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Sunday, May 15, 2016

How to Run With a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper


Anna Moder has just witnessed a shooting, seen her car pulverized, and rescued a wounded stranger only to discover he's really a werewolf. And by her recent standards, things are actually looking up. Lycanthropes don't faze Anna. Doctoring a wolf pack outside Grundy, Alaska, is the closest thing to home life she's known in years. But hitching a ride to Anchorage with long-absent pack member Caleb Graham that's a risk. Part of her itches to whack his nose with a newspaper. The rest is trying unsuccessfully to keep her own paws off every delicious inch of him.

The problem is, Caleb employs his lupine tracking abilities as a not-quite-legal bounty hunter, and Anna is suspicious of both him and his profession. On the run from her past, with old problems closing in, she'd like to stay far, far away from anybody with connections to the law. Caleb, however, seems determined to keep her close. Are his intentions noble, or is he working a more predatory angle?

Anna's been dreaming of returning to a semi-normal life, but now she's experiencing a strange new urge . . . to join Caleb in running with the wolves.

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This book had a bit of a different feel to it from the first two in the series, mainly because of the tight focus on the two main characters. For the majority of the novel they are essentially alone as they roam around various small towns in Alaska, ostensibly making their way toward Anchorage while Caleb works on jobs along the way. Because of this, we get to know both of them fairly well, without the distractions of a whole cast of characters to keep track of. Sure there are other people around them now and then, but no one that figures in too prominently until the last several chapters.



We've met Anna in the previous books, but she was always very much a sideline character then, showing up in a scene here and there when a doctor was needed then fading away again. We were never given any real info about her as a character aside from her name and profession and the fact that she was good at helping tweak official medical paperwork to help keep the werewolves' secret. Because of this, it was a bit surprising to me that she became the main character for book three since she'd never seemed that important before. Even though she is part of the pack in a way, she's also human and not related to any of them. Still, she is a very interesting character with a complicated past, and for all that she is just an unrelated human she shows that she has learned to think like the pack in many way - because the whole reason for her "trip" is because she is trying to protect the pack from that past.

Caleb is the familial tie-in to the previous books since he is Cooper and Maggie's cousin and the only remaining Graham that is unattached. I can't recall if he was ever mentioned in the previous books, but we certainly never met him before and we don't find out how he ties into the pack until a little ways into the book. He's different from the rest of the pack members in that he's far more independent minded than most. He truly seems to be mostly concerned solely with himself and doesn't seem to give much thought to the pack. It's not that he dislikes them or is shunning them in any way, he simply seems to enjoy his independence more than he enjoys staying in one place and being part of a group.

I liked the close focus on Anna and Caleb because it really did let us get to know them well. It also served to keep the story simpler with its lack of numerous side plots going on to give other characters something to do. We see Harper's fondness for describing dingy hotel rooms in action several times, since those seem to be the only type of hotels they stay in (with one notable exception toward the end), but we also get to see her talent for depicting the mindset of a woman who's been the victim of extended mental domestic abuse and the ways in which it can change even highly intelligent and educated women into frightened rabbit types. Everything about Anna's mannerisms and thought patterns rings true for a woman who's running from that sort of background and desperately attempting to establish some sort of new life for herself away from her abuser. Jake proves to be remarkably sensitive to her plight despite his profession, which tells us a lot about his character as well. He's not at all the hardened bounty hunter that she sometimes thinks him to be or that he'd often like others to believe he is.

I'm not sure if this series is definitely finished with this book, though storywise it feels like it probably is. It was certainly a great ending to a wonderfully fun series, and one that I'd definitely recommend. It can stand alone fairly well if you haven't read the previous books, though some aspects of it will make a bit more sense probably if you've read them and have the background on the other characters that come into play and about the pack and the events in their recent past. And for fans of Harper's Half-Moon Hollow books, there's a nice surprise toward the end that proves this series takes place in the same universe as those books even if the two series aren't really related to one another at all. Perhaps there will be more cameo cross-overs in the future as we continue to get more books about the Hollow.

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