I rarely do something like this but more stories are being released as novella series or episodics and in a case like this it’s going to be a lot more easy for me to just look at it as a whole thing but piece by piece. Think of it as mini-reviews inside of a huge party for Clare Atling! Yay! Cake, martinis, hot men and sexy times! This is Penn Lake Wolves, Ladies and Gents!
Wait? Were there martinis? That might have just been me partying in my closet by myself.
I picked up First Beginnings during one of my Amazon Shifter Novel Crawls. If you are new to Ali-speak, an Amazon Crawl is just like a bar crawl, but more ridiculous. It’s when I get bored, impulsive or stupid irresponsible and begin searching for random things in Amazon (in this case read: shifter mates erotica) and then go through 33, 66, or 99 pages buying whatever appeals to me or putting it in a wishlist for later. It’s expensive. It’s a terrible shopping addiction. And it happens A LOT!
I bought this and was incredibly annoyed that the cover was a square. It irritated me and I didn’t read the book for a few weeks to punish it for having in irregular shaped cover. When I got around to starting the book I have to admit that I was at first confuzzled over what the weird niggling I was having in the back of my head was and then I realized it was the general feeling of this being a pretty good but rather generic shifter story. There wasn’t any reason for me to throw up my dress and HEE-HAW and nothing demanding I throw down the book and dance on it’s smoldering ashes… it was the baby bear version of a shifter story of just right.
Sarah and her bestie, Callie are like twinsies, but not. Besties above the resties, these girls have been living together while fighting the years the rest of us call College Life while dreaming of a time when they will build a kingdom of cakes in a bakery made of sweetness and icing, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. All that is shot to sugar when a ‘Hurray! We have degrees that will amount to nothing!’ celebration catches the eye of one Big Bad and sends these chickies to flight and Callie’s secret is out when her fur flies and Sarah comes face to face with the fact that her best friend is actually man’s best friend but a much finer quality breed.
Enter Seth and Brandon, Penn Lake Pack Wolves and the good guys. It’s pretty formulaic as far as the romance between Sarah and Seth goes, but really the back story is the gravy for this first novella in the series because it sets up the arc for the rest of the books. You get to revisit the Big Bad Wolf from the beginning and see why the girls are important and Clare Atling’s shifter-world at large which isn’t all sexy brothers and saucy mom and pops.
My eek and cry moments came when no one helped Clare edit her books and things popped up like this:
Listen, I’m not going to stop you if you want to leave the hotel, but if your friend’s right about this wolf following you home, then I can’t just let you go.
Well it’s either one thing or the other… you are stopping her or you aren’t.
Purchase First Beginnings:
Callie is my favorite character next to Hope. That said, I loathe Logan and he gets Douche Canoe Mate of the Century Award, oddly this book was still damn good. One of the things that is discovered in the first book is that when Callie is brought to Penn’s Island is that she is Seth’s brother, Logan’s mate. This is significant because Logan is the biggest jackass to walk on two and four legs and think only with his third one. Their first meeting is catastrophic because Logan likes women who are thin, like paper dolls, brainless, like him and is offended that his mate lacks both qualities. Callie is crushed because he is HER mate, for all sakes.
Second Chances is their story and it picks up with Logan having to take Callie off the island to pick up flowers for Seth and Sarah’s wedding. All the poop hits the cat pan when Marcus sends his men to collect Callie, and she and Logan and up trudging through the woods trying to flee for their lives. This is one of those ordeals where through dealing with a tense and terrible situation your instincts overcome your ridiculousness. Or at least that is the case with Logan and he begins to man-up, just not as fast as a man I could really like and I kept wishing he was his other brother, Brandon, who deserved to be cloned and have two HEAs.
This is the book where you really get to meet Colt, Marcus’ son and I have this thing for anti-heroes and just plain old bad guys that have a birdhouse in their soul. Colt reminded me of Xairn from Evangeline Anderson’s Bride of the Kindred series. Xairn is one of my most favoritist broken characters and he and Colt are brothers from another author. Don’t tell me aliens and wolves can’t be brothers, I’ve watched a lot of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos lately and we are all just space dust and water. We can be anything we want if we put our psychosis to it and we try hard enough.
I enjoyed this book better than the first, although I liked Seth more than Logan–for whom, I wish a lifetime of canine dermatitis.
Purchase Second Chances:
Sigh… Brandon. Why do authors take so damn long to get to the good brothers? If Seth is too pushy and Logan’s too stupid, then Brandon is just freaking amazekittens in my Little Black Book. This is the guy with the good sense of humor, the snappy wit, the feelies and the friendlies. He’s your friend AND lover! Order me two of this wolf-man! I’m gonna double fist. –hmmm… that was a lot more dirty than I had intended. I was thinking of a drinking analogy.
Maggie is in a world of poop-poop because Marcus has sent her forth to become the Yoko Ono that will destroy the Penn Wolves Pack. He needs her to lure one of the brother’s back to him so he can more or less cause pain and destruction. He still wants Callie to breed for his pack and if Maggie is successful Marcus believes he will have Aces in hand to pull the Penn Wolves into a trap where he will be able to have everything he wants.
You can’t keep a good wolf down. A woman in love is worth two in hand. A train traveling up, always goes down. Never buy bread on Friday. Don’t blink!
I’m sure all of the above are either a great bastardized platitude or good advice but I was searching for an idiom that hasn’t come to mind. Between Brandon’s never say surrender philosophy and Maggie’s never surrender personality these two are destined to miss one another once or twice before they get on the same page. But it’s worth the read… It. Is. Indeed.
Purchase Third Rank:
Finally, Hope and Colt. I did not realize how long it would take me to do a review of this sort. I am exhausted! Crap in a bucket! I need three or four more cups of coffee after this.
This was my MOSTest of this series. I liked this the MOSTest. Through the last three novels I have read and gotten to know Hope and she and Callie are my uber favorites of the double X genes, Colt and Brandon my favorites of the XY flavors. This book made me smiley happy because Clare Atling seemed to know Colt and Hope a bit better than her other characters and they absolutely zinged, dinged, shined and worked better than everyone else–which is probably why they ended up being my favorite. Usually it’s the characters that are the best understood by the author that are loved the most by the readers.
In the end of Third Rank Colt was brought back to Penn Island with the Penn Wolf Pack when they went to rescue Maggie. He was horribly treated by his father and badly beaten but Seth and the Penn Wolf Pack couldn’t be sure who Colt had allegiance to so he was kept under guard.
Much to the chagrin of Hope she has realized that Colt is his mate and he is not above being cocky and self-admiring regarding how his presence affects her. Adding fuel to the fire Hope’s spoiled temper is landing her more time taking meals to her irritating mate. Like all tinder and spark Hope and Colt go up in flames the moment her guard is down and once Colt gets a taste of his mate, nothing will keep him away.
This book has the ultimate battle. The ultimate whose side are you on. The ultimate fight or die. The ultimate them vs. us. And the ultimate question, for all those who have been in these four books, of who really IS my family? What side do I fight for?
Purchase Fourth Hope:
Clare Atling on All The Things Inbetween:
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