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The Wolf Within

A review of Alyssa Brandon’s debut novel about werewolf love, or “how I got Christina Aguilera’s “Bound to You” stuck in my head every time I thought of the title.”

The Wolf Within

BOOK REPORT for Bound to You by Alyssa Brandon

Cover Story: Hand Modeling
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Uninspired
Factor: Werewolves
Relationship Status: Rooting For The Random Neighbor

Cover Story: Hand Modeling

This lovely red ribbon is perfect for your next handfasting! It can be yours for only three easy installments of $19.99. Our hand model, Megan, has six!

Seriously though, this cover is quite cringy. It feels like the designer was trying to evoke the aesthetic of a particular supernatural-romance to lure in a similar type of reader. Good in theory, less so in actuality. 

The Deal:

It’s Megan’s eighteenth birthday and she still hasn’t imprinted bonded with a mate, which is super embarrassing. See, Megan is an alpha werewolf and her priority in life is to find her mate, since almost every wolf has one. Her dad, who is the Alpha of the Alphas, invites all of the eligible wolves to her birthday party so she can meet them all in one giant swoop. Lo and behold, she finds him! Unfortunately, she mate-bonds to exactly the “wrong” guy—one of the last Warrior wolves, James. He lives in a castle in the middle of nowhere outside of Quebec and hunts wraiths, evil spirits that are one of the few things that can kill werewolves. James is also distant and cold and has no interest in even consummating the mate-bond, to Megan’s chagrin.

Despite not really wanting her, James insists Megan come home with him to Canada. But as he refuses to even stay in a simple conversation with her, she wonders…did she make the wrong move? Is she really ready to give up everything she knows and cares about for love, or is she destined to be mate-less forever?

BFF Charm: Nay

Within a page of our meeting, I had a feeling Megan and I were not friend-MFEO. I tried to be open-minded, but she didn’t do anything to change my opinion. I think all of our issues can be summed up with the following paragraph from page one:

“I couldn’t wait to meet my mate. I so badly wanted someone to love, someone who would love me back. A guy who would hold my hand and tell me I was beautiful. Someone to walk on the beach with. To cuddle with. Someone who was just mine, who’d always care about me and put me first. He’d be strong, an Alpha or Alpha to be, and he’d always love me and protect me.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting any of that, per se. But this is the strongest piece of characterization Megan gets. She wants someone to obsess over her because her parents had four other daughters and she was always kind of forgotten—never mind the fact that her father forced every single wolf on the Eastern seaboard to come "celebrate" her birthday. It bothered me how quickly she gave up her dream of going to Caltech because James couldn’t be away from his Canadian home for too long (see: wraiths) and, maybe it was unkind of me, but I kind of wondered how she even got into the school in the first place. There’s nothing about Megan that makes me think: Damn, this girl sciences. (There’s literally a moment where she, in all seriousness, laments about how long it’s been since she was able to pin things on Pinterest…and she's only been two days without internet.)

In addition, I’m pretty sure Megan wouldn’t even try to be my friend, because she literally talks to no one who isn’t a werewolf; oh, and, also, I don’t have a penis and therefore cannot mate with her.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Swoon points are coming from the simple fact that there are actual sexy-times in this book. Other than that, I wasn’t feeling it. James has a straightforward tragic backstory that makes him unable to open himself to love and he literally grunts his way through most of his scenes. Megan is such a romance try-hard who cannot grasp the finer points of basic human communications, so she obsesses over the most obvious details of his behavior ("He was giving me 'the look' and then got nervous and ran away. OMG, he must hate me!" Sigh.).

Talky Talk: Uninspired

The plot is all right there on the back cover. I was hoping that despite its thin premise this book would surprise me as a fun, sexy break from reality. I love romance novels! But unfortunately this is exactly the kind of thing that gives the romance genre a bad rap. If this book had an elevator pitch, I think it would go something like, “What if Twilight was more about the werewolves instead of the vampires?” The storylines weren’t exactly identical, but the writing style and scant plot gave me major Bella Swan flashbacks. A page inside the cover from Swoon Reads tells me that this story was picked by readers to be published by their imprint, so I guess, like those who enjoy Twilight, there are plenty of people out there this appeals to...but I am just not one of them. 

Factor: Werewolves

I enjoy supernatural things. I don’t know if these were my favorite version of werewolves (James is no Alcide)—they certainly played into to big, dumb, violent instigators stereotypes, especially during the party scene—but it would be pretty cool to change into a free-roaming, frolicking creature of the moon whenever I wanted.

Relationship Status: Rooting For The Random Neighbor

Megan has a run-in outside of the pack’s castle with a nearby neighbor who thinks she’s a wolf out to eat his sheep (which…she is). He chases her away with a shotgun, and is it bad that I was sort of rooting for him? He was just defending his property from greedy wolves. It’s not his fault they decided to settle near his farm. You go, random farmer.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Swoon Reads. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Bound to You is available 4/10/2018.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.