Book Review: Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Kate Reinders)
Things have gotten interesting since Mainiac Jane True found out she’s half selkie. She discovered the whole world of supernatural beings, started training and honing her own powers with the help of a local goblin, and of course met and started dating the sexy vampire Ryu. After being caught up in the mystery that was a supernatural person killing halflings, Jane really just wants to focus in on power honing and Ryu. Particularly with Valentine’s Day approaching. But when she goes down to Boston for her first visit to his home, she ends up getting caught up in his current investigation. Going after a dangerous halfling who just escaped from an illegal lab.
I enjoyed the first entry in this series as a surprisingly humorous paranormal romance set in the unusual (for pnr) setting of Maine. So when I needed a new audiobook for a roadtrip and saw this lounging on audible, I snatched it up. I kind of regret that choice because not only did I enjoy this entry in the series less but I also apparently misremembered how well I liked the first book in the series. I only rated it as 3.5 stars but remembered enjoying it at at least 4. Hindsight is not always 20/20. Essentially, everything that kinda sorta rubbed me the wrong way in the first book got worse instead of better, and the things I liked became worse as well.
The humor takes a nosedive. Whereas the first book deftly handled a dry New England sense of humor, here things turn mean and inappropriate. Jane laughs at things she shouldn’t laugh at and invites the reader to as well, and it becomes deeply awkward. Like hanging out with a friend who thinks they’re funny but is in fact offensive.
I was excited to see what Peeler did with Boston, and I admit some things she handled well. She nailed the neighborhood of Allston, for instance, but she also put Ryu’s home in Bay Village. Ryu is supposed to be a wealthy vampire, but instead of putting him in Beacon Hill or a wealthy suburb like Cambridge or Newton, she puts him in a neighborhood that is actually a lower to middle class neighborhood that is slowly being gentrified. That’s not where a home like Ryu’s supposedly is would be located. This is a neighborhood that border the Massachusetts Turnpike (noisy big road, for non-Americans). It’s not the mecca of wealth that Peeler seems to think it is. A big mistake like that is rather jarring when she got details like how the exit of the T in Harvard Square is called the Pit, a bit of knowledge even some locals don’t have. On the other hand, she seems to think that the Boston Public Garden closes at night and has a big scene where Ryu takes Jane there on a romantic late-night date. Um. No. The Garden doesn’t close at night. It is, however, full of people trying to sell you drugs. Yes, yes, ideal for a romantic date. This unevenness in knowledge of Boston and its surrounding areas made reading the setting uncomfortable and awkward.
The issue of Ryu being an obvious jerk continues. It’s clear from the beginning of the book that a break-up is coming and Jane is being set up with another character. It’s kind of annoying for the book to be this predictable, but it is paranormal romance, and Jane does ultimately stand up for herself, so I was ultimately ok with this. In fact, the way Jane stands up for herself is handled so well that it saved the book from getting 2 stars instead of 3.
The last, and most important, thing that made the book deeply upsetting for me was the fact that Jane is not once but twice put into a situation where she is about to be raped. Rape comes up a lot in paranormal romance and frankly it bothers me. These are worlds in which women are powerful, talented, and often gifted with great gifts. So why must their confrontations so frequently devolve into threatened or real rape? I get it that rape is a very real thing in the real world, and I am completely fine with it existing as a plot point in horror, dystopian or post-apocalyptic scifi, and mysteries. Horror is supposed to push the boundaries of comfort. Dystopian and postapocalyptic scifi is frequently presenting humanity at its worst, and rape is one of the worst. Mystery needs a victim, and frequently murder victims are also raped. But in a battle between supernatural creatures in a book that is supposed to be a romance suddenly tossing in rape as a weapon doesn’t read right. It removes so much agency from the main female characters. Like, what, she’s always easily defeated because you can just threaten to shove your dick into her against her will and suddenly she will acquiesce to your viewpoint? It’s paranormal romance. Why can’t the paranormal world have fights where rape threats and attempted rapes aren’t a thing?
What really bothered me about the second scene this happened in with Jane is the level of victim blaming that happens as well. Jane has just successfully escaped from the first rape attempt. She saves herself. This is great, and she does it with a mixture of trickery and violence that is commendable. But then a man shows up and immediately takes over. He says he needs to protect her; he’s going to walk her out of this situation. Jane insists she needs to pee. She goes to pee, against his protests, and when she comes back out, he’s gone because another group of villains have him, and Jane starts to be attacked by a known violent rapist. She later blames herself for having to go pee, and no one argues with her that she has every right to pee when she needs to. So we have a powerful halfling who can’t go pee by herself because she might get attacked and raped? That is so incredibly victim blaming and putting all the responsibility for safety on the woman that I can’t even properly articulate how angry it makes me.
Kate Reinders, the narrator, mostly does a good job. She lands the complex voice of Jane quite well. The only negative I can say is that she mispronounces some New England words and city names. But her narration did make the book more enjoyable for me.
Combine these issues (aside from the audiobook narration which was fine) together with the fact that the plot is basically the previous book’s plot flipped in reverse (violent halfling killing supernatural people instead of supernatural person killing halfling), and I can safely say I won’t be continuing on in the series. The only thing that saves the book from a lower rating is the fact that Jane ultimately does stand up for herself. But for me it was too little too late. Not recommended. Unless you enjoy bad humor, awkward settings, and rape threats and victim blaming of the heroine.
3 out of 5 stars