Ballantine / $7.99 print/digital / November 27, 2012
Fresh from defending her pack in battle, Natalya Stravinsky, a whip-smart werewolf with a lovable neurotic streak, wants a little rest and relaxation. Once an outcast, she's now eager to rejoin the ranks of her New Jersey pack, and has even gotten a handle on her obsessive urge to hoard holiday ornaments. Yet Nat barely has time to revel in her progress before the next crisis comes howling at her door.
Nat's father has suddenly gone missing, captured by the Russian werewolf mafia. And as Nat steps up to save her dad from a mob boss's deadly game, two men step in to play another round for her heart: her gorgeous alpha ex-boyfriend, Thorn, and her new flame, the sweetly sensitive wizard Nick. With her life growing more harried by the minute, Nat must stay cool, calm, and collected . . . or else risk losing everything.
Shawntelle Madison's Kept is Urban Fantasy, focusing on a family of werewolves, though there are other supernatural beings around, hiding from humans. It follows Madison’s debut, Coveted, but you don’t need to have read the first novel to pick up the story in the second. Both books focus on Natalya Stravinsky, called Nat, and there is an ongoing romance plot.
What I liked most about the book is that the conflicts are small-scale. Rather than trying to defeat an evil mastermind before she can take over the world, the heroine and her compatriots are trying to rescue a family member. Rather than being the sole hero identified by prophecy, the heroine’s battles are with her own obsessive-compulsive behaviors. I found this to be a refreshing change from the general run of Urban Fantasy because after the third imminent apocalypse, they start to lose their dread. Nat’s straightforward about her conflicts and difficulties, so it’s easy to sympathize with her.
As a werewolf with an obsessive-compulsive disorder, I began therapy because I tended to stress out over the little things. I still do, mind you, but I’ve been learning lately to try to focus on the important stuff, like bonding with my family. Over the past few years, I’ve been estranged from them due to my disorder. I’ve made some progress, especially with my dad, but like any issue that dredges up painful memories, the healing had taken some patience.
…beyond the kitchen lay the living room. And, with it, my shame. Renewed and growing again. Stack after stack of white boxes with holiday ornaments mocked me. Christmas ornaments, Hanukah candles, and even elaborate Kwanzaa displays. All of them taunting me with a reminder that I’d be facing a certain someone at my parents’ home. And that someone, a relative, saw me as a hoarder and didn’t appreciate all the changes I’d made. On any other day, seeing those boxes and knowing what beautiful things they held would’ve brought me inner peace. They’d definitely sheltered me during the long days since I’d been ostracized from my pack. I reminded myself that some things had changed in my life, like Aggie living here. I glanced at the boxes again and bit my lower lip. While other things haven’t changed at all.
Who doesn’t have family members that they find difficult? I also appreciated that Nat’s struggles with her disorder are ongoing; it’s clear that even in this world full of magical creatures, there is no magical solution that will instantly vanish this aspect of her personality. She has to work to overcome the behaviors that can make life difficult for her. This adds an element of poignant humor to some of her adventuring.
My shower didn’t take too long. I even managed to only second-guess myself four times about my outfit before I settled on a pair of blue jeans.
…Heading out for a casual stroll in the forest would never happen. Especially with all the mud and gunk out there.
…I leapt out the second-story window. I landed on the ground with no problems—but the urge to climb up and close the window hit hard. (What if it rained? Sleeted?)
Though she’s a werewolf, Nat behaves much more like an ordinary human than a werewolf for the most part, which makes it easy to relate to her. Her self-doubt causes even the other werewolves in her world to look down on her. Because of Nat’s underdog (underwolf?) status, it’s all the more inspiring when she chooses to go into danger on behalf of her family, and chooses to battle with her brother for the right to take part in a rescue mission. It’s much more difficult to be brave when you aren’t the biggest or most powerful. That’s what makes this character so appealing.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.