Dr. Jason Kunik is a genetics researcher looking into the quickened: regular dogs that have evolved into human/dog shifters. As a third-generation quickened himself, Jason is particularly interested in understanding what causes the “spark” that turns ordinary dogs human. He has returned to the town of Mad Creek where he grew up and where most of the folks are also quickened in order to better conduct his research.
Jason doesn’t have any interest in socializing with the rest of the pack, or really doing anything other than spending time in his lab. He certainly doesn’t want a roommate or have time to spend with a newbie human. However, when he sees newly quickened labradoodle shifter, Milo, looking terrified at a pack meeting, Jason surprises himself by offering to take Milo in.
Milo is everything that Jason is not — friendly, outgoing, relaxed, and with a joy for life Jason hasn’t had in a while. Milo has no personal boundaries and is pretty much all up in Jason’s space, but to Jason’s surprise, he finds it doesn’t bother him that much. In fact, being around Milo is a comfort to Jason, who spends most of his time stressed and anxious.
When a mysterious virus begins affecting the quickened in town, the locals come to Jason for help. The virus is serious, perhaps deadly, and no one knows what is causing it or how to stop it. It is particularly terrifying because no one from the outside world can know about the quickened, so their resources are incredibly limited. Jason finds himself putting aside his work and joining in with others in a desperate attempt to figure out what is going on before people begin to lose their lives. Jason is terrified, both for himself and for Milo, but he is also determined to do everything he can to help the people of Mad Creek before it is too late.
How to Wish Upon a Star is the third book in Eli Easton’s fabulous Howl at the Moon series. I am kind of crazy for this series and its unique take on the paranormal genre. The premise is that regular dogs can turn into human/dog shifters when they get a “spark,” usually as a result of some sort of extreme emotional connection to a human. The town of Mad Creek is kind of a haven for these shifters, known as quickened. Some of the folks there have been quickened for generations, like Jason, and others are much newer, like Milo. It is such a creative premise, and it makes for many wonderful directions for the series.
I like how this story pairs these two guys together in a great opposites attract combination. Jason is uptight and rigid, anxious and prickly, and so focused on his research he has no time for anything else. He has stifled his inner dog for years and has little personal interaction with anyone. Then you have Milo, who is basically a labradoodle personified. He is friendly, outgoing, loves everyone, talks to everyone he meets, and is just generally lovable. At first Jason has no idea what to do with Milo, but he finds himself drawn to the man despite himself. Milo is a former hospice dog and he has a way of sensing when people are in need, and he somehow manages to reach Jason in a way that no one else can. I love the way that Easton builds in the dog traits to the characters. It is so cleverly done throughout the series, and you can really feel how these people, especially the more newly quickened, really embody the dogs they once were.
The first two books in the series focused on drug traffickers in the area, but with that plot arc wrapped up, this book takes a new turn focusing on the virus affecting the town. This story plays out so well, and we can feel the fear and tension gripping everyone as they realize that people are getting deathly ill and no one knows why or what to do about it. The mystery gets a thrilling edge as Milo, Jason, and others from the town work desperately trying to figure out what is going on and how to cure it. This part of the book is fast paced and really exciting.
I would say on the romance end this story is more sweet than sexy, though the guys are sexually intimate with each other. I think that actually works well given Milo’s newly turned status. He has an almost childlike sense about him early on, and even as he gets more used to being human, he is still naive and not particularly worldly about people and relationships. I will say I did find it a bit challenging at times to think of him as part of a sexual and romantic relationship when he has only been human for a couple of weeks. I didn’t always feel like he and Jason are on equal footing, especially as the previous book in the series makes it pretty clear that the newly quickened don’t develop their sexuality right away. But this wasn’t a major impediment for me, and again I think the fact that things build slowly and we do get Milo’s POV at a critical time helps with this a lot.
So this is another great installment in a fabulous series. I think you could read this as a standalone as the overall series arc takes a new direction here, but you would miss meeting some of the characters who play side roles here. Plus, this series is excellent and I think well worth starting from first book. I really enjoyed How to Wish Upon a Star and would definitely recommend it, along with the whole series.