Rachel's Totem
by Marie Harte, paranormal (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-917-4


Rachel Penny has no idea what she is in for when she arrives at the sleepy small town of Cougar Falls for the reading of her late aunt Charlotte's will. For one, the folks there are the stuff of local legends - folks called the Ac-Taw that can change into animals. She will learn later that she is one of them, naturally. Meanwhile, the magical totem that masks the existence of Cougar Falls from ordinary folks is missing and our hero, Burke Chastell, is the fellow who is charged to locate it and get it back. Rachel is hoping to get away from a broken relationship but she is in for a blast of an adventure when she learns that she's that one person in town who can "summon the totem" in Cougar Falls and therefore protect the place just like her aunt used to do.

The setting is interesting, I must say, but... well, this is probably a spoiler, but the publisher website has this detail in the warning, so I guess it's not too much of a spoiler after all. The story is pretty interesting, the scenery is wonderful, and I find myself intrigued by the story even if the romance between Burke and Rachel is pretty much an underbaked thing of mostly sex passed off as love. But towards the end, Burke's brothers show up and the next thing I know, they're in bed with Rachel and Burke as well.

What on earth... that one happened out of the blue that it catches me by surprise. Maybe I'm just being old-fashioned but for me, I find it difficult to reconcile the fact that being in love with a man means that you have to be the figurative bicycle for all the men in his family. The whole thing feels way too much like the workings of a creepy cult to me.

It's the same problem I have with the previous short story by the author that I read, The Dragons' Demon, where a threesome thing shows up out of the blue to catch me by surprise. I want to tell the author, thanks for thinking of me but I don't need that much titillation in my stories, really. If this is going to be a trend in this author's works, I'd better make a note to myself to avoid being caught off-guard. In this case, the unexpected threesome, which shows up with no build-up or warning, is like a drenching of cold water onto my face. I've been enjoying the story so far, so that scene is a complete "What on earth?" moment that kills the story where I am concerned.

Rating: 73


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