Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Hot Mess: Review of Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston

Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston

This book is a hot mess.

I have never before encountered an author who creates such unlikable characters. Cripes!

The first book I read by Shelly Laurenston was Beast Behaving Badly. The heroine was one of the most irritating, hyper, unlikable characters I've ever seen in a romance novel. (For the record, I thought the hero-polar bear was adorable, thank God).

But that was before I read Pack Challenge. In this book, the hero, the heroine, and all her side-kicks, are equally horrible. The hero Zach is horny and single-minded, and totally lacking in any leadership qualities as far as I could see. He is supposed to become the alpha male of the pack, but he spends the entire book worrying about getting it on with Sara, the heroine. Not such a hot leader. He borders on being disrespectful to her because of his extreme horniness, something I don't like in my heroes.

Sara, the heroine, is a sarcastic, snarky bitch. She is emotionally stunted due to her upbringing by a vengeful and hateful grandmother. She is so immature (as are her best friends) I thought perhaps I was reading a YA book. Speaking of the word "bitch"-- Sara and her 2 side-kick girlfriends, Angelina and Miki, spend most of the book insulting each other, calling each other "whore," "bitch," and other terms of affection. Their maturity level appears to be stunted at the tweenie-I'm-10-years-old-level. Miki and Angelina's other favorite activity is getting into slapping, screaming fights. I wanted to bang both of them over the head with a cast-iron skillet.

I am flabbergasted by this book. It is well-written, the pacing is excellent, the storyline was engaging, and the shapeshifter paranormal aspect was superb. I love shapeshifter books, and Laurenston does a great job with the animal instincts and pack behavior. But it's extremely difficult to stomach a book where the major characters are unlikable jerks.

The worst part of the book for me was the final-declaration-of-our-love scene. Zach is attempting to tell Sara he loves her (which is freakin' hilarious, since all these two have done for the entire book is ball each the heck they've "fallen in love" has escaped me), but he keeps getting distracted by the sight of her naked arse. Sara answers a ringing phone, and has a chirpy conversation with her bud about how Zach is trying to profess his love for her. Cute, right? No, not really. Not charming, not cute, unless you are maybe 8 or 9 years old. These two are now the alpha leaders of this wolf pack? This pack is so totally screwed.

After just finishing Molly Harper's adorable werewolf book, this one fell flat for me. The humor and characters were too immature for an adult paranormal romance. If anyone knows of a Shelly Laurenston book where the characters are more likable, speak now or forever hold your peace. I'm willing to give her one more chance, but I want a sure thing. (If the hero has a beard, that would be a bonus! hee hee).

Grade: C+



Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

I think this is the only book in her series I haven't read yet - I'm sorry you didn't care for it. One of the things I like about her Pack books are that they're so over-the-top ridiculous that they make me laugh.

Penny Watson said...

Patti.....can you recommend your very favorite book by her....with likable characters? What should I try next?

JenM said...

Honestly, if you didn't like either of the two that you read, you probably won't enjoy any of hers. Her characters are always completely over the top, almost caricatures. For me, if I read them in that vein, the books are laugh out loud funny and entertaining to read.

I think she's probably just not to your tastes. I've read the Magnus pack series and all of her dragon books written under GA Aiken and I adore them, but they are all exactly as you've described.

Penny Watson said...

Thanks, Jen, for that info. I think you might be right. I really wanted to like her stuff because so many readers love her series, but maybe her books are just not my cup of tea. Oh well. :(

KT Grant said...

Shelly can sure write some great shift-changing bear love from the one book I read by her.

Penny Watson said...

Hey KB....I see that you read The Mane Squeeze. That one sounds good, but I'm skeered. Maybe I'll try another one?

KT Grant said...

The Man Squeeze had me LOL my booty off. Too funny.

Brenda Hyde said...

I've read all of her shifter books, and loved them-- the characters are always over the top, sometimes insane but with good hearts. I do love sarcasm and humor in my stories. I think the thing with her characters is that they are often bizarre and eccentric and it takes a "special" person to be their mate, who matches their craziness. I laugh from beginning to end:)

Penny Watson said...

Hi Brenda...Most people I know agree with you and love these stories. Although I have seen other readers comment that they did not love this heroine. Oh well, maybe this author is just not my cuppa.

Lindsay said...

I'm with you! I can get over POV problems. I can even get over some errors in timing or the words just not quite clicking. But I can not get over characters that I don't even like. If I can't understand the girl and I don't get why she'd fall in love with the guy then my emotions are just tuned out and it usually gets shut before I get to the end.

Penny Watson said...

Hi, too! I have a problem with unlikable characters. Especially with the snarky, bitchy kind. If I don't like the character, then I don't care about the HEA, which is super bad in romance!

MandaM said...

I think Laurenston's most likable characters are in her first full-length Pride book, "The Beast in Him." Heroine is the brilliant, geeky, charming alpha of a wacky wild-dog pack that is filthy rich beacuse they own a computer-security company. Hero is a slow-talking, southern, former SEAL wolf shifter who is starting up a security company. The two were almost sweethearts in high school, but he left to join the navy and she left town for good.

I really love this book. It has lots of Laurenston's humor, but without the over-the-top, semi-homicidal characters that are in some of her books. The heroine (who loves sci-fi and "Lord of the Rings") will fight only to protect her pack (mainly the pups) and the hero is an alpha who isn't an a**hole and who loves the heroine for her quirkiness. There's an element of second-chance-at-love, which I always enjoy, and the secondary characters are hilarious and supportive of each other. It's laugh-out-loud funny in seveal parts, and the romance is sweet and sexy. If you want to try another book by Laurenston, this would definitely be my choice.

Penny Watson said... are such a sweetheart! Thanks so much for your repsonse....that sounds exactly like the kind of book I would like. OK, I'm adding The Beast In Him to my TBR pile...thanks!