by Margo Lukas, werewolf (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-491-1
Trey Nolan shows up at a club to collect his pack leader's younger brother Mario. Mario's been playing truant of sorts, having gone to a club to impress a woman when he should be doing his homework, when the poor lad sees this woman trailing him and messages Trey for help. Trey meets this woman, CJ Duncan, and distracts her long enough to get Mario and himself out of the club on his Harley. However, Mario is convinced that CJ is a werewolf who have made him her intended prey during "operative training". What is CJ after? Who is she? Is she a werewolf from a pack that Trey's pack is not aware of Surely, she's nothing that Trey, a werewolf himself, can't figure out. Right?
As for CJ, she is a PI who would've succeeded in tailing Mario if he isn't a werewolf who could smell her out. She experiences strange episodes where the world seems to vanish until she's in some kind of weird landscape confronting a white wolf. Since she doesn't do drugs, what can all these episodes mean? Is she going crazy? Read too many werewolf romance novels?
In Margo Lukas's Half Moon Rising, Trey is a werewolf who runs a tight company that supplies elite bodyguards. I know, werewolves protecting clients who don't know that these bodyguards howl at the moon. Funny, isn't it? At any rate, Trey lost to the current alpha Lazlo (Mario's brother) in the last fight for succession and now he's trying to use occult means to gain some magic powers that he believes is his by right, powers which will of course make him the next Alpha Leader. Since CJ needs answers which he can provide and Trey believes that she is a werewolf, only she doesn't know it since she was estranged from her kind since she was young, they strike a bargain.
The current pack political situation is such that the werewolves believe that each generation is weaker than the previous one and Lazlo is calling into motion an eugenics breeding program for his people. Because CJ is unusually strong even for a werewolf, Trey believes that he can use CJ to prove to the Elders Council, the supreme ruling council that all Alpha Leaders answer to, that Lazlo's plan is unnecessary. But before they can do anything else, Mario vanishes.
CJ is an interesting heroine. I know, werewolf romances are everywhere, but how many do you know feature a heroine who is physically much stronger than the hero? Her integration into the pack is inevitable, but because of her no-nonsense you-don't-hurt-my-people ways, she happily jumps straight into the crossfire between Trey and Lazlo. Trey is more of an idealist - he believes the werewolves should be free to love at will because such bonds only strengthen the pack and Lazlo's plans will only rip the pack apart. Trey is born without the keen sense of smell typical of werewolves and his strength is very lacking compared to the other male werewolves, which is why he is trying to find occult means to compensate for his weaknesses. He also takes up martial arts in a futile attempt to find a way to become an Alpha Leader, that poor dear.
From what I understand, Half Moon Rising is Margo Lukas' first ever published effort and I hate to say this but yes, it's pretty obvious that this is the work of a first time author. There is nothing particularly objectionable in the writing style, but there are some aspects of the writing that could have been better, such as the sense of passing of time in the story and the whittling down on some scenes that are fillers that don't add anything to the overall story. Also, some parts of the middle of the story consist of scenes of a repetitious nature, such as the characters rehashing the same issues many times over.
However, Margo Lukas has one really big trump card up her sleeve - Half Moon Rising is a fantastic story. It's most enjoyable - I cannot stop reading once I begin. It's not just that this story doesn't follow the tried-and-true tradition of making werewolves all about dominant males and submissive females - Ms Lukas also presents a most entertaining story about a heroine's discovery of her identity and strengths, a rare beta-male werewolf hero, and a story that is too thrilling to put down. The main characters are most likable. I like how CJ is allowed to be who she is without having some contrived weaknesses added to "soften" her. I must confess that I find Trey wee bit too sappy towards the later parts of the story though. He's a nice guy overall who just wants to do the right thing and he goes great length to demonstrate that he's doing what he does for the sake of the tribe, but I wish the author has allowed poor Trey to be shine a little bit more in the story and less "sure, sure, everything you want, dear!". I'm not saying that the poor man is completely overshadowed and castrated in the story by the heroine, mind you, but I do wish Trey gets to win a little bit more often in the story.
This book is pretty unpolished when it comes to the author's prose, but I find the story so hard to put down that the weaknesses in this book never really affect my enjoyment in any way. They are obvious, but they don't get in the way of the fun. Dare I hope that Half Moon Rising is just a start of good things to come from Margo Lukas?
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