Lucy Monroe really sets the stage in Moon Awakening with an interesting background for her shapeshifters. The mighty Picts with their blue tattoos are more than legendary warriors; their tattoos identify the animal they can become. Their king betrayed them, and they eventually joined the clans in Scotland, although no shifter clan is ruled by a human. They guard their secret fiercely, and although they have intermingled with humans, some of their offspring can still shift, and it’s those shifters who become the clan rulers. They call themselves the Chrechte. The Scottish Highlands have become an excellent refuge for their clans.
Emily Hamilton, a not so gentle English lass, fears for her younger step-sister Abigail. Abigail is deaf due to a fever she had when young, and her mother has made it clear that she would have preferred Abigail’s death instead of her deafness. After Emily’s father angered the English king, he was ordered to betroth a daughter into the Scottish Highlands Sinclair clan. Emily’s stepmother throws Abigail up for the sacrifice. Emily knows fifteen year old Abigail could not survive such a fate, and offers herself up instead. It’s not as if her father truly cares for her, anyway. After Emily’s mother died birthing her brother, her father ceased to care for Emily, since she was not the son he wanted. Emily believes that life couldn’t be much worse for her with the Sinclairs.
Ah, the foolishness of the young! Emily is a spirited lass, with a sarcastic tongue, and the Sinclair laird Talorc doesn’t want to marry an Englishwoman, for one of her kind betrayed his father and their clan. Talorc isn’t such a bad guy, but he clearly wants nothing to do with the king’s order. Emily tries to be accepted by the Sinclairs, but in her frustration she calls Talorc a goat, which may not be a mortal insult amongst humangs – it’s deadly when dealing with Chrechte politics, and his clan reacts accordingly. They shun Emily, whose only friend is Cait, Talorc’s pregnant and recently widowed sister.
However, Talorc isn’t Emily’s hero. The Sinclairs and the Balmoral clan are feuding because the Sinclairs kidnapped one of the Balmoral femwolves. Lachlan, who rules the Balmoral clan, must deal with the Sinclair insult appropriately, and that leads to the kidnapping of Cait and Emily. Cait knows clearly what is happening and finds herself mated to the brother of the kidnapped Balmoral femwolf for restitution. Poor Emily has no clue, and since breaking pack silence is a death sentence, Cait cannot explain the situation to her. Luckily for Cait, her forced mate Drustan is her true bond mate, and an honorable guy. Emily gets to muddle around in horror at Cait’s hasty marriage, and heaps more deadly insults on the Balmoral leader, Lachlan.
While Lachlan isn’t opposed to Englishwomen, he doesn’t want a human for a mate, since the offspring may or may not be shifters. His brother Ulf is a prime example. Although Ulf is older than Lachlan, he cannot be clan leader because he is fully human. Lachlan wants shifter sons to carry on the Balmoral clan line. He is attracted to Emily, sarcastic tongue or not.
I had some problems with Emily’s character. She can’t seem to grasp the fact that insulting people doesn’t endear them to you. She was crushed by the Sinclairs’ treatment of her, yet she begins to make the same mistake with the Balmoral clan. Then she gets terribly upset thinking that everyone might hate her. In her defense however, she is definitely dealing with situations that she can’t understand fully, and she does manage to think things through and come to the right answer, which redeemed her character for me.
Lachlan is clearly an alpha male, who is stuck in a situation not to his liking. He makes some nasty statements of his own to Emily, just when it seems they are making progress. Because it was late in the story, I thought it was overly dramatic at that point, but they manage to extricate themselves from falling into the Big Mis. The secondary romance between Cait and Drustan is well done and it serves to explain much of the Chrechte behavior.
Even though the story was at times uneven, I liked it at the end. The author calls this a Children of the Moon novel, which I’m guessing means there may be more on the way (Monroe’s December werewolf short story in the Unleashed anthology featured a contemporary setting). Strangely enough, I find myself hoping to see more of Talorc, who I think has hero potential. If you’re a fan of werewolves or paranormals, I think this one’s worth a look.