Howling at the Moon: Tales of an Urban Werewolf
by Karen MacInerny
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-034549625-6
***
Readers of MaryJanice Davidson and Katie MacAlister will find similarities in this newest entry in the paranormal lite sub-genre - that is, mostly chick-lit with a hint of paranormal.

Our hapless heroine Sophie Garou (very subtle), lives a calm and predictable life in Austin, Texas. She’s employed as an auditor in a small accounting firm, has a desirable boyfriend, obligatory female sidekick, and a minor mystery to solve. She enjoys a skinny latté, her Prada pumps, Kate Spade purse and new BMW M3. When she has to think of it at all, she refers to her werewolf side as “her hairy problem”, which she mostly controls by drinking thrice-daily doses of wolfsbane tea.

Sophie’s mom, Carmen, is a witch who owns a magic store called Sit A Spell in downtown Austin. Sophie’s dad, the werewolf, pulled a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” when Sophie was just a year old, so she doesn’t know much about being a werewolf. She’a wolf without a pack, and one without a clue at that.

And as the full moon approaches, things are to get even hairier, and not just supernaturally speaking.

Carmen is arrested for murdering a newly-elected congressman who purchased a love potion from her. As she’s the most convenient suspect, she’s thrown in the local lockup. Sophie doesn’t trust Carmen’s lawyer to get the job done and decides to do some supernatural investigation of her own.

Meanwhile, there’s a new werewolf in town, Tom, who’s gone out of his way to make Sophie’s acquaintance. Never having been “face-to-face” with one of her kind, Sophie is overwhelmed by his wolfy charisma, and can hardly keep from jumping his bones.

And her human boyfriend Heath is looking forward to an intimate celebration of their one-year anniversary. Unfortunately, the anniversary falls on the night of the full moon, and well, Sophie’s been keeping her hairy problem a secret.

The humorous dialogue and imagery kept me reading. Sophie is not your typical bloodthirsty werewolf. In one scene, she transforms before completely disrobing and ends up running as a wolf with a pair of pantyhose around her neck. As part of her “hairy problem”, she also has to shave her legs numerous times a day, so that when she transforms, her legs are bare. She is also quite attached to her new Kate Spade purse, which she refuses to leave behind at one point and ends up carrying in her mouth while in werewolf form. Her highly developed sense of smell also features prominently in her descriptions of people she meets and places she visits. “Jelly doughnuts and Drakkar Noir - not a good combination” describes a local police detective.

Howling at the Moon suffers from two problems. The first is the fact that Heath, although he is an attorney with some smarts, apparently has no clue that Sophie is a werewolf. Can he really be so oblivious? Does he really think those quarterly disappearances are just a simple girlfriend’s spa getaway? My other quibble is the way various loose ends are tied up in the last ten pages. It is so obviously a set-up for the next book in the series. It would have been better to leave some of the minor plotlines unresolved to provide continuity in the sequel.

Howling at the Moon is heavy on humor, light on plot and features a surprisingly tepid romance. It could easily have been written without a supernatural character. If you like your supernatural characters to be sunny, give this one a try. If you prefer your werewolves with more angst, give it a pass.

--Jean Ward


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