Adrian Rothschild has had nearly a decade to adjust to the realization that he is not and never will be like the rest of his tightly knit pack. His family still loves him of course, but it’s hard to fit amongst a group of werewolves when you can’t shift. Adrian manages to make a life for himself, but he is isolated and adrift, a prisoner of his own imperfect genetics. Until he suddenly begins to shift as an adult.
Violent and unexpected, Adrian’s shift could end up killing him if he can’t find help. Which is where Tate Lewis steps in. As a counselor at a local camp for teenage werewolves, Tate is used to dealing with kids, not a grown man and especially not one he is so attracted to. As Tate helps to ease Adrian through the trauma and joy of his first shift, both men must acknowledge the pull between them. But Tate came from a pack fraught with viciousness and the idea of binding himself to Adrian and by extension, Adrian’s pack, is terrifying. They will have to decide if a love found by the glow of a full moon can survive the light of day.
Camp H.O.W.L. is both original and traditional in its approach to the werewolf genre. There are fated mates and moonlit shifts to be sure, but the idea of having a special camp for angsty teen wolves is clever and amusing. It’s hard enough to be a teenager, but when you add the concept of a first shifting experience to that same situation, things get crazy. The author does a good job of setting a time and place for the camp and to define its ultimate goal of helping young wolves make the transition from childhood to adulthood. I would have actually enjoyed a greater exploration of this because it seemed to have so much more potential than the author actual displayed.
Tate and Adrian are both fairly well developed characters and there is a real sense of distress as Adrian’s body begins to betray him. Yes, he always wanted to shift, but now after so many years, he’s moved past the pain of being left behind, or at least he does a decent job of hiding it. Now he has to wrap his brain around the fact that once again his genetics have a mind of their own and he is bound to their mercy. Tate’s attraction to and distancing from Adrian is also portrayed well. He wants to be in love, but given how long he has been away from a pack, forced to live alone, it isn’t so simple. They make a good couple, even when they’re trying to avoid the inevitable.
The word “moonmate” is used far too often and I got to the point I kind of hated it. It’s used to describe a fated bonding between two werewolves, but it was such an excessively applied choice that it lost any impact. From the start, everyone at the camp is pushing Tate and Adrian together because they are so obviously moonmates. As a result, their romance lacks inventiveness and fails to develop organically. Yes, they try to resist the pull of this fated bonding, but at no time are they allowed to just be. The idea of destiny tied mates is so worn and so often used, it often ends up crippling any romance and preventing it from achieving depth. Which is what happened here to some extent.
Overall Camp H.O.W.L. was enjoyable. It had an intriguing plot and two characters that did a good job of connecting with readers. There are some plot devices that could have been skipped and one in particular leaves the relationship between Tate and Adrian feeling shallower than it could have been. But if you like werewolves and enjoy your traditional romances with a bit of a twist, you’ll enjoy Camp H.O.W.L.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.