Deputy Ryan Neely of the Macawba County Sheriff’s Department is alone in the world. His parents died in a car accident when he was a small child. He was raised by his paternal grandmother, his only remaining relative. When she dies just after Ryan’s high school graduation, he sells the family farm and uses the money to help him get through his B.A. degree then enrolled in the Highway Patrol Academy. When he graduated from the Academy, he returned to Macawba County to take a job in the Sheriff’s office. Ryan develops a reputation as a dog whisperer for the Sheriff’s office. As a result, Ryan is sent to investigate abandoned houses that may have been meth labs or other crime scenes where dogs have been discarded.
Instead of a dog, Ryan finds a gorgeous and naked youth chained to the wall of the basement. Black hair and green eyes, the young man behaves like a wild animal. He’s terrified and unkempt, trying to attack Ryan one minute, practically falling asleep on him the next. When Ryan frees him from the basement, his new friend refuses to leave his side. Ryan, unable to push his friend away, decides to name him Shane. Once Shane is clean and fed, Ryan realizes Shane is at least ten years older than the teen he thought he was. He decides that Shane can stay with him as long as he wants.
When Ryan comes home late one morning, he finds a large black wolf-dog on the threshold of his apartment building. He brings the dog up to the apartment only to find Shane not there. Shane reveals to Ryan his secret; he is a Wolf-shifter and was banned from his pack. When Ryan formulates a plan for Shane, as his Wolf, to become Ryan’s K9, Shane agrees readily. For a few months, Shane and Ryan are happy living and working together. Until one day Ryan gets a phone call.
The call is from Amleto di Lupo, Shane’s brother and alpha. Amleto exiled Shane but now wants him back. He threatens Ryan that he will kill Shane in front of him if he doesn’t give Shane back to him. Fearing for Shane’s safety, Ryan agrees.
Will Ryan ever see Shane again? Can Shane forgive Ryan for sending him back to di Lupo? When tragedy strikes, will Ryan’s life ever be happy again?
Bright Moon unfortunately was a DNF for me. One of my big issues is that in the portion I read (about 30%), the characters’ actions just didn’t seem believable. Ryan is in law enforcement. He is sent to an abandoned property because someone has heard noises and goes inside to find a naked young man chained to the wall. He calls for an ambulance, breaks the chain, and when the young man vanishes minutes later, sends the ambulance away. No one stops to look for the naked victim who was — as far as Ryan could tell — covered in bruises and may have been the victim of sexual assault. Instead, everyone goes home.
On the way home, Ryan finds the same man in the middle of the road and puts him in his car, deciding to take him to the hospital. He never radios ahead, doesn’t warn the hospital he’s coming, and doesn’t call it into dispatch. Ryan just leaves Shane in the car while he goes to get a wheelchair and when, again, the young man has magically vanished upon return, Ryan shrugs it off. He puts out an APB, then goes back to work. No effort is made to look for Shane. In fact, Ryan even thinks to himself that he feels pretty good since it’s not like he had to deal with a victim of domestic abuse or a car accident. Apparently, a young man who may have been used as a sexual slave in a meth house doesn’t register as being a major concern?
Heading home, Shane shows up in Ryan’s car, and Ryan decides to take him home with him — again, not bothering to tell anyone that he’s found the guy they have an APB out for, or tell anyone from the sheriff’s office that the young man is here in his house. Even when someone from work calls to clarify about the APB, Shane doesn’t mention the guy currently is in his shower because the young man is scared. Instead, they have a shower and Shane gives Ryan a hand job. They go to bed. In the morning, Shane gives Ryan a blowjob, but when Ryan tries to reciprocate, Shane flinches away. Ryan then goes to work for a routine day, thinking about how he and his lover can maybe go on a date.
At this point, I’m not even 15% into the book and two things have become clear: Ryan is not a good deputy, and these are some poorly written characters. There are no emotional (or logical) reactions at all, ever, from Ryan. Even putting aside love or lust at first sight, what the hell is Ryan doing? So far as he knows, Shane could have numerous issues, physical and mental, from all he’s been through. He could need medical help. He could have family looking for him. He could be a psychopathic killer. But hey, he gave Ryan a handjob, which makes them practially married? Even putting aside Shane’s omega nature, which might urge him to seek physical comfort, or the fact that most of his life, as the omega of his pack, he’s trained and perhaps inclined to use his sexuality to gain safety or reassurance, Ryan doesn’t know this. He just knows a naked, bruised, and frightened young man is willing to give him sexual satisfaction.
Then Shane shows off his ability to turn from human to wolf and back again and Ryan has the bright idea of taking Shane to work so they can be a K9 unit. There is, prior to this, no indication Ryan is a K9 officer or has K9 training. He just … takes Shane to work with him (in his wolf form, which people seem to take as dog, or dog enough) and they’re a K9 unit sent off to sniff for drugs at the local school. Then there’s a car chase where Ryan realizes people might be after Shane. If you’re thinking there should be a reaction, some shock or awe or confusion … there isn’t at this point. Ryan seems okay with everything because he likes dogs and he’s in love with Shane.
At 30%, I gave up. There’s a natural suspension of disbelief when approaching any book (especially fantasy/paranormal books), but I was being ask to suspend so much that there’s nothing underfoot. And it’s not the werewolves or the wolves. It’s the humans. Ryan is a terrible law enforcement officer, constantly making choices that make no sense. Neither he nor anyone else have any believable reactions to anything in the portion I read. Ryan doesn’t seem to care about what Shane’s been through, he just cares about loving him. The sex scenes feel like brief afterthoughts, clinical and just as emotionally closed off as the rest of the story.
This is a book that contains scenes in which difficult and painful ideas are mentioned — incest, rape, the dehumanization (or dewolfization?) of a person, sexual slavery, kidnapping, rescue, recovery, and abusive relationships — but they never amount to more than a throwaway line during the portion I read. Shane, the rescued young man, has been a victim of his older, alpha brother all his life and the target of his brother’s obsession. He has been raped, beaten, allowed to be used by others, and finally, sold to some humans who are then told to kill him. Shane’s whole life has been one of degradation and pain. And Ryan, his rescuer, doesn’t seem to even give this revelation a cursory “wow” before shrugging it aside and taking Shane to bed.
And yet … there is something almost there. The glimpses of Shane’s brother and sister-in-law, the few peeks I got into the wolf side of the story, their culture and their social dynamic, were interesting. Cold and un-human in a way that made me almost able to keep going. However, between being bored with the story, and dealing with Ryan having no sign of human compassion, empathy, or intelligence, I just couldn’t bring myself to keep going.
The writing seems rushed, with little time taken to develop a scene and the characterization falls completely short in the part I read. The pacing is rambling, the world building is nowhere, and the fact that Ryan is supposed to be a member of law enforcement makes zero sense because nothing he does resembles the way someone trained in handling victims of crime, abuse, or even traffic accidents would behave when dealing with a person in Shane’s situation. This book just isn’t good during the portion I read. And based on that, I don’t think it is worth reading. But the author has some creativity, especially for the werewolves, and they’re someone I might take another look at should they write more down the line. But not this one.
Note: The formatting is off in my copy of this book, both on my kindle and my computer, with page numbers scattered halfway through pages, spaces missing from between words, line breaks cutting off sentences, and some missing punctuation tags. Our review copies are often not final versions and can have some light copyediting still remaining, so these errors might have been corrected prior to publication.