Diagnosis Wolf by Poppy Dennison
Rating: 4 stars
Andrew Hughes life sucks and its all due to his twin brother. For as long as Andrew can remember his twin has caused problems for everyone, especially Andrew. His brother has gambled, lied, then stolen Andrew’s identity and savings. This has left Andrew miles deep in debt, with an unsalvagable credit rating, and scrambling to rebuild his life and move forward. Andrew can’t afford to be choosy, so when his temp agency offers him a job with a client that has run off all other nurses, he takes it for the money he can’t afford to turn down.
His client is Caleb DiMartino and no one will let him see his chart or tell Andrew what illness his new client has. Caleb comes with armed body guards, a mansion and an intimidating father. But the pale unconscious patient pulls Andrew in and Andrew wants to help him despite the mystery that surrounds him. But the truth behind Caleb’s illness will bring Andrew’s brother back into his life and pose a threat to Andrew and Caleb that neither expects.
Diagnosis Wolf spells out the problem in the title and wolf shifters is something that Poppy Dennison is very familiar with. She has her own take on wolf shifters and does a great job in creating a universe for them and Andrew. Andrew is a lovely, sympathetic character whose twin brother has made his life miserable their entire lives. I liked that Andrew had reached a point with his twin where he no longer enabled his twin’s problems (that his brother stole his identity and savings helped push Andrew over the edge). I loved that Andrew was a nurse and his empathic caring nature made it plausible that he would stay with Caleb, even as the situation escalated past complicated and into scary.
I had some issues with the villain of the piece because I kept wondering how it was that the rest of the pack had not figured it out. And maybe a little more exposition would have been nice with respect to Andrew’s brother, Danny and his future at the end. But those issues aside, I loved Poppy’s wolf shifter culture, especially when it came down to the mate bite and the politics surrounding it. So nicely done and the complexities surrounding the status of the bite made the “aha” moment more angst and adrenaline filled. It also made the slow build to a permanent relationship between Caleb and Andrew extremely satisfying at the end. All in all, a really lovely story.
Landslide by Mary Calmes
Rating 4.5 stars
Courier Frank Corrigan is injured again and while he is waiting for his wounds to heal, he gets a call from his sister, Lindsey. Lindsey is in trouble as usual, but this time her impetuousness has lead her to get bitten by a werewolf who just so happens NOT to be her fiance. And the wedding is this week and she doesn’t know what to do and needs her big brother now. Frank feels certain that his boss, the demon Cael Berith has the solution to his sister’s problems. But Frank is also certain that there will be a price to be paid for Cael’s assistance. Cael told Frank that Frank was Cael’s mate. That was three years ago and Cael’s patience is running out. With a love hungry demon on one side and a werewolf sister to be on the other, what will Frank do to save the situation and perhaps his love life in the bargain?
I will admit this was my favorite story of the two. It was perfect Mary Calmes in every way from the characters involved to the plot. First let’s take a look at the characters. Paranormal courier Frank Corrigan is tall, a former Marine who just so happens to be a mihr. A mihr is a mutant human who has all the typical human frailties except that he cannot be influenced by any otherworldly magic or glamour or tricks. And in the universe Mary Calmes has created for Landslide, this makes Frank the perfect go between the paranormal beings. It seems that wolf shifters, vampires, ghouls, demons and what have you exist openly in human society. All must register with Homeland Security and various rules and regulations apply to their movement and existence within human societies. Take everything currently going on with border regulations and green cards, illegal aliens and extrapolate that times ten and you begin to get the picture that Calmes is so vividly painting for us.
Into this world, we meet Frank, a bundle of complexities. A former Marine with excellent combat skills, he also has huge self image issues and an abusive family in the background that has made him doubt his worth and attractiveness. His friends are a odd group of non humans, and his sister is his one family member who loves and supports him. Frank also has a secret that is helping to keep the one person he wants at a distance. And that would be his current boss who also claims Frank is his mate.
Incubus demon Cael Berith is 1,000 years old and only now has he found his mate in Frank Corrigan. But misunderstandings and Frank’s insecurities have kept them apart for three years and a demon can only take so much frustration. Cael is such a mouthwatering character. He has so many facets to his personality. Scary demon, check. Romantic suitor? Check. Patience personified? Check and check. Mary Calmes makes us see Cael in all of his dimensions and still gives us a character to fall in love with. And when you add him to the soft, insecure and honorable Frank Corrigan, well then, just sit back and watch the sparks fly.
Typical of a Mary Calmes story we also are given memorable secondary characters too from the werewolf called Charming to Sheriff Gordy Roller. All perfectly drawn with interesting layers of their own. As the ending neared, I found myself wanting to know more about Lindsey’s future and other peripheral characters. And I wanted more of what life had in store for Frank and Cael.
And that is almost always the issue with these anthologies or collections. If the plots are well done and the characters engaging, then when I reach the end I find myself wishing for more. But Creature Feature has plenty to offer from Poppy Dennison and Mary Calmes in terms of great stories and characters that will stay with you. Pick up some popcorn and settle in for an afternoon double feature. You are going to love it.
Cover Art by Paul Richmond just takes you back to the theatre and the Saturday matinees with the double features and creatures galore. Just perfect.