I’ve been doing a lot of diamond paintings lately. (Repetitive, slightly obsessive hobbies are dangerous things for me.) As a result, I’m flying through the audiobooks lately. The Strip, by Heather Killough-Walden is the most recent.
Description from Goodreads:
Green-eyed Malcolm Cole is a cursed werewolf, an alpha in the most powerful sense who has given up hope for any kind of happiness or peace in his life.
Until he catches wind of Claire.
Claire St. James, Charlie among friends, is an amazing young woman with an incredibly special gift. Cole recognizes this at once and swears on the spot to claim Charlie as his mate.
Of course, he isn’t the only one with such plans. Charlie is too precious to let go without a fight, and one of the most powerful alphas in the world has already staked a claim, whether Charlie—or Cole—like it or not.
There is a little bit of a story to why I read (or listened to) this book. I recently borrowed The Wolf at the Door (Big Bad Wolf #1) through Hoopla. When you get to the end of a book, Hoopla often gives you a pop-up asking if you want the next book in the series. I really like The Wolf at the Door, so I said yes. However, when I started the book, it was an entirely different series altogether, just one with the same name.
I decided to give it a try though. I like to give pure chance a chance on occasion. Very early on I could tell this wasn’t going to be a winner to me. And I wasn’t all that surprised. I’m often wary of older PNR. I find A LOT of the content problematic. (The industry is getting better, but anything more than 10 years old is chancy for me. And this one is from 2011, so borderline.) But I stuck with it, determined to finish it so that I could write a full review.
I’d planned to talk about how angry it makes me when what is important about the fated female mate is WHAT she is not WHO she is. How this was strongly highlighted in this particular book by the fact that Charlie probably doesn’t have 3 dozen lines of dialogue in the whole thing. What she has to say or think isn’t important, only what she is to be possessed. I’d intended to discuss how she and he literally don’t know one another, spend no time together and he used magic as mystical rohypnol to remove all agency from her. Thus, making women out to be mindless, malleable objects, rather than people with their own power and desires. I was going to put strong words on paper about how this IS NOT ROMANCE, not matter what the author says.
But the honest to god truth is that after clawing my way through the book and gritting my teeth through sex and sexual scenes that read more as abuse than anything else, I just can’t be bothered. It’s exhausting and demoralizing to find romance framed in such a way that (if you removed the names) I literally (LITERALLY!) would not be able to tell which scenes involved the sexual sadist who tortured Charlie and which was the ‘sexy dominant’ mate who was some how supposed to love and cherish the woman he’d never had so much as a conversation with. Both were ‘rough.’ Both were described using words like “cruel.” Both emphasized being unconcerned with hurting her. With the exception of the first scene in the book, with the best friend with benefits, in which it was made explicit that he checked in with her and made sure she was ok during rough sex (involving strangulation), every other scene was rage-inducingly abusive. And I read plenty of S&M, kink-laced, BDSM books. I’m not kink shaming. But that’s not what it book contains.
By the time I got to the end, my desire to write an intellectual review of it had withered to despondency. So, I’ll just call this tuture/rape porn and be shut of it.
Gildart Jackson did a fine technical job with the narration, minus a tendency to swallow a lot. However, I found that having a man read a book that involved quite so much pseudo-rape and torture of a woman made it feel extra pervy and skin-crawlingly dirty.