Smolder
by Melina Morel, fantasy (2010)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0451228804


Smolder features the same characters from Devour. The plot in this one is self-contained, but there are many references to events that happened in the previous two books that came before this one. Therefore, you can read this one as a standalone novel, I feel, but be prepared to be missing some pieces of the puzzle if this is what you intend to do.

Catherine Marais, werewolf hunter affiliated with the French Institut Scientifique, is back. This time around, while on a nightly hunt with some colleagues, she manages to kick some rear ends, only to have those loser colleagues of hers let a badly wounded werewolf flee. This werewolf manages to describe Catherine's appearance to the council of werewolves that rule the packs in France, and you can imagine what happens next. Concerned, Catherine's boyfriend, the vampire Ian Morgan rushes to her side. Meanwhile, Catherine's niece falls for a nice young man from the neighboring estate (we are dealing with noblemen and very rich people in this story), not realizing that he is the heir of one of the werewolf pack bosses in France.

The first quarter of Smolder is impressive. There are high action, drama, and werewolf politics. Finally, I am led to think, Ms Morel has started to write like a romantic urban fantasy author. Alas, eventually the story peters out into teen angst, silly filler sex scenes, and our main characters just walking around and navel gazing - the same problem that plagued the previous two books in this series. Smolder doesn't smolder, it is boring.

The romance is boring. Ian and Catherine are already in love, so in this story, all they do is to have perfect, boring sex. Since these two characters are as well drawn as cardboard cut-outs, I end up skipping those quiet moments of brilliant, perfect, and lifeless sex scenes because they become interminably dull after the first three of such scenes.

Catherine is bewildering. She hates the werewolves with a vengeance. She hates them! They are all pigs! Murderous dogs! Die, die, die! But at the same time, she's sleeping with a vampire and is on speaking terms with Ian's assistant, a werecat. And I can certainly tell you that these vampires and werecats are not vegetarians. So what gives? There is no good explanation for Catherine's hypocrisy. I think she's just a fanatical Team Edward member who wants to see everyone in Team Jacob dead.

To be fair, the author attempts to have Catherine learn that not all werewolves are bad - those who deny what they are are the good guys, snort - but Ms Morel attempts to do this by impressing on me a dramatic star-crossed love story of a sixteen-year old girl with some boy. Deep... or maybe not.

On the bright side, Catherine really does kick ass here. I love that scene where she and a female colleague of the Institut are chatting like normal blue-blooded ladies out on a lazy day of pleasure, when a werewolf crashes their party. What do they do? They each pull out a gun. That's so cool, I tell you. Too many romantic urban fantasy stories claim that their heroines are talented and smart when these twits could barely open a can without accidentally cutting off a finger, but in this case, Catherine can walk the walk as well as talk the talk. She's quite dumb here, though, because the author needs a plot contrivance to ensure that Catherine doesn't know that Luc is a werewolf despite signs pointing to the obvious.

Smolder starts out pretty good, but soon degenerates into a slow, meandering, and very dull read. The werewolves are all inept idiots, so there is plenty of time for the main characters to examine each other's navel and sigh about love. Members of Team Edward who want to see the other team mowed down with extreme prejudice may have fun with this one, but I think, for everyone else, there are plenty of other romantic urban fantasy stories to read.

Rating: 52


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