Reviewed by Lisabet Sarai
(You can buy Base Nature from Ellora's Cave.)
Wolf-shifter Garrett Gustafson has left his pack. He can't accept the death of his beloved mate at the hands of a drunken hunter, nor the decision of his pack not pursue vengeance. Still grieving, he never expects to find another woman who calls to him, body and soul--especially not a human.
Liv McCoy spends her life in fear. Daughter of a battered mother, she finds herself attracted despite herself to men like her father, men who threaten and abuse her. At first, when Garrett protects her from her angry boyfriend, she doesn't dare trust the big, handsome carpenter. Before long she understands that even though Garrett is half-beast, he will protect and nurture her in a way that she has never experienced. For Liv, however, that is not enough. Having spent her life without power, now she wants the power that only Garrett can give--by turning her into a wolf like him.
Sommer Marsden's Base Nature is a classic shape-shifter romance with all the traditional elements of the sub-genre: a massive, strong, noble but emotionally tortured hero; an irresistible attraction between him and the heroine; a quirky but supportive shapeshifter clan; an excruciating change from human to other; and of course, a happy ending. As one might expect from a writer with Ms. Marsden's credentials, the book offers a well-crafted development of the relationship and plenty of hot sex scenes.
What sets this book apart from the dozens of other wolf-shifter novels available, in my opinion, is the character of Liv. Especially in the first half of the book, her emotions blaze off the page. I remember reading a scene where she is being stalked by her abusive boyfriend and suddenly realizing that adrenaline was flooding my body. My heart was pounding; my mouth was dry. I was there with her. Ms. Marsden has vividly evoked the tangled psychology that draws the abused to her abuser.
As the tale developed, I found Liv's changed personality somewhat hard to accept. It seemed to me that she trusted Garrett a bit too quickly to be plausible. By the end of the book, though, when she and her wounded lover are holed up in the deserted house where she saw her mother abused, I was ready to believe that she had truly found a reservoir of strength within, power that had nothing to do with her beast nature.
The novel also appealed to me because the wolves are portrayed as powerful but not invulnerable. Their hyper-keen senses and muscular strength are believable extensions of real wolf abilities. They can, however, be hurt or even killed, including by careless humans. As I've written in other posts, I prefer a paranormal world in which the magic is clearly defined and limited. I dislike worlds where anything can happen, where the author can pull out some new, unexpected power at any time in order to save the day.
If you're a fan of were-wolf romance, you'll enjoy Base Nature. The book has all that you expect, and more.