If you’re a fan of Paranormal Romance you probably recognize Ms. Shinn’s name. She’s the author of the Samaria books, a popular series that’s quite well-known even among readers like me, who aren’t die-hard fans of the genre. Last year I finally managed to read her novella, Nocturne, that was part of the Angel of Darkness Anthology, and I loved it. So when I heard about this new series I decided it was time to read one of her full-length novels.
Maria Devane and Dante Romano have been secret lovers for over fifteen years. I say secret lovers because Dante is a shifter who spends more time as animal than human, and his random “shifting” patterns make it impossible for them to be out as a couple. So they have developed this routine in which every time Dante is human he goes to Maria’s house, eats her food, fucks her, and leaves her again. This is the part where I explain that Dante isn’t you regular shifter, no alpha werewolf protecting his mate whom he loves in a sweet but creepy possessive way. Nope, first, Dante can shift into any animal, cat, bear, cow… He can’t control the animal although the environment helps, so if he happens to be near a farm, chances are he’ll turn into a farm animal. Second, he can’t control the change. He feels it coming, but he can’t avoid it, same goes from going from animal to human. The older he gets, though, the more frequent and longer the shifts become. So their relationship, which began in college, has turned into this thing resembling the most dysfunctional long distance secret relationship ever.
When Dante isn’t around, Maria’s life is actually normal. She has a steady job, friends and she is fairly content. But she misses Dante desperately although she’s more than willing to settle for whatever he can give her, which, in turn, is less and less as the time goes by. He tells her all the time that she’s free to leave him, he has a blasé attitude towards shifters’ lifespans (he keeps mentioning how he will die young, that he won’t even make it to fifty), he refuses to let her see him in animal for, so after fifteen years she hasn’t seen him change, and he not only does he not want babies, but he got a vasectomy years ago and only told her afterwards. But she loves him and that’s what matters, right? Well, the moment of truth comes after a series of mysterious murders happen and it seems as if the victims where mauled to death by a wild animal, so it doesn’t take long before Maria begins to suspect that Dante may be behind and this will really test their love. Or maybe not, she really, really loves him, so what if he’s a murderer?
“Right. I might feel less like a freak.”
I lean over to kiss him hard on the mouth. “You might be a freak,” I say fiercely, “but you’re my freak. And I will love you forever. Even if you’re only human an hour a month. Even if you’re only human an hour a year.”
Even if you’re a killer.
It sounds like I loved this book, right? Please! The only reason I kept reading it was because I wanted to see if he would eat her at the end and die of indigestion, making this a crappy book with an awesome ending. What’s disappointing is that Ms. Shinn has a beautiful voice and her take on shifters is so original that despite of how awful this book was I’m willing to give the next one a try (it has different characters, thank God for small favors!). But the main characters ruined it for me.
I’ll start with Dante. He’s a self-absorbed jerk. Is not that he’s tormented by the monster he is, he’s actually quite happy with being a shifter, or at least acceptant of his life. He’s happy with using Maria because he tells her that she can leave him, but he won’t do it himself. So he knows he’s not the best boyfriend, but he doesn’t set her free either. I hate it when heroes leave the heroine to protect them from themselves because they love her so much that they want them to be happy even if it means not having her, that’s a bunch of crap, but it would have been actually good to see it here.
“Every time I come back. Every time I show up at your door. I stand there for a minute—usually covered in grime and stinking to heaven—and I think, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t go in. Maybe it would be better for Maria if I just walked away.’”
My eyes fly open and I stare in horror at the ceiling, just barely visible in the imperfect dark.
“Dante! What? No, no, no! Don’t say that! Why would you—Don’t think that! I love you. It would break my heart if you left me.”
“Sure, but maybe it would be better for you. Once you got over it. You’d move on, you’d find a nice guy—a normal guy—you’d live a normal life—”
“I don’t want a normal life. I want a life with you.”
“You’ll tell me, won’t you? If you change your mind? I won’t blame you, I won’t be surprised. I just want you to be happy, Maria. I really do.”
“Dante.” I make my voice as firm, as certain, as I can. I want him to believe me.
“You’re the one who makes me happy. You’re the one who puts meaning in my days. You’re the one I can’t live without. If I ever change my mind on that, I’ll let you know, I promise. But it’s not going to happen. I promise that, too.”
Maria, on the other hand, was likeable. TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) when it comes to Dante and her idea of love, but she was hardworking, nice and a little awkward. I felt sorry for her, she was isolated from everyone, her world was Dante and that was it. It wasn’t romantic, it was borderline abusive.
There are many, many reasons why I didn’t like the book. I’m just mentioning a few. But to be fair there was one thing I really liked, the fantastic element was very well-done. Her idea of shifters is refreshing and original. The book reads like a romance with some suspense elements because the paranormal part feels so organic that I could even describe it as realistic. The pace is slow but not boring and the ending was surprising. However, the fact that I liked this doesn’t mean it make it enjoyable, so I won’t even recommend it to someone looking for an original PNR. In the end it all comes down to the fact that I don’t like unhealthy relationships sold as romantic love, and that’s exactly what this book does. Read something else.
Review by Brie
For fifteen years Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But despite loving him with all of her heart and soul, Maria knows that Dante can never give all of himself back-at least not all the time.
Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. During those times, he wanders far and wide, leaving Maria alone. He can't choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing. But Maria, who loves him without hesitation, wouldn't trade their unusual relationship for anything.
Since the beginning, she has kept his secret, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occur in local parks during the times when Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she's been telling about her life have turned into lies she's telling herself...
Ace Hardcover. April 3, 2012.