Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wanted: Undead or Alive--A Review


He's a vampire from the big city . . .
Phineas McKinney thought New York City was tough, until he was attacked by Malcontents—evil vampires who consider mortals to be snacks. Saved by the good vampires, Phin swore to devote his now undead life to stopping the Malcontents. He's got his job cut out for him when word comes that their enemy may be hiding in Wyoming. What does a city boy like him know about horses and campfires? Good thing he's got Brynley Jones with him . . . if only she didn't hate every vampire on earth.

She's a werewolf princess . . .
Bryn believes vampires are seductive and charming, and that makes them dangerous. So she's more than a little annoyed about teaming up with Phin, even if he is the only bloodsucker able to make her inner wolf purr. But as they hunt down the new leader of the Malcontents, danger threatens . . . and Phineas and Brynley discover a passion that will rock the foundation of their supernatural world.


Normally, I love Kerrelyn Sparks as a writer.  I own all of her Love At Stake series books.  So, I've been looking forward to reading Wanted: Undead or Alive. But although I can't say this book was bad, I can't say there weren't a few points that irritated me in this book.  My irritation was not enough to keep me from reading the book, from enjoying it, and it won't keep me from recommending the book, though I'd have a little more reservations in doing so with this particular one. However, the irritation could have easily been removed if Sparks had simply slipped a paragraph, an explanation, something inside the book to keep me from going, "Ok...that's bad, but why is that such a big deal?"  For those of you who want to read the book, without knowing any spoilers I recommend you stop reading now.  Some of my points are major spoilers.  Some minor.

My main issue was with Brynley Jones, the heroine of the story.  She is seen as the Princess of the pack, the eldest daughter of the Supreme Pack Master.  All her life she's rebelled against what she was taught: never defy your father, be submissive, and you'll be happy. After watching her mother die, and some very cruel things happen to her, Byrnley finally follows her twin brother's example and runs away from home.  She becomes a teacher for a pack of boys her father banished from the land, which she's nicknamed "The Lost Boys."

This is where Wanted: Undead or Alive starts.  Phineas and Bryn go to Wyoming to hunt down the new leader of the MalContents, Corky Courrant, knowing full-well it's the worst place for Bryn to be.  Because if her father finds out she's in town, and captures her, she'll be forced to marry a guy VERY much like her father. Her father is a cheater, spoiled with his power, corrupt and demands absolute obedience from everyone he interacts with.

Eventually the ifs and whens do happen.  Brynley is captured by her father's minions.  She is sent to share a room with her younger sister, who is SUPER excited at the prospect of Brynley getting married.  Because, their father won't let poor Glynis marry until her Brynley is married....  Kind of like with Taming of the Shrew.  The oldest must marry first. And considering where the plot leads, why couldn't Rhett marry Glynis?  It would make everything so much easier for everyone's plans.

You see enough of her forced fiancè, Rhett, to know, she not only would be unhappy with him but that he would abuse her.  The first time they meet, Rhett slaps Brynley and kicks paralyzed Phineas. He shows how little respect he had for her and how miserable he'd make her life if they were married but instead of taking every opportunity to try to escape form this horrible marriage, Brynley lets a few possibilities slip by because she doesn't want to hurt her sister's feelings. For example, she knows she can get help from Phineas if she can get a phone.  She searches her sister's room.  She asks a wolf at the party her father is hosting for a phone.  But she never asks her sister to help her or lie to her sister about the reasons she needs a phone.

And yet we're told how miserable she is at the prospect of marriage to Rhett.

I realize those who suffer from domestic abuse may say, it'll be impossible for her to escape the marriage once she's his wife because he'll be so controlling.  I may be completely wrong in my thinking, never having experienced it myself, and please tell me if I'm wrong, but that isn't exactly the situation she finds herself in.

From what I understand, domestic abuse usually starts when the couple is dating. The guy lowers her confidence enough to get her to marry him and lowers it more once he has the ring on her finger. Until she's captured Byrnley has never met Rhett before.  She has no emotional connection to him.  She only knows his name because on her 30th birthday, her father announced that she would be marrying Rhett in three days.  She ran away that night, still never having met him. She also doesn't want to marry the guy. Aren't most brides, even those who suffer from domestic abuse, looking forward to their wedding? She's also in love with someone else. NOTHING IS HOLDING HER TO THIS GUY.  She simply can't escape because she's locked in a room, doesn't want to hurt her sister and is constantly watched.

So she can't escape.  Once she knows Phineas has escaped, is safe, why doesn't she make a stronger effort to escape herself?  Or, why worry so much about the marriage?  She doesn't have to get married.  They have no leverage on her to force her to sign the paperwork or say the words with Phineas having escaped.  And even if she does married Rhett, so what?  She'll escape when they're not paying attention.  File for an annulment and marry her hero, Phineas. Is it because Phineas has to save her?

I could believe the whole, can't get divorced thing if it was placed even a hundred years ago.  But it's not. It's modern day United States.  If divorce/annulment wasn't possible, because of something like "wolves mate for life" part of their culture that MIGHT explain some of it. She's been living outside of the culture, I don't see why that would matter that much to her. But at least it would be an explanation.

Anyways, after she's been saved, Brynley returns to her father's house, where she just escaped to face her father.  Her twin brother is now at her side.  Her youngest brother is against them. Father still tries to force her to marry Rhett even with Phineas and 50 other people on her side, ready to fight to the death for her. When they're about to drag her off, she pulls an "alpha."  Only then do we learn that women are never Alpha werewolves. Would have been nice to know sooner.  I kept wondering why she didn't just charge out of her sister's room, using super wolf powers she know doubt had as princess of wolves.

Rhett, who originally planned on killing Brynley and her family, once they were married and who knows her father planned to have him killed when Brynley married, goes, "She's the only Alpha female in the world. She's too valuable to kill, I must make her my wife because she's so rare.  It'll make me powerful."

Blood and fighting ensues.

Phineas is hurt.  And his injuries cause him to...develop certain abilities that make him himself a commodity, which pleases Brynley's father enough that he gives her his blessing to marry Phineas...huh? As a wedding gift, her father also gives Phineas and her the cabin Rhett was originally living in.  Brynley suspects her father--who not only told Brynley it was her fault she was raped  but arranged for her to be raped--before the book takes place, gave her the cabin only to keep her and her husband close.  But she gladly moves in afterwards, because family forgives each other.  She's married to the man she loves.  And she's living on her favorite hunting grounds..

I must give Sparks credit. I found the fact that Brynley was raped realistic.  Even with the rape having taken place 5 years before the story took place, she acted edgy, much like one would expect her to react in certain incidences after being raped. But why move so close to her father who she's rebelled so hard against, who more than likely would arrange to have her assaulted again if he felt it might help his cause.  Her rapist is dead, but Daddy isn't.  And in my mind, he's just as much a rapist as her actual rapist is.

Granted, this is really only one aspect of the story, but it feels like major author interference occurred to keep the story rolling, to make the characters do things the story needed, not the characters. I'm not sure what happened to Sparks with this book but I hope she'll return to her old way of telling tales. Overall  Wanted: Undead or Alive is an entertaining read.  But I must question some of the events in the story.

I do enjoy certain aspects of the story. Phineas is a vampire and Brynley is a werewolf, which in a lot of fantasy books, makes them enemies.  They aren't enemies in Sparks world, but a relationship between the two is highly looked down upon. Phineas is African-American.  Brynley is described as someone with "Sky-blue eyes and a long mane of hair that glimmered with shades of brown, red and gold."  Sparks kept the comedic aspect in her story, though there was less than I was used to. The characters were also well-rounded.  I plan on reading the next book in the series Wild About You, which will be released November 27th.

 Have you read Wanted: Undead or Alive?  What did you think?  Post your thoughts in comments.

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