Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by PamG. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Paranormal Romance category.

The summary:

Delivering a rare book to a valued customer is definitely part of mild-mannered archivist Anna Winthrop’s job description. You know what isn’t? Protecting her precious cargo from mid-flight theft by the very pilot who is flying her to Half-Moon Hollow…while trying to appear as unappetizing as possible to the only other passenger, a vampire. Undead bookstore owner Jane Jameson could be waiting a very long time for her book. Possibly forever.

Fortunately, Anna’s dashing fanged companion Finn Palmeroy helps her fend off the attack, but not before their plane crash lands in the forest hundreds of miles from civilization. Great, now she’s stranded with a priceless tome and a rakish vampire whose bedtime is fast approaching. Why does everyone want this book so badly, anyway? Anna just wants to get it to Jane before Finn decides to turn her into dinner-or sweep her off her feet. Okay, the second option is really tempting. But they’re not out of the woods yet…

Here is PamG’s review:

Molly Harper’s Half Moon Hollow series is one of my favorite auto-buys. It is the stuff that comfort reads are made of, with a nice balance of humor and horror and an occasional insight into the ugly mechanics of prejudice. If the series has a flaw, it is that while the heroes, both fangy and furry, are good looking and good guys, they are sometimes less than fascinating. However, in the case of Where the Wild Things Bite, blandness is not a problem for hero or heroine. Both Anna and Finn are funny and damaged and generate a lot of UST. Overall, I’d have to say that this is one of my favorites of the series.

Anna Whitfield is on a mission. Despite her anxieties, near agoraphobia, and fear of flying—particularly in a plane she describes as “what happens when planes have babies with go-karts”— she is hand-delivering a valuable antique book to Jane Jameson-Nightengale in Half Moon Hollow. I must confess that I’ve grown a little wary of romances that feature geeky heroines with an array of social-emotional issues. At first they were so original, but lately it seems like some novels have fandoms and anxieties randomly pasted on the characters.

Fortunately, Where the Wild Things Bite is not one of those books. Anna’s character is a self-aware, integrated whole, with her strengths balancing and even derived from her issues. Her paranoid tendencies make her suspicious of the plane, the pilot, and the single other passenger. In this case, paranoia doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you, and Anna ends up trekking through a 100 miles of Kentucky swamp with a vampire companion and assorted enemies hot on their heels.

As for said vampire companion, he is no more a happy camper than Anna is. He is charming and slick and definitely no boy scout. From their first exchange, Anna and the vamp, who eventually introduces himself as Finn Palmeroy, seem to be natural antagonists. Their exchanges are caustic, suspicious, and hilarious. The forced proximity/road trip (trail) from hell/enemies to lovers combo becomes a wonderful source of humor as angry Anna continually snarks at felonious Finn and he smirks (or whines back). Still there is nothing better than shared hardship and interdependence to inspire change and growth in individuals or relationships. I’m not usually a fan of wilderness survival plots, but Anna’s descriptions of her trials and Finn’s responses to both Anna and the surfeit of nature reflect what would be my own overly civilized reaction to similar experiences. Only funnier. My father-in-law had a saying: So-and-so would complain if you hung them with a new rope. Double that for Finn and Anna. The humor works because the trials are realistic, but the complaints are over-the-top.

Beyond the humor, there is a great deal of character growth going on. Despite the fact that Anna is so far out of her comfort zone, she responds to real challenges (even potted meat) with courage and ingenuity while at the same time being realistic about her physical and experiential limitations. Each small triumph is a building block for her self-esteem. Finn also struggles with limitations (though not to his self-esteem.) As a vampire he can only travel at night and finding shelter before sunrise is often problematical. Also his diet of—shall we say—possum juice is a major fail when it comes to providing 100% of his daily vampiric requirements. Finn is also used to depending on his undeniable charm to get his way. Unfortunately for him, Anna is pretty much immune to charm. Both Anna and Finn must make concessions in order for them to survive. Even though Finn is suspect from his first appearance, his interactions with Anna give the reader hope that he will redeem himself by the end of the book.

Amidst all the sniping between Finn and Anna, there is a whole lot of lustin’. Anna is struck by Finn’s beaux yeux, even as she’s irritated by his chattiness when they first meet. Though we never see the inside of Finn’s head, he makes major sacrifices to keep Anna safe in between teasing her like an annoying twelve year old. The unfulfilled sexual tension builds throughout the novel, retreating and advancing like a tide as they let each other down and then rebuild their fledgling relationship. There isn’t a ton of sexin’, but what there is fairly hot. I’m a huge fan of UST and love scenes that matter because the characters do, and this book fulfilled both those requirements for me.

Eventually the trial by swamp ends at the B & B from hell and Anna is finally able to meet both Jane Jameson-Nightengale, local rep for the Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead, and her co-worker Dick Cheney (my absolute favorite character in the entire series.) Jane is delighted to welcome Anna, but decidedly less happy to encounter the generally likeable Finn. It is not necessary to read the Half Moon Hollow series to understand Where the Wild Things Bite, but Finn has some significant back story in an earlier book. He makes some revelations to Anna in the course of their trek, but that is “further-back” story that explains where he comes from but not his later behavior. Anna, too, confides in Finn during their adventure, though the reader becomes aware of her issues before she decides to trust Finn with them.

Here’s the thing: Finn is funny and clever and even brave, but he is Not A Nice Guy. For some readers, that is going to be a problem. I, on the other hand, rather like criminal heroes—at least when their crimes are against property and generally nonviolent. Hence, I’m pretty fond of Finn, even when he is being a dick. He does redeem himself in the end, though the means is kind of muddled. Some may require more grovel, but I’m not really a fan. However, there are other issues around the book’s ending.

Since details would equal spoilers, I won’t share them, but I will say that the resolution of a major element in Anna’s backstory was kind of problematic for me. My concern was that this element was entirely backstory and seemingly unrelated to her current adventure with Finn. Suddenly at the very end of the book, said element becomes the center of attention and a major problem to be resolved. Not only was this confrontation contrived as hell, it left me scratching my head and muttering “What just happened?” I put up with a lot in a comfort read when it comes to suspension of disbelief, but this plot twist did strain my credulity a bit.

Where the Wild Things Bite was a lot of fun and held up well to a second read. For me it was a strong B grade. Despite my enjoyment, the ending left me shaking my head. . .twice! For this reason, I couldn’t justify a higher grade, though I would definitely read this again.

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Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

July 26, 2016

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