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REVIEW: Wolf Bait by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Dear Ms. Thomas-Sundstrom,

400000000000000111590_s4I read your offering for last month’s offering of Nocturne Bites.   Although I was disappointed by what I felt was an unresolved plot thread, I later discovered that it had been intended to be the first of a series, in which the various installments were connected by the mystery of an unidentified werewolf attacking and subsequently infecting innocent humans with his bite.   While this doesn’t give you a pass when it comes the abrupt ending of the plotline in question, it did clarify some things for me.   I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of writing a paranormal continuity that switches back and forth from novellas to novels (although I hear there are plans for novels in the future, this installment is once again a novella), I did want to mention this fact for other readers who might be interested in your stories since I know there are some who dislike this particular trend.

Jenna James is a psychiatrist with a problem.   Her latest female patient is exhibiting strange behavior and symptoms, and she has no explanation for it.   So she calls Detective Matt Wilson to come have a look and give her some insight.   The complication?   She and Matt are lovers — or were until he abruptly cut off all contact with her three months ago.

Matt knows exactly what’s wrong with the patient.   She’s a werewolf going through her first transformation.   He knows the signs.   After all, he’s a werewolf himself and has been for the past three months.   Now his problem is to find a way to help the patient while dealing with Jenna, who wants to know why he left her without a word.

While the first novella in this series had some flaws, I thought it showed promise so I approached this installment with the expectation that we’d see more advancement in the plotline regarding the mystery werewolf who’s taken it upon himself to randomly infect humans.   I was sorely disappointed.   There was nothing of the sort here.   I wasn’t expecting major revelations or anything, but a hint or two would have been nice.

More importantly, however, I thought the main plot was contrived.   If I had been reading this in print form and not on my Sony Reader, I absolutely would have thrown this against the wall the minute I read the ending.   It’s difficult to talk about without spoiling every detail, but I thought what Jenna did was absolutely cruel and inhumane towards the patient.   Her desire to see Matt again did not outweigh the unnecessary pain and anguish she inflicted upon that poor woman just to sort out her relationship troubles.

Secondly, Jenna’s big reveal made me feel cheated because it was inconsistent with what information we’d been given throughout the story previously.   If what we learned in the final pages had been true all along, why in the world was there that scene where she googled the classic symptoms of a werewolf?   Never mind the fact that I have a very hard time believing anyone wouldn’t associate transformations, hair growth, howling, and full moons with werewolf lore.   It’s like that one episode of Supernatural where the Winchester brothers pondered why people in horror movies never know basic supernatural lore. Answer: Because they’re in a horror movie and if they already did know, there’d be no suspense or plot.   So in that sense alone, the scene failed for me.   But in combination with the ending, my reaction can only be summed up with WTF just happened here?

Now don’t get me wrong.   Misdirection can be a powerful narrative technique.   For example, this can be done extremely well in first person point-of-view, in which you can have an unreliable narrator.   Dracula, after all, is a classic example of unreliable narrators left and right.   But this story was written in third person of view, and we do see from Jenna’s perspective and get insight into her thoughts.   There was absolutely no reason for things like the aforementioned computer search scene and some of her reactions if the ending’s big reveal was true from the very beginning.

I was actually going to give this novella a D but explaining how the ending made every single thing that happened before it a lie, as well as made the heroine completely unlikeable in my eyes, ticked me off all over again, so I’m afraid it’s an F.   And to think all I wanted was just a little more advancement in the mystery werewolf plotline.

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers. (digital format only)

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at jia@dearauthor.com!

19 Comments

  1. ArkansasCyndi
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 16:37:58

    I read this and some of your observations matched mine. When the “big reveal” came, the various facets of the story didn’t “come together”, they didn’t make sense. (I’m trying not to give away any spoilers). But why she hit him with the tranquilizer and put him out totally went over my head.

    There first in this series (Blackout) was a good read. I like the author’s voice, it was just some aspects of Wolf Bait didn’t work for me.

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  2. Lisa
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 19:19:37

    I have not read this but as a fellow ‘Bite’ author, I can tell you its so very hard in 15k to create a story that is not somewhat contrived. There are some master authors out there and I am, sincerely, bowing down to them as I type this! You don’t have a lot of room for world building. My second Bite comes out in May and when I was writing I fretted so very much about contrived and mate issue. In a full length story you can give them time to decide if they accept that bond — just like as humans we decide if the guy who just WON’T go away lol really is our soul mate. It’s hard and I know readers don’t want to hear that but I think this is a lead in to what looks like an exciting series.

    Lisa

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  3. Heather Massey
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 20:35:40

    So she calls Detective Matt Wilson to come have a look and give her some insight.

    Oh dear. Hasn’t this doctor heard of confidentiality? Please tell me she obtained written consent from her patient before calling in…a detective?

    I can forgive a lot in a story, but a character like a doctor or therapist violating patient confidentiality isn’t one of them.

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  4. Jia
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 20:46:40

    @Heather Massey: The patient was well past the point of giving any sort of consent, verbal or written, so that would have to be a no, unfortunately. But actually, what the doctor did goes far beyond violating patient confidentiality. If only it were that. (I know.) I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but it’s actually worse if you can believe it.

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  5. romsfuulynn
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 21:46:50

    Over and above that – “Jenna James” ?!?

    I would recommend that in general authors should check if the names of characters are similar to famous (or infamous) individuals. Awfully close to Jenna Jameson a very well known porn star.

    NSFW
    http://www.iafd.com/person.rme/perfid=JJameson/gender=f/jenna-jameson.htm

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  6. Lisa
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 00:41:22

    I know who Jenna Jameson is because she is married to a UFC fighter Tito Ortiz now. But even knowing her because of that — her getting pregnant with twins was all over the tabloids — I still didn’t think of that with the name Jenna James. Never even crossed my mind. The editors at Harlequin didn’t catch it either.

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  7. liz...
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 02:01:15

    I don’t think this line is well edited. I don’t buy them anymore. This is not the first time the story not coming together was an issue…IMHO. As the writer earilier said maybe it is hard to world build on a word budget, but it just seems like the books are not totally finished when they are sent out to the reader. To me that is an editor’s mis-step as much as the writer’s.

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  8. Lisa
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 09:08:56

    I was speaking about it being hard to write a short story in geneal not about the Nocturne line. In general. No matter who its for. Short stories with world building is special gift.

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  9. ME
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 09:30:28

    Lisa is right. Short stories are harder to write than longer ones….but that doesn’t excuse the lame stories that have been coming out of the Bite line. Really. It doesn’t.

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  10. Jinni
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 13:20:06

    Is there a reason Harlequin seems to be pushing short form books? I think these issues are similar to those in the Harlequin Blaze Historicals. Too much information trying to be squeezed into too few words. I like a good 100k story.

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  11. Morgan Faulkner
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 13:21:26

    Whoa. You guys are harsh.

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  12. Morgan Faulkner
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 13:44:23

    oops – didn’t finish. Phone call. Sorry for the double post.

    I liked this story. Whoever said that leading ladies have to be complete angels? Thinks Betty Davis movies. After reading your comments, I reread this short story again, wondering if I’d misread something. Nope. The detective in question was once the director of that mental facility with an expertise in “anomalies,” besides being Jenna’s lover. In the last chapter, he knows that Jenna had a small window of opportunity to get him there. He says that she would have helped the woman that night, had he not taken the bait.

    I always read into things, between the lines, and like that, because I feel more involved. I also liked that the cop from the last short story was mentioned, leading me to belive that there will be more of such connections in the future.

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  13. DS
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 08:49:16

    I wonder if it would be possible to have a general spoilers thread for times like these. I don’t want to have to buy the ebook and read it– my experience with Nocturnes has not been good– but I would like to know what happened that was so annoying to some readers.

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  14. Jia
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 09:14:52

    @DS: Here, I’ll put it behind spoiler code.


    Jenna is a werewolf. This is in direct contradiction with various things she does and thinks earlier in the story. If she was a werewolf, why would she do a internet search on symptoms? Why would she wonder what these symptoms were? It would only have worked if we saw only from Matt’s POV. But we did not. We also saw from hers.

    And to address Heather’s concern about breaking patient confidentiality above, it wasn’t just patient confidentiality she broke. Because she was a werewolf, she knew what the patient was going through. And she knew the patient could die a painful, suffering death as a result. But that didn’t matter to her — she intended to use it as a means to lure Matt back, even though she had no way of knowing it would work and that she could potentially kill someone else as a result.

    I suppose I’m old-fashioned. I don’t care if a heroine is an angel or not, but if she’s in a profession dedicated to helping others and making them healthy again, then I think risking their lives in such a careless manner for personal reasons is awful.

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  15. Deanna
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 09:37:12

    Jia, even without reading your spoiler (which I did) I was able to somehow guess how this was going to come out (story plot) based on your review. I think I’m going to give this one a miss. Thanks for going through it for us!

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  16. DS
    Mar 09, 2009 @ 11:34:01

    Jia, thank you. I can see why you dropped it from a D to an F. Agree with your last statement.

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  17. liz...
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 01:04:29

    I am going to respond to the couple of authors who posted. It’s not my job as a reader to figure out what you were trying to write. I am all for depth in story telling, for layers unseen, but when I have to connect all the dots for you and make huge jumps of logic to make the story work, that means that the story was not finished nor well edited. Harlequin is pushing out so many books so fast that they are not properly written or edited. that makes you the author look bad. bad that you would let your work be released in such a way. I am speaking as a customer who has stopped buying Harlequin books. I don’t think that is harsh, I think it’s honest. If more writers would have honest first readers, I think there would be better books out on the market today. This is a business. If you want it to be art you would email your work to your loved ones or post it on a blog. BUT when you decied to sell it, then it needs to be worth somthing to the customers who pay good money for what you are selling them. The book needs to be a properly edited finished story, no matter the page count.

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  18. Morgan Faulkner
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 11:30:02

    I still think you missed it. It’s too bad you would write this one off completely. Having read both of this author’s Nocturne Bites, I found them fresh in their diversity and even in style. I will look forward to more.

    MF

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  19. Lisa
    Mar 10, 2009 @ 12:06:13

    Liz– since I am the only Harlequin author that posted here I assume you are talking to me. And I am sorry you feel that way. As for commenting on short stories being harder its simply my opinion and I gave kudos to those who do them will. I am a reader too and I do not even know Linda but I look forward to the series. As to why Harlequin is doing shorts, because there are lots of readers buying them and enjoying them. I adored the free shorts at Harlequin long before they started selling shorts. Sometimes I just need that short escape. There are some great authors at Harlequin and if myself or another author has turned you off, I hope you will try again. I’ve discovered so many authors through Harlequin, like Lori Foster, who I adore! And yay– 16 free books this month. A good way to try a few new authors. I know I downloaded mine and I am having fun reading!

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