Rating: 1.5 stars
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Lucas is a werewolf in the large San Francisco pack. At almost a hundred years old, his mating mark is still incomplete and he’s beginning to think he’ll never find a mate. As a detective for the SFPD, when the serial killer he’s been chasing claims another victim, he’s not excited about the idea of the FBI getting involved—until he meets the agent they send.
Toby’s nervous about working his first field assignment for the Bureau, but he’s excited to show what he can do too. Then he meets the local detective SFPD partners him with and he can’t help but get distracted from the case by the attraction and instant connection he feels to Lucas.
In between catching a killer, the two men explore their growing feelings and try to figure out a way to make a relationship work.
Red on the Moon is a case of trying to pack too much plot into too few pages. This book could have easily been another hundred pages long to tell this story. Although, I’m not sure if I could have made it through another hundred pages. Had I not been reading this for a review, I would have put it down and walked away. It was especially disappointing because the premise was such a great idea and could have worked really well with good characters and good execution.
My level of emotional investment with this story was very low and it all started with the characters. Lucas was largely uninteresting. In fact, I was trying to come up with something, anything, to say about him in this review and I couldn’t come up with a single character trait to extol or vilify. He’s got no substance and what little we do see of him goes nowhere or doesn’t make sense. He’s supposed to be an alpha, groomed by his uncle as his successor as lead alpha of the entire San Francisco pack and he couldn’t even keep himself in check; I have a lot of difficulty believing he could run a pack. And he’s also supposed to be a great detective, but the solution to the case proves to be laughably simple. My knowledge of solving crimes—gleaned entirely from TV shows like Criminal Minds—would have been enough to put this guy behind bars several victims sooner. Then there was the one kernel of interest I had in Lucas’ personality that just died after around the first three pages: his almost desperation to find a mate. It was so disappointing for Wellman to not go anywhere with it because it was pretty much the only thing that would have made Lucas matter to me at all.
If Lucas was bad, then Toby was even worse. Not because we didn’t get any information about his personality, but because what we got made him look like an erratic high school teenager at best or a schizophrenic at worst. At first he’s presented as someone desperate to bring his career to the next level, but then he completely ignores that in favor of hopping into bed with Lucas. Then there’s the fact that he’s presented as the classic submissive personality, but then he makes Lucas, a werewolf alpha, and Lucas’ brother, another werewolf alpha, back down, indicating that he’s a dominant enough personality for that with absolutely no support in the narrative.
In addition, this romance is about as steamy as ice fishing in Alaska. They have no chemistry together and nothing that makes me hope they make it as a couple. I also hated every single one of the side characters. Most authors with terrible supporting casts fall victim to writing them as stereotypes and cardboard cutouts. Wellman takes her stereotypical cardboard cutouts and then gives them steroids. She gives them personalities that I didn’t have the luxury of just ignoring, but was forced to actively loathe. The whole cast is a mess.
Worse than all of that though is the pacing and lack of conflict in this story. This story takes instalove to a place I’ve never seen before. In a literal day these characters manage to catch a serial killer, find out they’re mates, move in together, get Toby transferred to Lucas’ department (which procedurally, just—no), get werewolf married, and adopt a child. It was like a romance novel on crack. Part of the reason everything advanced so quickly (besides poor writing) was that there was no conflict in this story. Every single thing that could have been an obstacle to Toby and Lucas’ relationship was just instantly solved, magic wand style. Which was even more of a shame because the issues that were presented were good. Had they actually been explored, even poorly, I would have enjoyed this book twice as much.
I already mentioned that I wanted to get more of why Lucas felt so desperate for a mate, instead of just having one plopped in his lap. I also wanted to see more of Toby struggling for respect and to prove himself as a field agent, rather than just have Lucas instantly trust him and the rest of the department instantly accept him. There was also a woman working with Lucas who was in love with him and sabotaged anyone else’s attempts to become his partner. As cliché as that is, it really could have worked if she had been really subtle and shady about it, sowing seeds of doubt in Toby’s mind when he was already (presumably) feeling insecure about his place on this case. Or she could have caused problems with Lucas’ superiors or something else. Instead, she just loudly has a nervous breakdown where she reveals to the entire police station that she’s in love with Lucas and has gotten his past partners fired or disciplined. I also felt really cheated on the serial killer case.
The killer is a deranged man who thinks he’s a werewolf. Which is a fascinating idea to me in a universe where werewolves do actually exist. But none of that was ever explored and I felt like a kid whose candy got snatched.
Then there were the relationship issues. Every single question the narrative presents has a quick-fix answer. Toby lives across the country? No problem, we’ll just transfer him to Lucas’ department (which I don’t think I need to go into how seriously unlikely it is that the FBI would agree to let one of their agents work full-time for a city police department) in one freaking day. Toby’s temporary apartment is a shithole? No problem, Lucas will just ask him to move in after only knowing him for a day. They’re too busy working a case to move Toby’s things themselves? No problem, Lucas’ brothers are happy to spend their time moving boxes for a guy they’ve never met. Lucas’ mating mark still can’t be read when he meets Toby? Oh, that’s just because Toby’s 25th birthday hasn’t happened yet—but is in two days. It’s absurd.
Absurd goes to a whole new level with the ending though. More spoilers ahead:
at the end of the novel, Toby’s alcoholic, terrible, irresponsible mother shows up. She and Toby argue and he kicks her out of his life. Good for him right? Perfect ending to really show he’s moving forward with his life. Not quite though; she’s got one more surprise for Toby. She’s had another child and she doesn’t feel like raising him, so she just dumps him in Toby’s arms and walks out. Wow. It’s really convenient that he’s managed to solve all of his other personal issues in the last 24 hours and get married to a guy who really wants kids isn’t it?
At this point saying more just feels like piling on, but I feel it’s worth a quick mention that there were a lot of technical issues with the writing and that the editing was abysmal. There was almost an error on every page.
Unfortunately, I just can’t recommend this one at all. It was a chore to read even at novella length and I felt really cheated by the fact that good ideas were presented and then never taken anywhere.