Story in a nutshell: Carrie moves to a secluded island to escape the stalkerish behavior of her ex-fiancé. The island is home to a population of werebears and she meets one of them, Jack, who is the captain of the ferry bringing her to the island. Insta-attraction and fated mates story ensues. You can probably guess, like I did, that the ex-fiancé stalker will make an appearance later in the story.
Though this was a fated mates story, I don’t think there was immediate in-your-face insta-love. Jack didn’t believe in a destined mate and Carrie, a human, wasn’t immediately falling all over him either. They felt an attraction but weren’t stripping off each other’s clothes from the get go. Jack tried to take it slow, relatively speaking. I thought it was cute the way he collected flowers to bring to her cottage for the first time. He eventually accepts the notion she is his fated mate and goes after what he wants, but he always acted considerate and concerned for Carrie. All of Jack’s werebear friends and their mates were nice to Carrie and accepting of her as Jack’s fated mate. They would tease Jack about it until he finally accepted it for himself.
As I was reading the first half of this book I was thinking that I may have finally found a PNR novella that may actually be a satisfying romance. I have a hard time finding PNR shorts or novellas that don’t feel rushed or like part of the story is missing. It all changed when it hit about the 65%-ish mark when they were going on a nature walk and where it comes out that Jack is a werebear. This is also where the story started to come apart for me. The first half of the book was a slow-ish build and I was actually happy with the pace. But then it was like somebody suddenly flipped a switch and the story just went into high speed. Jack briefly woos her, they have a date, they are now a couple, they have sex, he marks her, there’s a mild confrontation with Simon, and then he proposes. This all happens in the space of a couple of days (and half a novella)? And since it is a novella, half a book isn’t very long.
There really isn’t any disbelief / resistance on Carrie’s part when she finds out he is a werebear. In fact, when she is told that Jack is a werebear, she states that she knows about werebears but hadn’t met any yet. Uh, what? Where did that come from? It totally threw me out of the story. There was no set up to that revelation or any type of world building to let the reader know that humans are aware that werebears exist and are apparently out and about in the world. Speaking of Jack as a shifter, there really was only one brief scene in the story that has him shifting and it was barely a scene. He shifts to go into the woods with his friends then a little bit later it mentions them shifting as they come back out of the woods. His characterization as a werebear wasn’t very strong.
The climactic scene was a little underwhelming and I thought it might be a pre-climax where Simon would show up again later as a bigger threat but no, that didn’t happen. However, I loved the way all of Jack’s werebear friends stood beside Jack to protect and support Carrie. It was like you got a problem with Carrie, you got a problem with all of us.
Mechanically, there were some issues with the story. There were a number of typos. It needs another proofreading. There were also some continuity/inconsistency type issues and what I consider logic blips. For example, Carrie is described as stepping out of Jack’s truck and then in the next paragraph she is described as opening the door as Jack comes around to the side of the truck to help her out. There was also a number of things during the sex scene had me scratching my head as well. Finally, there was formatting issue causing sentences to break off into new paragraphs inappropriately. I received an advanced copy of this book so maybe the formatting wasn’t finalized yet, but it should have been if it was going to reviewers. I also didn’t like the way the paragraphs were formatted. It was in block style with a space between paragraphs instead of an indent at the beginning of each paragraph. Block style always feels like a business letter to me. For some reason, it is distracting in a fiction book.
Overall…The story pace started out okay but then moved into fast forward. I liked Jack and Carrie, but did not connect to them as a couple. I felt the book needed to be longer to build the relationship and make a more believable romance as well as add more suspense and conflict. The editing/proofreading wasn’t the worst I’ve seen but not that good either. And of course the formatting issues made for awkward reading. Despite the issues, it was not a struggle to finish the book. I liked the story to some degree and it had an HEA with no cliffhangers. If the editing/formatting were not a problem and the story didn’t feel so rushed, I probably would have rounded up.
I received a free advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Word Count: ~22,000
Heat Level: Spicy, open door