Other Shawntelle Madison reviews are available in the Archives.

by Shawntelle Madison
(Ballantine, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0345529176
Lovably neurotic werewolf Natalya Stravinsky is back in Kept, follow-up to Shawntelle Madison’s debut, Coveted. The story picks up where Coveted left off, with Natalya trying to overcome her compulsion to collect holiday ornaments and planning to train for an upcoming series of trials that might lead to reinstatement in her South Toms River wolf pack.

Nat’s ex-boyfriend, hunky Thorn, is back from a five-year absence and has been designated the new alpha male of the pack. He’s also engaged to marry a wealthy debutante, also a werewolf. Nat still has conflicted feelings about Thorn: she’s irresistibly drawn to him but knows he’s no good for her. Her pal Nick, a white wizard whom she met in her therapy group, might be just the man for her.

Before Nat can sort out her feelings, her father disappears. It soon comes to light that he owes a debt to a pack of Russian werewolves, and as the eldest child in her family, Nat takes it upon herself to try and help her father. This leads to a road trip to Maine, in which Nat is aided by her friends Heidi, a mermaid; Abby, a muse; plus Nick and a few new supernatural friends. But the werewolf trials are looming, and if Nat wants to be accepted back into her pack, she must be one of the last left standing.

Kept didn’t work as well for me as the previous book, and the main reason was Nat. Her character development seems to have stalled, and she spends much of the book being rescued from one situation after another by her supernatural friends. The magic moment when Nat finally finds her backbone and stands up for herself comes way too late in the book. Up until that point, she’s a quivering mess, pushed around by various unpleasant characters including her own relatives. I include Thorn in that group. He won’t tell her the truth about his five-year absence, yet he won’t leave her alone, either.

One bright spot in the story is the character of Nick. He is developed from a side character to a major player, and what a great guy he turns out to be. I’d love to see more of him in the future.

The final showdown at least clears the air between Nat and Thorn. It also establishes a new direction for upcoming books, as Nat must decide which man she truly loves: Thorn or Nick. And Natalya’s eventual triumph is sweet, indeed.

The author left the door open for more books about Natalya Stravinsky, and based on my enjoyment of the first two, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick them up. Nat’s story doesn’t appear to be finished yet, and there are other characters just waiting to have their stories told. It looks like Shawntelle Madison will be busy for some time to come. Fans of paranormal romance have a lot to anticipate.

--Cathy Sova

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