Ben And Shadoe
by Shiloh Walker, paranormal (2005)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-4199-0101-X

Ben And Shadoe is the fifth book in Shiloh Walker's The Hunters series. The cover art for this one is as bad as the previous ones, but this story is easily the most coherent and polished one in the series to date.

The story opens with an explosive bang as Jillian Morgan is ambushed by her boyfriend and a mysterious friend of this fellow in the boyfriend's house. The boyfriend, Jimmy Duncan, is a recently-turned werewolf, and his mentor of sorts, the more powerful Marcus, wants Jillian the moment he sees her. Jimmy has no option but to submit to the wishes of the more dominant male, of course, hence the ambush on Jillian in his house. Jillian, however, is no helpless damsel. She ends up killing Jimmy with a knife. Marcus changes into a wolf and flees the scene but you know he'll be back for revenge.

Cut to six years later. It's six years later because poor Jillian had to spend time behind bars for killing Jimmy. Anyway, Benjamin Cross shows up one day to lead Jillian back to the pack, so to speak. Jillian is actually Shadoe Wallace, the daughter of a high-ranking member of the pack who went missing twenty-three years ago after her parents were murdered. He's been trying to reach Shadoe since she's been released but she rebuffs him at every turn. This is because Ben for some reason at first pretends to be offering her book deals and interviews and his attentions cross the line to stalking when she keeps ignoring him. I don't think Ben is particularly smart, hmmph. Since Shadoe keeps refusing to see him, he has to do what he has to do: crash into her bedroom and tell her that he is not her enemy, only someone who will kill her enemies for her. Then, with that cryptic statement delivered, he makes his leave. Dramatic, I must say, but not particularly effective.

Ben has to ensure that Shadoe is safe, of course, since she is a dormant witch-werewolf with great powers waiting to be unleashed. Shadoe, however, is not ready to believe that she's a witch. The poor dear can barely remember her parents, much less her past. Ben has no choice but to apply the ever-reliable Magic Alpha Male Miracle Shag treatment to her which will help her embrace her inner wolf/magic.

While Ben and Shadoe have a familiar more-lust supposedly-love thing here that seems to be a mumbo-jumbo of mostly lust and mating instincts, Ben And Shadoe nonetheless is the most focused and coherent story to date in the series. The number of unnecessary and hence distracting secondary characters is kept to a minimum. The main characters show more character development compared to those in previous books. Ben and Shadoe, especially Ben, start out as recognizable stereotypes but by the end of the story they have become more well-rounded characters with some degree of depths. And while there is a formulaic feel to the relationship between Ben and Shadoe, the love scenes are pretty hot.

However, I am not sure about that annoying Malachi showing up at about the one-third point in this story. He is a very distracting character because his presence shifts the focus of the story from Ben and Shadoe to him. If Ms Walker is that enamored of her Malachi character, I don't understand why she doesn't just give him his own book and let him play with his harem to his heart's content in that book. I also don't know what the point of that threesome sex scene of him, Ben, and Shadoe is, other than to titillate the reader. Given that I am far from happy with this vampire's presence in the story, I am far from titillated. More like exasperated, really.

I wish Malachi has just stayed away because until he shows up, the story is going so well. His presence disturbs the flow considerably and it is not until later in the story that the focus shifts back from the "Malachi is awesome! He has an awesomely big penis! Drool and anticipate his upcoming book, readers!" moments to Ben and Shadoe.

For the most part, apart from a few "Die, Malachi, die!" moments on my part, I enjoy Ben And Shadoe considerably. I especially like how Ms Walker doesn't let the sex scenes overwhelm or dominate the story at the expense of the story. Things may be looking up for this series after all.

Rating: 76

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