Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-4227-8
Fantasy Romance, 2008
Sharie Kohler also writes historical romances for Avon under the name Sophie Jordan and Marked by Moonlight is the first book in the The Moon Chasers series. This one is interesting if only because it doesn’t feature an alpha male hero for a werewolf romance. It is the heroine who finds herself in danger of turning into a werewolf here while the hero is a werewolf hunter.
It also has plot holes galore, making it the romance novel equivalent of a Swiss cheese or something, but it is nonetheless still very enjoyable despite the fact that this story makes no sense half the time.
In this world, we have lycans, which are the werewolves, and unlike those other randy mate-forever hairy wretches in other werewolf romances, the lycans here are fell creatures that kill people for sport. Oh, don’t worry, the lycans that are going to star in the lead roles are going to be those whiny emo types – substitute “lycan” for “vampire” here and you won’t notice any difference.
Anyway, it all begins when mousy schoolteacher Claire Morgan decides to check up on her student Lenny. Lenny is due to sit for his SAT the next day, you see, and Claire is hoping that she can help him get his life in order. Don’t ask me why she has to go visit a particularly seedy neighborhood late in evening, though, but that’s what our dedicated Miss Morgan decides to do. She spots Lenny running into an alleyway and gives pursuit. Wait, is that a growl she hears? Is that a dangerous beast? Miss Morgan does what any sensible woman would do – she continues walking into that dark alleyway, her way lit only by a blood moon, while calling out Lenny’s name. You can guess what happens next, don’t you?
Our hero Gideon March shows up just in time to send the lycan to doggy heaven, leaving Claire injured but alive. However, Gideon is with NODEAL, a bunch of guys who dedicate their lives to killing lycans, and he knows that Claire is going to turn into one of those monsters by the next full moon. He finds himself reluctant to kill Claire, however, because she is, after all, a school teacher who sleeps while hugging a teddy bear. Instead, he decides to help Claire kill the alpha that started the whole bite-you-bite-me thing so that Claire will be saved. You see, as long as Claire doesn’t munch on a poor fellow come the next full moon and they kill the alpha by then, she will be saved. This gives them… oh, eight days or so to get the job done.
Don’t ask me why the NODEAL guys then can’t just shoot down the alphas and save the poor bitten fools instead of gunning them down one by one like that. Maybe Miss Morgan is special because she has hot legs and is therefore worth the extra work, I don’t know. Early on, Gideon complains that the NODEAL folks know his every move and he can’t even breathe without him being on his case, but for the rest of the story, his NODEAL superior is conveniently missing from the scene, showing up only when the author wants some kind of “Will he catch Gideon with Claire? Da-da-dum!” suspense moment in the story.
It gets better. Later on, a sequel bait of a lycan (who doesn’t eat people, so readers can breathe easy) will show up, which means that there is a way for lycans to become vegetarians – by locking one up in a room during the full moon. Does this mean that the poor sods killed by NODEAL could have avoided their fate if they are transported to a special padded cell during the full moon? I also have a laugh when the author soberly brings up the possibility of two lycans locking themselves up in a room so that instead of eating humans, they will be happily shagging instead. What, does this mean that a bloodthirsty flesh-hungry lycan won’t try to eat the other lycan when they are trapped in the same room?
There are so many plot holes or things that don’t make sense on a fundamental level here that I wonder whether anyone has actually read this thing before publishing it. It’s not as if the characters are smart either. Watch as Gideon and Claire waste time by having sex while the clock is ticking. Watch as Claire decides that she won’t be pretty enough for Gideon should her time is up and she start growing a lycan mustache and flees, thus making what little effort they made when they weren’t too busy groping and shagging in the last few days pointless. Hmm, I suspect that I’m supposed to view Claire’s action as a grand gesture of self-sacrificing and give her a medal.
But yet, despite the fact that I would have normally dismissed this book for its many illogical or just plain stupid moments, I find this story compelling enough to keep reading. This is because I find that there are some things that are done very well here despite everything else. The first half of so of this book, before things get derailed by silly sex and characters behaving stupidly, is enjoyable because Claire has to deal with changes in her personality that she doesn’t fully understand. And yet, she begins to enjoy being more aggressive, telling off her abusive father as well as those insufferable badly-behaved students of hers in that oh-so-adorable lycan-gone-mad way. This part of Claire somehow finding herself even as she struggles to understand the changes happening to her is easily the most enjoyable aspect of the story.
The second half or so is where the story plunges into familiar and not-always-logical mediocre paranormal romance territory. It is not surprising that most of the flaws I enumerated earlier in this review are aggregated in this later half.
Marked by Moonlight is all in all a bloody stupid but very readable read. In other words, I suspect that a reader will have more fun with this one if the reader tries not to think too much about the story. I’m happy that Gideon and Claire eventually have a happy ending, but I suspect that the dead lycans that Gideon and the NODEAL idiot brigade blasted to kingdom come in the past could only wish that they were sexy enough like Claire to get the NODEAL idiots to spend a week helping them overcome their curse. After all, if you have read this book, you will realize that it is disappointingly easy – anticlimactic, really – to break the curse and have lots of sex in the meantime. Oh well.