REVIEW: Primal Calling by Jillian Burns
Dear Ms. Burns:
This is my first encounter with your writing and it was a good one. In fact, this is a book I could have seen myself re-visiting if the heroine hadn’t annoyed me so much in the first half. Max, though, was one of the sweetest heroes I recall reading about in a long time. Sweet, strong, playful, with a tender heart.
Serena Sandstone is the famous host of a travel show but she years for an investigative journalism position, primarily because she has grown up in the shadow of her father, a former Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. She’s always sending ideas to her producer in hopes that she will be able to get her station to fund an investigative junket. When her last idea is rejected by her producer after wrapping up a shoot in Alaska about the Idaterod, Serena is despondent. She believes that she has to do something to prove to the network that she isn’t just another pretty face.
At the airport, Serena spots a long haired, bearded pilot stepping out of his cargo plane and begins weaving a story about him, his dog, his plane. Her imagination is kicked into high gear after overhearing two female airline employees refer to him as the “White Wolf”. Within minutes, Serena has dragged enough details out of the employees to learn that White Wolf was Max Taggert, a half IÃ±upiat pilot whose plane crashed three years ago and only he and one other person survived. The other two passengers’ remains were found eaten and Taggert refused to speak about the incident. He was still under FAA investigation and the families of the deceased are suing him. Serena smells a story.
Max is poleaxed when he sees Serena, too long without companionship, he is easy pickings. He intuits that Serena isn’t quite being honest with him but he tells himself he doesn’t care. A gorgeous woman is sitting beside him sharing a drink and flirting with him.
“So, what do you do in L.A.?”
Deep concentration on the label peeling. “I don’t really live there, actually. I mean, I own a condo there, but I travel all over the world for business and I’m hardly ever home.”
Interesting. She hadn’t actually answered the question. Something didn’t add up, but he let it go. Who cared what she did for a living? Or why she was slumming tonight. It wasn’t any of his business. Live and let live. For whatever reason, he had a beautiful woman sitting next to him sharing a drink.
He cleared his throat. “Have you eaten dinner?”
She looked surprised at the change of subject. “No, I-‘no.”
“Well, don’t eat here, whatever you do.”
A feminine chuckle accompanied the flash of perfect white teeth as she turned to him. “Shall we go eat somewhere else?”
We? He scrutinized the sincerity in her eyes. Maybe she’d made a bet with a girlfriend to sleep with a native on her last night in Alaska. Would a half-breed count? Glancing around the bar, he spied his only competition: the old native in the last booth. He swung back to face her. “Sure, why not?”
Serena, to her credit, is up front about why she is sidling up to Max and Max rejects her advances. He doesn’t talk to reporters, even for sex.
Serena refuses to give up and tells herself her Pulitzer Prize winning father would not be deterred by one growly refusal and a slammed door. Serena irritated me in her quest for this story. Her invasion of Max’s privacy, her persistence that she was right to know all of his secrets was offputting.
Max and Serena are forced, through a series of believable events, to spend time together and Max eventually (albeit reluctantly) brings Serena to Barrow, Alaska, where his home is. We learn that Serena’s goal in life is to do something worthwhile and she views what her father did as the measurement of her worth. Through her exposure to Max and others, she begins to let go of the valuing herself by her father’s standards. For Max, he has to make himself vulnerable again. He’s suffered a lot of loss in his life and Serena makes him long for things he thought he had jettisoned from his heart.
There’s a somewhat mystical overtone to the story with Max’s IÃ±upiat grandmother and her visions but I thought it was touching and fit within the overall feel. One thing I really, really appreciated about this story was the small cast of characters. There was a certain sense of isolation but the small cast of characters allowed me to focus more closely on the developing romance. I really did feel these two individuals, even in a short time, fell in love. I particularly appreciated the ending which didn’t make either of them change who they were but rather found them to be blended together to make a better unit, a happy, more content unit.
And Max, man, he was just such a sweet character. I hope that doesn’t sound emasculating because it isn’t. He just had such a good heart. I don’t get enough of Max in romance. B-