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Book Review: Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Kate Reinders)

August 8, 2013 1 comment

Cartoon drawing of a white woman with black hair surrounded by water in twisting columns with a background of fire. The title Tracking the Tempest and the author's name Nicole Peeler are on the image.Summary:
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.

Review:
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

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
Tempest Rising, review

Book Review: Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler (series, #1)

Woman standing in harbor.Summary:
Jane True lives in a small coastal town in Maine and cares for her father, a stubborn fisherman who refuses to leave his hometown.  This means Jane is stuck in a town where everyone pretty much thinks she’s crazy.  Everyone except the lesbian couple who run the local bookstore where she works.  Even Jane thinks there’s something off about herself what with swimming near the deadly whirlpool The Sow in the ocean in the middle of the night in the winter on a regular basis.  But then a neighbor winds up dead, mysterious people show up, and Jane finds out she’s half-selkie, and nowhere near as crazy as she once thought.

Review:
First things first.  I absolutely, completely, 100% love the character of Jane True.  If she lived in my neighborhood, we’d definitely be the best of friends.  She’s smart and loyal with a biting, classic yankee sense of humor.  At the same time though, she’s human, flawed, and makes mistakes but not the sort of mistakes that would make you hate her.  I also really related to her relationship with her father, as mine has the same debilitating heart disease that her father has.  Seeing her see in him the same, strong, blue collar daddy who raised her and who now is struggling with an illness was really refreshing to see in a paranormal romance.  It seems like dads tend to be absent in the genre in general, when let’s face it, a lot of women’s dads remain an integral part of their life, even when grown-up.

The storyline itself is fairly complex, and it was a delight to see modern rural New England in literature.  The characters also take a random jaunt up to Quebec, which honestly we definitely do periodically.  I’ve been to Canada more times than I’ve been to the American south for instance.  The settings were fabulous and well-envisioned.  Normally I would complain about Jane’s love interest, but it’s obvious to me that she’s going to outgrow him with time.

The one thing I actually didn’t like about the book was the sex scenes, which is kind of problematic for a paranormal romance since that’s kind of half the point.  Jane insists her man uses a condom.  Ok, fine, write that in there once and then we’ll assume that they have safe sex for the other encounters.  The thing is though, Mr. Man Candy complains about having to use a condom every single time, and every single time asks her if they really have to….by dangling the wrapped condom in her face.  This is not sexy behavior!  This is reason to ditch a guy behavior.  She said use it, that means use one until she says otherwise quit being a baby.  And frankly, quit ruining my sexy reading by turning into an asshole right before the sexy times.  The whole entire sex scene situation is problematic throughout the book, and just gets worse each time they do it.  There’s one scene in particular when Jane is down on her hands and knees, and the dude is behind her, and he dangles the condom in her face.  Like randomly he’s behind her, she’s getting excited, he’s touching happy places, then bam there’s a condom in her face. WTF. This is not how paranormal romance should work.  I get it that we’re not supposed to 100% like the guy, and this is part of the way of showing us he’s an asshole, but still.  I hope the whole sex scene situation improves in the next book.

Overall, the character is a rich, engaging, Mainiac with a biting sense of humor, and the world Peeler has created is diverse and engaging.  Hopefully the boyfriend situation improves in the later books.  Given how much I like the main character (which is rare in paranormal romance), I’ll definitely be reading the next entry.  If she sounds engaging to you as well, and you like paranormal romance, you’ll most likely enjoy this book.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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