Heat, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-425-22761-9
Fantasy Erotica, 2009
When I picked up Sarah McCarty’s Wild Instinct, I was led to believe by the back cover that this is an anthology of three short stories. Well, I can now tell you that this is actually part of a series, and while this one has three short stories, those three stories are closely linked to the point that this one could have easily been one long continuous story from start to finish.
The thing is, I have no idea what is going on here. In Garrett, the first story, I see three women on the run from werewolves. Sarah Anne has her daughter Meg and son Josiah to protect. These three are werewolves. Teri, her friend, is human, and in this story, she is pregnant. She was raped by the men of Sarah Anne’s pack. Oh, and there’s Rachel. I’m still not sure who she is, but someone has to take Sarah Anne’s children and flee, so she may as well be that someone. Besides, someone has to star in the third story… Anyway, these three women and the two brats are on the run from the pack that raped Teri, and apparently in the last book Sarah Anne had asked the Haven pack for help. But help may be too late in coming as the three women are cornered by the rogue werewolves at the start of this story. Oh wait, here comes the cavalry – Garrett, Curran, Daire (who must have stumbled in here from a JR Ward book), and some other hairy blokes are here! Conveniently enough, all three women turn out to be the mates of the three bachelor werewolf heroes! Daire and Curran are basically continuation of the story from Garrett.
Since this is a werewolf story, there is plenty of mate-mate-mate stuff, as expected. In fact, the word “bound” features here more frequently than the word “love”. Both hero and heroine in a bound-mate-bond equation have no choice in the matter, but as usual, the male seems to enjoy the mate-mate-mate thing far more as he holds all the power in the relationship. In Wild Instinct, it is quite perplexing how the heroines for so long seem to resent the fact that they have no choice in spreading their legs and accepting the boinking-bond faux accompli, only to magically become blissfully happy by the time the story ends. I don’t see how anything has changed – they still have no power in the relationship – so it’s not as if they have lost all cause for their initial resentment. And these women don’t have a choice – they are powerless, they will lose their lives or their children if they do not succumb to the males’ desire to boink them. Teri’s story is the most problematic: she was a rape victim who had just lost her child, and yet, she is happily having sex with Daire like an express choo-choo train. Amazing, isn’t it, how a contrived biological compulsion can solve every psychological problem in existence? The werewolf bond is clearly more potent than religion. The romance is pretty much the heroine balancing between keeping the male happy and keeping the whole pack happy while ensuring that her own desires are always in line with those of the man and the pack. The whole thing is very “women joining a hirsute sex cult” affair.
But that’s not the reason why this story is problematic. After all, when done right, such hairy Neanderthal fantasy can be entertaining. The problem here is that this anthology is a sequel, but the author is not going to give a new reader like me any help in catching up. And it’s not easy to catch up, given how the werewolves here aren’t just werewolves, they are werewolves on steroids. We have Protectors, werewolves who are apparently bestowed with superhuman abilities to do kung-fu in slow-motion The Matrix style. And then we have… mind-reading werewolves? Psychic werewolves? Garrett is a Protector who can also do that mind woo-woo stuff, for example. The werewolves in this story aren’t just werewolves, they are like Jean Grey and Wolverine and Superman all rolled into one, and the end result is actually far more over the top and comical than the author intended.
Wild Instinct already has severe shortcomings in the story line and characterization departments, but it makes things more muddled for the new reader like me by introducing a large cast of characters with preexisting relationships without giving me much help in figuring out who these characters are. This book requires far too much effort for such a mediocre read.