The Beast In Him
by Shelly Laurenston, paranormal (2008)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 978-0-7582-2037-0


Jessie Ann Ward was the kid who hanged out with other nerds, playing tabletop RPG games when she was not hiding from the school bullies. Bobby Ray Smith was the bad boy who broke the rules, did some naughty things, and kissed Jessie Ann before leaving town to become a Navy SEAL fellow. This could have been any romance story, except that Jess is a wild dog and Smitty is a wolf. Literally. The Beast In Him is set in a world where shapeshifters co-exist alongside human beings who are generally unaware of the existence of these shapeshifters. Anyway, things weren't meant to be back then, because Smitty wanted to leave town and then there was that sticky matter of his sister leading the pack that gave Jessie Ann a hard time.

We then cut to sixteen years later. Smitty and Mace Llewelyn (whom you may remember from the first story in The Mane Event) had set up a top-notch security firm after hooking up their Navy SEAL jockstraps. Smitty will meet Jessie, sorry, Jessica Ward again when she turns out to be the CEO of the company that hired his firm to make sure that nobody misbehaves at a very exclusive charity fundraising ball that will be attended by all the Bill Gate and Steve Job types in the computer industry. Not only is she now the glamorous lady with cleavage, she is also the Alpha of a wild dog Pack - sorry about the capitalized P, but I am just following the convention in this book - and is considered even by Smitty's peers to be way out of his league. And worst of all, she doesn't seem to be interested in him, just as when he's starting to become very interested in her.

He didn't move until Adele walked into the bathroom and tugged on his sweater. "All you all right, Bobby Ray?"

"She called me Bubba. She keeps thinking I was in the Marines." He finally looked into Adele's face. "Has the universe gone insane?"

He paced away from her. "I mean, this is Jessie Ann, for God's sake. Little Jessie Ann Ward. I used to have to coax her out from under the bleachers like a squirrel from a tree. She was insanely in love with me and now she's calling me Bubba?"

Luckily for Smitty, Jess isn't as disinterested in him as she lets on. Unfortunately for him, while she does intend to settle down, she is looking for a mate that will not only cause her hormones to sizzle but also fit in well with her Pack.

There is not much external conflict here, just small mini-episodes of incidents rather than some kind of epic threat of big bad villain. The focus on this story is on Jess and her interactions with her Pack and with Smitty, as well as Smitty's interactions with his friends and family members. Think of this as a soap opera featuring a large cast of characters, if you will, liberally sprinkled with bitches-rule humor that fans of this author would know to expect by now.

This story is hilarious, really hilarious. This is the biggest reason I'd recommend this book. If you want a story that you just can sit back, read, and laugh until your sides ache, this book will most likely work its magic on you. The humor is of the in-your-face type - Jess' effective way of controlling unruly males is to pinch their nipples until their eyes water, for example - as well as bawdy. Sometimes there are some unexpectedly romantic quiet moments as well between Jess and Smitty, but on the whole, this is one hilarious ensemble romantic comedy with characters whose nature means that they can be more unruly than your average sitcom folks. If I want to list down the scenes that have me laughing out loud, this review will be very long indeed, so let me just say that this book is a laugh-a-thon that gives me a really good time.

The downside is that the plot is paper thin so by the late quarter or so of the story, a part of me wishes that this story has a little bit more depth. Laughter is good, but it will be nice if I get some meaty story to go along with the ha-ha-ha's. Oh, and while I don't have an issue with this matter since the characters are a riot to read about, some readers may not appreciate the fact that Smitty and Jess rarely have any quiet time here. They are almost always surrounded by a group of secondary characters. Me, I don't mind. They all make me laugh, so they're okay with me.

The Beast In Him is the perfect story for those days when one wants to kick back, relax, and just laugh. This won't be the best story I've read, but it's one of the most effective ones I've come across in chasing the blues away.

Rating: 77


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