Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Noah was only a toddler when an accident shattered not only his body but his life and that of his family. Noah fell through the bars of a balcony railing from their eighth floor apartment, landing on the ground below, his body crushed. Had he been human, the fall would have killed him. But Noah is a wolf shifter and he survived but barely. The pack Alpha at the time as well as others saw Noah as a cripple, a pup to be put down as it was of no use to the pack because Noah would never be able to contribute. Facing Noah’s death, his family took him and fled to the country where they asked human doctors to help Noah survive the fall, something the pack doctors refused to do.
Years later, Noah and his family remain isolated not only because they broke pack law but to protect Noah whose health remains fragile. Migraines, slight with legs unable to support his body, Noah uses crutches to get around and has medication that keeps him from shifting. But he has a tight knit family to support him and a online business he created that he loves and is successful at.
But the past returns when the new Alpha, Wade, arrives to claim his mate, the mating pact formed before Noah’s birth by Noah’s parents and their Alpha. Wade chooses Noah over his brothers to the horror of Noah’s family. Wade is determined to correct the wrongs of the previous Alpha and choosing Noah as his mate is just the start. Noah will protect his family at all costs and goes willingly if fearfully. But can Wade protect Noah from pack members who still regard Noah as a poison and are determined to finished what their older Alpha ordered?
I am a hardcore fan of wolf shifter stories, ok any shifter story. Telling me that there is a new one out is like waving a pretty bauble in front of a magpie. I just grab it up and jump right in. Sometimes the story is like hitting the Lotto. It’s a true winner in every respect. World building, characters, plot. You name it and the story has it in spades. Other times, well, it’s that scratch off ticket that has almost all the same boxes, except one or two…almost a winner but not quite. It’s that last one that reminds me of Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg. It’s almost a great story. It has some definitely terrific elements and then there are some that are both perplexing and a complete miss as far as plot and worldbuilding.
I loved Gregg’s plot. What a great idea to have a wolf shifter injured at an early age and be unable to heal. Instantaneously, you have made this character not only vulnerable but fascinating. What happens when a shifter can’t heal? How does a pack react? Here Gregg takes her lead from wolf biology and natural history. Some packs accept an injured wolf but their harsh lifestyle makes it inevitable that it won’t survive long. Translate that to a shifter universe where this pack lives in a fashion similar to the Amish, apart from human society, their young not educated past a certain age as they believe only in manual labor and jobs accessible for those that use their bodies and not their minds. How that changes once an educated, tech savvy Noah joins the pack is not only realistic but sociologically sound. This aspect of Gregg’s novel is one of the true highlights of the story for me.
Noah is another plus. I found his character to be interesting and accessible. His differences extend past his injuries. His coloration is rare, that of a true redhead (think Grey Wolf versus the smaller Red Wolf of the East Coast). Noah has continued his education and now owns a web business that he works at online. He is highly intelligent, technologically brilliant, and highly loyal. Plus he is cute. And he has endured countless hours of surgeries and therapy to help him continue to improve and maintain his current condition, even if it means numerous human medications and incapacitating migraines. In fact most of the characters found here at very well done. Each one feels like a real person, complete with both positive and negative aspects of their personalities. It’s not the characters that I have issues with, but some of their actions that come across as less than plausible, including the short time frame of the story.
This is a case of near instant bonding, although thankfully not instant love. But it’s a close call. Gregg does establish a case of pheromones as the cause of their attraction but it still feels too quick for all the adjustments that happens after Noah is pulled from his house and taken to the pack compound. Gregg’s use of herbs that both harm and heal the werewolves is again a marvelous element as is Noah’s changing situation once he is away from the family. All great. Even the miscommunication that occurs between Noah and Wade seems reasonable. And the sex scenes, including the one that ties the two wolves together, knotting, is white hot. But there are also some very odd bits that intrude into the picture that makes the story go off course for me.
One is the case of Mpreg that occurs here. Wolves have a gestation of 60 to 63 days and Gregg adheres to that. But for a male pregnancy story to work (to my mind at least), it must be based somehow within the realm of scientific speculation. And if all conjecture, than at least give me a plausible explanation as to how it would work, especially with dealing with a species that shifts into different forms. Gregg’s reasoning called up more questions than it answered. Plus I am not sure it added anything especially relevant to the story, even given Noah’s rationale.
Another is actions of some of her characters that are counter to the personas she created. Noah’s father especially acts in ways that seem counterintuitive to the scenes earlier in the story. He loves his children, especially Noah, deeply and without regard to his own safety. But later on in the story, he believes outsiders who in the past have done nothing but threaten his son over the continual advice and pleadings from his own children. As the phrase goes “it does not compute.”
Pretty Poison is that shifter story that has much to offer. Realistically developed characters, great plot, and interesting aspects to her world building make it easy to read but it also contains elements that cause the flow of the narrative to falter when the reader stops to ponder some of the stranger sections to the story. If all of the above sound attractive, then pick it up and add it to your reading list. If not, then consider some of Kari Gregg’s other stories. She has a wonderful backlist where you will surely find something to your taste.
Cover artist Lou Harper. I loved this cover. The elements are dramatic, the men hot and sexy, and the wolf is gorgeous. So well done.
Buy Link: ARe
ebook, 147 pages
Published December 15th 2013 by Kari Gregg (first published December 14th 2013)
original titlePretty Poison