Mo Wenstein is the newest member of Grundy, Alaska, Mo moved from Mississippi and her ditzy parents in order to have an adventure - and she gets one! In Alaska she stumbles onto her soul "mate", who just happens to be a werewolf.
Cooper keeps his distance from others with a surly attitude, but he finds it impossible to stay away from sassy Mo. When she figures out he is a werewolf, Cooper is sure she will run, but this doesn't stop the southern gal from digging in for the duration. He just hopes the rash of violent wolf attacks that point to him won't scare her off...
Now for the Dish:
Morgan: Okay, Whitney. You choose How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf for our inaugural "Dish" post. Care to share why this one got the go?
Whitney: For a city girl the chance to visit the serene peace of Alaska - even if only on a fictional vacation - is not something to be passed up! I was more than ready to spend some time in the cold for Molly Harper's new paranormal romance.
Morgan: What sold me was the fact that the story takes place in Alaska. After Northern Exposure, it has become impossible for me to pass up a romance set in this state.
Whitney: Okay, let’s dive in. I know that we both have something to say about the style that this was written in.
Morgan: I have definite opinions about the first-person narrative. I couldn’t help but wonder why the author wrote this story from Mo’s POV. This is very, very hard for any author to pull off. I tend to cringe a lot when “I” is used in a book.
Whitney: Agreed, there’s nothing worse than being stuck with a boring heroine telling her story in first person. And while that’s not the case for Harper's Mo, it is a dangerous game to play.
Morgan: Yeah, with Mo, near the middle of the book, I forgot that it was in first-person. But while I like to hear the heroine’s innermost thoughts (especially because she is very funny), I HATE not knowing what the hero is thinking. Give me head-jumping any day rather than radio silence.
Whitney: But the story's killer first line? It needed to be done in first-person and I loved it!
Morgan: I didn’t even realize it had a killer first line. I’m going to have to go back to look.
“When a naked man shows up on your doorstep with a bear trap clamped around his ankle, its best to just do what he asks. This was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.”
Okay, I will admit that this is pretty good. However, the part about him getting stuck in the trap doesn’t happen until WAY further on in the book. It is like giving away a punch line before the joke is told!
Whitney: I liked it, and it kept me reading. Having a wolf-y first line that then we don’t circle back to until later worked for me. And, I think if you’re going to talk about things giving away the punch line, we’ve got to discuss the title.
Morgan: Yeah, there is not much of a question about what the book is about when it is named How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf. And the cartoon cover makes the reader know that you will be getting a fun, lighthearted read.
Whitney: Normally I’m not really a cartoon covers fan but this one worked with the whole sentiment of the book. This is a paranormal romance that is basically a chick lit!
Morgan: I refuse the label ‘paranormal chick lit’.
Whitney: You might but Molly Harper didn’t. This is the story of a dissatisfied 30-something woman who quits her job and heads to the wilderness to try to find some peace. Oh, and along the way she meets a werewolf and has a lot of sex.
Morgan: Hmmmm. I will agree with that. But chick lit - no. There is some real violence happening in the book. Not on the page, per se, which I appreciate, but people get attacked and killed by a werewolf. Not pretty.
Whitney: Yeah but I feel like even the violence is pretty glossed over. I mean, there’s quite the body count, but at no point was I like “pull out the smelling salts, I can not handle this bloody mess.” This is a Twilight amount of violence, not a True Blood amount.
Morgan: Regardless, I liked that the author included some of these difficult scenes because is gives Mo a look at what she will face by being mated to a werewolf. It is not all romantic bedroom scenes. Alaska can be fierce, as can magical creatures, apparently. The violence is so far outside of Mo’s comfort zone that for the first time she has to consider whether Cooper belongs in her life and whether she belongs in Alaska.
Whitney: I think Mo is just the right type of gal to handle the “great white wilds” of Alaska. She’s spunky and she’s smart too. The girl buys weather-appropriate shoes! Moments like that really made Mo moving to Alaska make sense to me.
Morgan: Agreed. Who would have thought that a Southern girl would get along so well in the middle of nowhere? I was a little nervous at first when I read Mo was from Mississippi. But no worries that you are getting a proper Southern lady here! Also, I was pleased that I wasn’t bombarded by ‘ya’ll’s and overdone Southern charm. Instead, Mo’s Southern heritage is given a soft touch with a bunch of great food references. (P.S. if you haven’t tried chocolate chess squares, I suggest you go and get some now, but the Frito pie I do not vouch for.)
Whitney: I thought that Molly Harper did a good job of bringing Mo to life in the details. She shines as a character with flaws, quirks and secrets. Mo is also an empowered heroine with the La Perla lingerie collection to back it up! I really liked that Harper wrote Mo as a woman whose intimacy fears are cleverly tucked behind expensive lingerie and liberal attitudes about sex.
Morgan: A bit too liberal at times, if you ask me. This day and age it takes a lot more than an industrial sized box worth of condoms to keep you sexually safe.
Whitney: I'm not denying that Mo has her own baggage about sex to contend with. But I liked Harper’s emphasis on safe sex. It was a "tons of condoms and lots of condom references" type of safe sex. Anyways, Mo’s liberal attitudes about sex but slew of failed relationships got me emotionally involved in the steamy side of this novel, wondering if Mo could learn to be open and honest in a relationship.
Morgan: Wait a second! She doesn’t have an honest relationship with the hero. Cooper is a raging jerk – alternately ignoring people or being super rude to them. Usually this type of overly surly hero drives me nuts, but since it is not directly pointed at Mo, its not so bad. He is an equal opportunity jerk, which actually scores him points with the heroine. My favorite part of the book is when Cooper says something particularly nasty and Mo thinks, “Well, that cinched it. He was an asshole. I was definitely going to end up sleeping with him.”
Whitney: I absolutely loved that line. But I think that Cooper is my least favorite type of hero, the elusive kind. In the beginning of the story he shows up so intermittently … but I’ve got to hand it to Harper, she created a man I recognized in Cooper: non-communicative, a lone wolf (pardon my pun). I mean, the man takes her camping on a romantic getaway. This is not a polished, urban hero; this is the guy who doesn’t do his laundry for weeks on end because he still has clean socks and underwear. And I want to point out that I said “wondering if Mo could learn to be open and honest.”
Morgan: Open and honest - he is a werewolf! He literally is the secret.
Whitney: He’s not the secret. He HAS a secret. And I thought that Harper did a good job of making Cooper really a werewolf. He spends time as a wolf; he has a bunch of issues about scents and marking things. I fully believed that this character was equally man and wolf. Bravo, Harper! Although, I do think that Cooper’s reputation was something we were told about rather than that we really saw. I mean everyone makes a big deal about how he’s such a big jerk. And I thought he was kind of curt, yes, but not a giant jerk. So he doesn’t stop to talk? He lives in Alaska! I’m from the North (okay, Boston) but we aren’t very chatty when it’s cold out. We’ve got things to get done. We’re industrious!
Morgan: Well, I am from northern Idaho and there we damn well are at least civil. Although I will admit that we don’t just sit around a diner. (Way too expensive! Who can afford to eat out every day?)
Whitney: It’s a saloon, Morgan!
Morgan: Oh, please. They sell breakfast, lunch, dinner and cookies. It is a diner!
Whitney: They serve beer! And they have parties! Clearly, it’s a saloon. I don’t really care what you call it - I thought it was adorable. It was like Cheers on ice.
Whitney: And it’s nice that the people of Grundy, Alaska have a central gathering place at Blue Glacier. For sure my favorite characters at the saloon are the two old men, Leonard and Abner. Leonard has a “homemade hot tub” that becomes a running joke and Abner continues to promise to upgrade his house with more extravagant things (like cable TV) if Mo will move in with him. This kind of good-natured attention made me long for the wilds of Alaska - or at the very least to have more adoring old men in my life.
Morgan: Yeah, the secondary characters are fantastic. I love the author’s turn of phrase when describing these people. My favorite is the postmistress Susie Q who eats regularly at the diner.
“Platinum blond by the good grace of Miss Clairol, with a countrified ‘do that would put Dolly Parton to shame, she wore tight western shirts on her heavily endowed frame and drew a little beauty mark on her cheek every morning.”
And waitress Lynette who was the “girl-next-door type, if you happened to live next to a cathouse.”
Whitney: Agreed. Harper’s comedic flare shines whenever Mo has a chance to interact with the townspeople of Grundy.
Morgan: However, despite the lovable Leonard and Abner, I felt that men of Alaska got pretty short shrift in the story, but its not like they were prizes. After all, their only two requirements in a woman are breasts and a pulse. However, this is not so for the ‘other man’ in Mo’s life Alan who is a park ranger. He is smart, intelligent and kind, in other words, way too good for the heroine. I was actually relieved when Alan didn’t end up with Mo – he really dodged a bullet with her. Not that she doesn’t fit with Cooper. It was just Alan was just too kind of a person to end up with someone like her. She gets angry, argumentative and stubborn (kind of like me) which makes me okay with her abrasive personality, but for easy going Alan, not so much.
Whitney: For a while I was almost rooting for Alan because even though he was boring, there were so many more scenes with him. And I really loved that Molly Harper sent Mo and Alan on a real date. I feel like it is rare that you get to see that type of interaction in the pages of a romance novel; an honest “it’s not great but it could be worse” date. And talking about things I appreciated seeing in a romance novel, the mother-daughter antics between Mo and her mom included some really funny moments. While I don’t have that type of uber-intrusive relationship with my mom, it was still fun to read about.
Morgan: Eh. I thought it was kind of cheating by making her parents so extreme. They are die-hard hippies that spend their days farming organic and trying to save the planet. Would this really send a heroine careening thousands of miles north?
Whitney: If my mom walked in on me having sex with someone and wanted to stay to give advice? Yes. I think moments like that are plenty enough to convince a girl to pick up and move across the country. Also, if we're talking about her parents, I want to point out one of my favorite details was that while Mo was young, her mom always made up lesson plans that never got taught because there was always a cause to help out. I thought that observation was a very succinct way to illustrate the family dynamics.
Morgan: I felt both of the extended families in the book were a bit wooden. Especially Cooper’s sister Maddie. She was suppose to be angry with Cooper for leaving the pack, but instead she comes off as psychotic. Biting ears and fingers off other wolves.
Whitney: But Morgan, she’s a wereWOLF. And don’t wolves do things like that? I am sure that there are wolves out there missing ears, parts of tails, and whatever else might get in the way during some wolf-on-wolf violence.
Morgan: I think it is because the story’s first person POV sets such a realistic tone, it is a bit difficult to really get into the paranormal elements of the story. For the first hundred pages, if you didn’t know this was paranormal the fact that the hero is a werewolf really would catch you off guard.
Whitney: I was hoping that there would be a little bit more emphasis on the paranormal element, especially because of the title. I’m not going it lie, I really liked the werewolves and I wanted more time spent with the clan in order to get a better picture of how everyone interacted.
Morgan: I’m guessing that’s exactly what you will get in the author’s next book The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf which is set in the heart of the Alaskan werewolf community. Although I have to point out that by not going too far in the paranormal direction in How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf, Harper is able to capture two audiences. Readers who love contemporary romance and paranormal romance should be very interested in this werewolf tale.
Whitney: I agree. This is definitely the kind of book you will want to pick up and then pass along to a good friend so you can chat about Mo and the folks of Grundy!
Morgan: Indeed. Although the author breaks a bunch of my romance rules - first-person narrative, surly hero and Southern heroine - her skill as a writer shines through and she makes all of these things work.