Beyond Control

Shadow of the Moon
by Ruth York
(Berkley Sensation, $6.99, NC-17) ISBN 0-425-20961-X
Investigative reporter Lance Marshall isn't looking for a mate. It doesn't matter that metaphysics dictate that a werewolf find his mate at this time in his life; he's going to be the exception. So imagine his distaste when he finds himself not only saving Savannah Carpenter's butt, but liking the view.

Savannah has no idea that the dog who saved her life is really the hunky reporter offering to help her investigate "The Castle." All she cares about is finding out the truth behind her sister's double life and almost fatal accident. It seems Charlotte's into kinky sex, and the private club is all too willing to accommodate her -- and the rest of D.C.'s elite.

But all secrets have a price, and the members of The Castle are finding this out. Strange accidents happen to people who speak out of turn and there's a weird compulsion for the members to keep coming back. Is this just a place for erotic fun and games or is it part of a paranormal power play? Savannah and Lance will have to go undercover to find out - and under the covers if they are to play the master/slave role convincingly.

So far, it sounds pretty good, right? Well it is as long as you're looking for a compelling plot. Just don't examine the romance angle of paranormal romance too closely. York takes the shortcut of having her characters be fated to love each other. Which sounds wonderfully romantic and such until you realize this is basically the guy telling the girl "you're my mate" and her thinking, "well, the sex is great and I'm really drawn to you, so okay." What, you're not convinced these two are in love? Me either. Honestly, though, it is a tried and true cliché in paranormals for the hero and heroine to be destined to be and conveniently circumvents most of those "why are you furry" questions, so York can't be faulted too much for this one.

Despite the floundering romance, Shadow of the Moon is an intriguing story. The sex club is a fascinating angle and allows for very steamy sex scenes and a peek into a not-so-familiar world. But the club brings up what for me is the fatal flaw in the book: the secondary couple of Kevin and Erica. She's a socialite widow out for a thrill and he's an accounting student with a most unusual day job and a propensity for dog collars. Their story is well written and more compelling than anything else in the book. I found myself filling in the gaps in their histories and wishing they'd been the focus.

York pleases long time readers by sprinkling the book with Lance's relatives, most of whom she's written about before. She does a nice job of giving us hints about what everyone is up to without it being blatant exposition. And the family angle strengthens the weak romance, since Savannah's never had a great family and desperately needs one. After seeing her in action with the Marshalls, the reader tends to think that maybe the two main characters can make it as a couple after all. Which is great, but since this happens near the end of the story, I think I should've been sold on the romance long before.

This one isn't the best romance of all time, but it's a quick, hot, steamy read packed with suspense and not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

--Amanda Waters

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