.
The novella starts out awesome. Lisa storms into a bar where Donovan and the local Sheriff are enjoying a drink. She goes up to some guy and just starts whaling on him. Wyatt, the Sheriff, attempts to step in when Lisa’s beating comes close to causing her a problem. Donovan pushes Wyatt aside so that Lisa can finish it on her terms. There is this scene were Lisa is holding the pool cue against the bad guy’s adam’s apple and Donovan steps behind her and adds his weight to the cue. Together, they could have pushed the cue right through the guy’s neck.
So the picture that I have in my mind is this very strong woman who will do anything to protect her family, particularly her baby sister. The story quickly devolves in the traditional romance tropes with the faux feisty heroine and the overbearing protective male telling her what to do.
The complaints I have about the first two novellas are the same. The romance dynamic between all three couples are virtually identical. Sexually inexperienced or innocent heroine is taken by the dominant werewolf hero. I am not totally against this dynamic, after all, I read Harlequin Presents. But, the heroes in these stories are too dominant and are provided absolutely no balance despite the fact that they profess to be independent. It was like reading the Caveman Diaries. The first two stories featured all too similar heroes. I think you could have taken Donovan and Kelon and put them in each other’s stories and there be no noticeable difference. Their personalities and actions toward Lisa and Robin were very similar.
“For your heart, but here in bed, you need to submit.
She obliged the silent order, biting him again, harder, and damn if she didn’t laugh when he bucked. This time his growl was serious. Females did not challenge males. Especially in bed.
The Donovan and Kelon stories feed the fantasy of a man doing everything short of breathing for the woman. Lisa and Robin are trying to act tough and be independent, but they concede quite quickly to the demands and dictates of the men. The men are macho to the point of being overbearing. “Wolf women obey their men.”
The storyline was quite old fashioned with the werewolves using the word MINE like the seagulls in the Nemo movie. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. and on for 29 times. Speaking of repetition, the collection also featured over 60 usages of the word “gasp”.
- the whispered gasp of his name.
- relishing the tiny unveiling betrayed by her gasp,
- The younger woman gasped
- Her head snapped around, lips parted in a startled gasp.
- gasping as it fed the
- sealing her gasp between them
- “Oh God,” she gasped
I think the novella could have been titled “Breathless.”
The world building is also very slim in the first two stories. There is an oft repeated rule that humans and Protectors can’t mate but there is no explanation for it. Plus, it is a rule that both Donovan and Kelon ignore without a second thought because Lisa and Robin are their “mates.” I thought this was particularly frustrating since Kelon says that he follows wolf law to the letter all of the time. Clearly this wasn’t true but there wasn’t any exploration or even struggle with the concept that both of them were violating a certain Pack precept.
This “mate” concept is relied upon very heavily in that Donovan and Kelon are in love with the women because they immediately sense the “mate” within. There’s no reciprocal magical instinct in the women yet they too fall “in love” in a matter of days with their mates, particularly after being screwed within an inch of their lives and told to be quiet and stay home. One of them waxes rhapsodic that the heroine was
"Woman of hearth and home."
"A woman to come home to."
Lisa’s story rated a C for me and Robin’s a D. One of the biggest problems I had with Robin’s story is that she suffered some longterm kidney disease that led to her having two kidney transplants. The second kidney is failing yet Robin has enough energy to be beaten by some guy, recover within a day or so, head out into the winter, sleep in a cave, be dragged around the wild, return to her home, have vigorous and multiple acts of sex? It was such a big suspension of disbelief for me that I was constantly asking whether she would physically be able to do any of her activities.
The final story features Heather and Wyatt. I did find this story to be different. Wyatt was different. He actually reminded me of a Linda Howard hero in some ways. He had the spine of steel but he wasn’t so heavy handed about his “mine, mine, mine” even though he was the alpha (and he did use the phrase a few times). But he seemed a bit more laid back. The Pack dynamics were more fleshed out. There was an actual plot in that Wyatt was struggling on bringing new leadership to the Pack who were rooted in the old ways which he believed would ultimately lead to their demise. The resolution to this struggle was heartwarming and completely unexpected. B