Review: Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Pretty Poison coverNoah 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

Book Details:

ebook, 147 pages
Published December 15th 2013 by Kari Gregg (first published December 14th 2013)
original titlePretty Poison
edition languageEnglish

The Never Ending Winter Whine and the Week Ahead in Reviews


Winter trees longs

Yes, its still Winter!  White, white everywhere and not a drop of green to be seen.  We have snow, icicles and water in about every frozen variation there is and I am heartedly sick of it.  We finally saw a snow plow late last night.  It had to dodge a Prius and a small sedan of unknown origin whose owners thought their vehicles capable of navigating through over 19 inches of snow.  What were they thinking?  I do know they left their cars where they were stuck, one right in the middle of the street interchange until a neighbor helped them move it to the side of the street.  I do  know what the driver of the plow thought about that as he plowed DSCN4178_2them under a ton of snow last night.  That car was gone this morning and I was happy not to witness the amount of shoveling they had to do to release their  car from that cold embrace.

I have been throwing food out to the birds and wildlife as much as possible and my birdseed reserve is running dry.  Even the snowy owl that stopped in Washington, DC, in search of better weather has had a rough time of it.  She was hit by a Metro bus and ended up at a Wildlife hospital.  She is recovering and so shall we all.  It just doesn’t feel like that right now for either of us.

Hopefully I can get out to the stores tomorrow.  But of course, it has started snowing again.  Big, large fluffy white flakes.  Just the sort I love as a child or even an adult a few, ok more than a few, years back.   So I am beginning to feel like a Grinch these days as the snow mounts instead of melts.  Lasts night my favorite meteorologist forcasted temperatures in the 50’s and maybe even 60’s for next week.

Should I believe him?

Or does he just have a case of snow fever and a sick sense of humor.  Only time and the temperature will tell.

I have some wonderful books for you this week.  There is crippled werewolves, hardened mercenaries, the Fae and an American army vet, a lethal world virus and of course, a revised story from one of my favorite series, Blue Notes.  There are contests and guest author blogs.  Truly something for everyone.  Stay with me all week long.

The week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014:         Kept Tears by Jana Denardo

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014:        Lying with Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:              Amelia Gormley’s Strain Book Tour and Contest

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014:          Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes Release Tour and Contest

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014:            Strain by Amelia Gormley

Sat., Feb. 22, 2014:                Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg

Review of Foreshock by Kari Gregg and Muses Upon a Earthquake


Before I get into my review, I want to say that I remember this day very well.  Before August 23, 2011, all the quakes felt here in the Washington Metropolitan area (MD-DC-VA) were very minor.  Most people were never even aware that they happened, so uneventful were they, along the lines of 2.1 or lower on the Richter Scale. So I, along with everyone else, was not prepared for the shaking Mother Nature gave us that day.

I was sitting at the computer when my terriers went nuts, running around my chair and barking like mad (I know, I know…how is that different from normal terrier behavior but trust me it was).  My first thought was that the neighbor’s Golden Retriever was loose again, something my little pack finds very offensive.  But then the house started to shake.  I am not talking little gentle shakes.  I am talking picture swinging, vase walking shakes.

So of course, I run out the front door, why I don’t know.  Perhaps looking for confirmation that no Transformers were headed over the horizon, whatever.  Everything looked normal.  Back inside and scanning the news online, I quickly learned that we  had a 5.9 earthquake and it was felt over a large geographical area even up into New York.  The videos started streaming online.  I watched amazed.  Now almost a year later, the Washington Monument is still closed for repairs, the Washington Cathedral is looking at years to repair the wonderful stone statues and blocks destroyed that day as the money needed continues to climb.  In the small town of Louisa, Virginia near the epicenter, schools and buildings are still closed, the damage unbelievable. Most of all, we lost the certainty that large earthquakes only happened on the West Coast, that it could never happen to us.  Mother Nature 1,  Humans 0.  It does tend to work out that way, we just forget that it does.

So I loved reading a short story with the earthquake figuring into the plot.  And even better?  Kari Gregg is donating 100 percent of her profits from this story to The Trevor Project which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ youth.  So much applause and snaps to Kari Gregg for such a wonderful gift.   Now on to the review.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Eric Mulholand loves his boyfriend, Kyle, even though Kyle seems determined to destroy their apartment through his attempts at DIY projects.  Kyle Armentrout is a contradiction in so many ways.  Tall, nordic, handsome, twice divorced, and father of five. After 20 years of repressing his true nature, Kyle is now madly in love with a man and a complete bottom in the bed.  These are facts that are still taking some adjustment.  So to compensate for a perceived  “less manly” self image, Kyle has decided that being a Mr. Fixit is the answer.  Only problem is that he can’t fix things, anything to be exact.  And the plumbing, the electricity, even Eric’s tires have suffered. So as hot as Kyle looks in a tool belt, Eric has had enough.

One argument leads to some very hot makeup sex.  And then the earth shakes.  It doesn’t take either man very long to realize that there are emotional earthquakes as well as the physical ones, and they have just been through both.  And survived both with their love and apartment well intact.  Such a great metaphor as nothing can shake a physical foundation like an earthquake and nothing can shake up a person from their emotional moorings or foundation like love can.  Great characters who cracked me up while making me understand how fragile relationships and self images can be.  I wish the story had been longer but no matter, I enjoyed my stay with both of them.

Cover:  A little dark but in keeping with an earthquake plot, but other than that, just perfect.  Loved the fonts as they are so easy to read.

Available from Riptide Publishing, Amazon, ARE.

And check in with The Trevor Project.  You won’t be sorry.