Let's say this up front. Sarah McCarty writes an alpha like nobody's business. Her alphas are at once manly, macho, overbearing badasses, yet at the same time they are incredible softies who melt at the feet of their women and would do anything in the world for them. Wonderful, no?
Running Wild contains not one, not two, but three such fabulouso alphas. It's an anthology of connected, chronological stories about three werewolf men and the three sisters that they fall hard for. Now, while y'all know that I'm not a big paranormal fan, it seems to me I have read more than my share of werewolves lately. The one thing that is unnecessary in werewolf stories is the back and forth of "how do I feel about this person?" A wolf recognizes its mate immediately, and can get on to the business at hand, usually convincing their human mate of the same.
Sarah McCarty excels at strong characterization. You always know exactly who her men are, who their women are, and why they are who they are. You know where they are going, their motivation for getting there, and why they want what they want. This story is no exception. Characterization, as always, is terrific. You feel the connection between the sisters - their love for one another, their heartache, their inner strength. You can also feel the love and respect between Donovan, Kelon, and Wyatt. These are strong men, but compassionate men, full of life and love. This book also had a lot of unexpected humor in it, which I quite enjoyed - you all know what a sucker I am for the humor in a book.
Where I felt this book went wrong was in the story itself. While I did enjoy the premise, and actually alot more than I thought I would (why is it that I'm still surprised each time I like a werewolf story?), I took umbrage with a couple items in particular.
These werewolves, who have theoretically met their mates, use aphrodesiac in their saliva when they are kissing. It's not intentional - just inherent in their saliva. However, it's mentioned several times, and referenced in each of the three stories. Then, it's noted how each of the women is 'dazed' or 'glassy-eyed', or something of a similar nature, and she doesn't seem to know where she is, and it takes her a moment to come out of it. It made me feel as though these women were drugged, reminiscent of the stories I've heard of GHB or other date rape drugs. Now I know for a fact that isn't the intent here, but all the same - tell me that you're using an 'aphrodesiac' on a woman who doesn't know it, then she's all dazed, unaware of her surroundings, and you can basically do anything you want to her? Ummm.... nuff said.
When I mentioned this to a friend, she said it's not all that uncommon in werewolf stories. Really? Is that so? I can't recall ever reading one like that. Disclaimer: I'm NOT a werewolf expert! I've read maybe... 7 or 8 werewolf stories altogether in my entire life. So this very well may be.
Also, one of these women never seemed to truly accept her man as a werewolf. She refused to let him shift in front of her - never once saw him shift. Hard to imagine her accepting him as a werewolf if she won't even see him as he really is. Interestingly, she was seemingly the strongest of the three women on the surface. In the mark of a true expert, McCarty pulls the old bait & switch, and the sister who appears the weakest on the outside is actually the one with the most inner strength.
So.... a couple of big problems for me - unusual for me to find in a McCarty book. However, I believe that the historical western is where McCarty shines, and just have the niggling feeling that the paranormal is still a bit outside her comfort zone. Having said that, McCarty's other new release, the western historical Sam's Creed, second in the Hell's Eight series, was excellent. Loved it from start to finish.