|The popular subgenre of paranormal romance is stronger than ever. I appreciate the trend when authors create vivid and interesting paranormal scenarios, so I appreciate Suzanne McMinn’s The Beast Within, which is both original and riveting.
An explosion in a PAX League lab causes the death of one man and tranforms Kieran Holt, who was working on a serum that would provide increased strength and senses. When Kieran learns that the PAX League believes he was planning to sell the serum, he vanishes, leaving everyone behind, including his wife, Paige.
When Kieran left, Paige was devastated. Like her husband, Paige was a member of the PAX League: Paranormal Allied eXperts. This government group is “dedicated to research into mystical, telepathic, transformational sciences that was leading the world into a new era of defense. Peace through PAX.” Paige didn’t want to believe that he could be a traitor, but his disappearance seemed suspicious. After two years, she has divorce papers drawn up, convinces Kieran’s cousin to tell her where he is, and arranges a helicopter flight to Kieran’s location.
Once there, she learns that the explosion of the activation serum does increase strength and other abilities. Unfortunately, the abilities come at a high price — Kieran can turn into a wolf. The results grow more extreme over time, because the activation serum that caused the transformation was never meant to be used without a containment serum, which Kieran doesn’t have: “One step at a time, he was changing, forever. The human inside him was dying, and he had no idea what that meant to his very existence.” He fears that he will eventually lose control completely.
The PAX League is a fascinating idea with a combination of fantasy and logic. The Beast Within provides a strong start to the PAX League series.
The relationship is the main focus of the story, and it’s explored as Kieran and Paige work together to discover who caused the explosion and framed Kieran. The search for the saboteur forces the couple to deal with two key issues in their marriage: Kieran’s desire to protect Paige, and Paige’s need to have him recognize her as a partner.
The story has a weak spot: the emotional impact of the suspense plot would have been more powerful if the potential villains had been more fully developed. They are primarily names with little other detail added. Providing more information about the suspects and their relationships with Kieran and Paige would have added extra punch once the villain is revealed.
However, this weakness is far outweighed by strong writing. The prologue describing the lab explosion is particularly memorable, but there is well-written dialogue and description throughout the book.
If you enjoy paranormal stories, try The Beast Within, and join me in anticipating the next PAX League installment.