A Loosey Goosey Review: Stray, by Erin Lark
Sorry this is late. I was ambushed today by a were-squirrel. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s darn funny. I keep getting strange looks as I tap away on the computer, giggling. And how do you explain that?
So, here’s the book cover for Stray (you can click on the link if you’d like to buy a copy):
It’s a werewolf story, and a BDSM story. Oddly enough, for a story based around shapeshifters, I found that the shifting and such really didn’t come off as the central point–the author was always very focused on the characters, which was something I appreciated, as I’ve seen too many authors stumble down that path of resorting to werewolf politics and ridiculous levels of aggression to keep the story rolling. It was nice to see the softer side. I thought the werewolf culture she introduced us to was interesting, which is getting hard to do nowadays, because so many people are writing werewolf/shapeshifter fiction and it’s getting to be a real chore to find something new.
Okay, I’m going to give you the head’s up on this part, so it all makes sense–I’m not really the target audience for this type of book. This is a BDSM lite M/F novel. Neither the BDSM, nor the M/F is the problem. But I lost my patience for female subs many books ago, because I read one too many where I wanted to slap the heroine myself, and not in that fun way either. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not a sub. I can understand the attraction, to a certain extent, mostly because I’m curious about everything. But, when push comes to shove, I like to be the one in charge. A lot. :D) So, I tend to avoid these like the plague.
Why did I tell you that? Well, because the sub in this book didn’t make me swear and wish I had a print copy so I could throw it at the wall. And my “Belt it at the wall” trigger is pretty sensitive. Right from the word go, I got that she enjoyed this, that it was what made her happy. There is mention of a previous relationship that had been pretty abusive, but, again, the author made it very clear that Alyssa, our female main character, had been in that one because of ignorance, not stupidity or lack of self-esteem.
What I liked best about this is that she was smart about her recovery from the ex. She went looking for someone to bring her back into the scene, someone who had a good reputation, someone she knew, that she had worked with before. She thought it all out, and was aware of how her previous experiences had warped her own perceptions. And she questioned and thought about everything. The author also made it very clear that Alyssa was making the choice to get back into the scene because she enjoyed it, a courtesy on the author’s part that I greatly appreciated.
Dylan, our male main character, seemed pretty well visualized. He was caring and smart and not in the least selfish, which is what a proper Dom or Domme should be. Not the traditional cold, overbearing, “I’m the Dom and I’m always right because I’m so wonderful” kind of Dom. (Personally, I’d like to twist a few of those guys up in knots and see how they do. But I digress…) And the picture of him on the cover? Yum! Wonder if he’s a switch? Maybe even just sometimes? Please?
As storylines go, it’s pretty good. The pacing was uneven at times, but not significantly. I thought Dylan seemed to have kind of shaky control for someone who supposedly practiced being in control, but then again, Alyssa needed someone who could accept her wholeheartedly, so it comes down to showing who the character is right from the beginning. It worked, once I got used to it and was actually rather charming. (Funny how what you read trains you in what to expect–again, Doms who would be tarred and feathered in a real dungeon) The dialogue between them at the beginning was often overformal for what was going on at that point in the story, but settled into something more natural around chapter 5. I actually heard Dylan speaking in a British accent for most of it, because of the word choice and sentence structure. Although, maybe that comes from TEB being a British publisher? Hmmmm…
I was occasionally jolted out of the story as I questioned choices, dialogue and behaviours that seemed just slightly out of tune with my sense of the character, but I also know that I’m really sensitive to those things, so it might not be something that would even hit the radar for someone else. Besides, they seemed to settle down in that last part of the book, as if the author had become more comfortable with the characters herself, or they with her.
I started out thinking of giving this book a 3.5 out of 5, for all the reasons listed above. But, it got better and better as I stuck with it, so in the end, I’ve decided to give it a 4. Good work, Erin!
Many apologies for not getting this out earlier. It’s the squirrels, I’m telling you!
Kitty, going squirrel hunting again.