by Jorrie Spencer, paranormal (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-427-5

Jorrie Spencer's Anchor seizes me by the throat by the first page itself, which is something many stories don't get to do to me. We have Mala Singh, a heroine who doesn't understand why she dreams of troubled werewolves, but when the story opens, she aids a wolf on the run by stopping the heart of his abusive father who is giving chase. After all, it's her dream so she can do anything, even doing fabulous woo-woo to strike down a monster. However, these dreams take a heavy toll on her health. She is plagued by insomnia after each dream, until finally her body can't take it and she collapses from exhaustion. As you can probably imagine, she finds it hard to keep a job as a result.

When the wolf that she helped in her dreams eventually morphs into a kid named Caleb and informs her that he has found sanctuary in a place called Wolf Town, and it looks like she'd be jobless again, Mala decides to throw caution to the wind and look up Wolf Town. Much to her shock, that place - and Caleb - is real. It's a sanctuary for disenfranchised wolves who have left their packs for whatever reason to live in peace under the watchful eyes of Angus MacIntyre, the town Alpha. Mala and Angus naturally become the official couple while a few female wolves sniff at Mala because she's more special than they. Meanwhile, Caleb's daddy isn't going to stay down that easily...

Anchor is a bit muted as a romance, so I hope you don't read this one expecting alpha wolf shags and mate-mate-mate yammering. This isn't that kind of story despite the presence of werewolves among its pages - this is more of a romantic suspense with the romance blending in nicely, not as a main focus, but sort of an integral element of the story without being overpowering. I find this a nice touch because it allows the author to develop the romance slowly and convincingly, given the somewhat fragile state of Mala's mind. That poor dear has plenty to take in in this story, after all. While the villain is tad one-dimensional and Angus is a bit too good to be true as this reliable and protective guardian of his people, they have their roles in this story. The villain provides a credible menacing presence both in Mala's dreams and in real life, while Angus is the solid anchor of all that is good and noble. I have to hand it to Ms Spencer: she actually makes Angus an attractive hero rather than a boring one despite his somewhat one-dimensional Captain Alpha Wolf trapping.

What makes Anchor work very well is the swift-paced taut and engaging narrative. From page one to last, I am at the edge of my seat wanting to find out what happens next. Even the slower scenes keep my attention instead of making me wish to skip them and get to the action. Jorrie Spencer tells a really great story here.

So why isn't this a keeper? Well, while I understand Mala's motivations to want to do so, her constant insistence on leaving Wolf Town starts to grate after a while. She knows even before the others that the villain is on her tail, and while it makes sense that she believes she is safer hiding in a big city than in Wolf Town, she is in no condition to pull her own version of The Fugitive. It isn't long before I wish Mala would just get on with the program and hush. She is a pretty cool heroine in many other ways, though, and I like how she actually comes to the hero's aid in the end.

I really like Anchor, and it has me wondering why I am not reading more of this author's works. Again, maybe it's time I repeat this before you rush off and buy this book: the romance isn't as prominent as that in a typical werewolf romance, and the suspense elements are as strong as, if not sometimes stronger than, the romance. But if you want a jolly good story with a romantic element, this one may just do the trick.

Rating: 89

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