This month’s TBR Challenge read gave me a choice between romantic suspense and paranormal romance. I read a fair amount of suspense (romantic and otherwise) anyway, so I decided to dig into my little stack of romances with random creatures. I came up with Edge of Hunger by Rhyannon Byrd, a 2009 HQN release. This book is first in the ongoing Primal Instinct series. I found it an engaging but rather strange read. I enjoyed the steamy romance and the paranormal worldbuilding is a bit of a twist on the shapeshifter idea. I could spot elements that reminded me of other paranormal series I’ve read, but the author definitely puts an original spin on her world. However, there’s more than a little bit of the crazy and cliched worked in there, too. While I did enjoy parts of this book, I also spent way too much time rolling my eyes and/or cracking up over some of the overwrought wackiness, so in the end I think I’d give this a C+.

The story opens in Colorado as Ian Buchanan finds himself confronted by Molly Stratton, a woman who claims to have found him at the request of his dead mother. Ian reacts about like one would expect – he wants Molly to take her crazy woowoo story and go back to whereever she came from. No such luck. She insists on telling him that there is danger, and that the lives of people around him depend on him listening to what she has to say. Ian is more than a little bit hostile to Molly and her messages from beyond, but he also finds her attractive.

The plot thickens as Ian starts having erotic dreams about Molly. When Molly shows up to confront him, it turns out she has been having the same dreams and she even has bite marks on her neck left over from when Ian bit her in the dream. And it all just gets weirder from there. Through some rather graphic scenes, we learn that there is a demon-like creature roaming the area and it kills a woman with whom Ian had an on-again, off-again fling. In the aftermath of this, Ian has a dream in which a creature attacks him, calling him a “Merrick.” After this dream, Ian can no longer deny that there is something supernatural happening because he starts to see himself changing into some kind of otherworldly creature.

It all goes on from there, with Ian fighting his destiny and the stakes in the good vs. evil battle mounting. The worldbuilding can get a bit confusing, but we essentially figure out that there were once a variety of clans with paranormal powers, and that the Merrick are one of the more benign. However, the Casus terrorized humanity, killing mindlessly and using their abilities for evil. They had been imprisoned centuries ago, but have now started their escape. Some of the mythology is a little vague, but it’s still interesting enough to hold one’s attention. The plotline which has Ian fighting his destiny is a bit predictable, but his revulsion at the ways of the various clans seemed believable and that made his inner struggle feel real rather than contrived.

Likewise, the dreams and the role of sex in sparking paranormal superpowers are elements of the story that manage to be both eyeroll-inducing and also a bit addictive. And there are some other fairly cliched plot elements too, including Molly’s revelation of how she came to believe in her psychic powers. It’s the sort of thing that is highly snarkworthy and yet fun enough to read that I kept on going. I guess you could call it “the Twilight effect.” The author definitely knows how to write lust and steamy scenes, and she also does a lot to lay the groundwork for her somewhat complex world here.

Still, even though I had fun at times, I couldn’t ignore the overwriting. Near the beginning, we have Ian thinking about Molly with an internal monologue full of things like this, “His urges ran too dark, too raw, too primitive for the likes of soft women.” I couldn’t suppress the snicker. Or, when Molly speaks to Ian about a good deed he has done and starts, “wondering if he had any idea how amazing it was, the selflessness and pure generosity of what he’d done in a world whose very pulse centered on the mighty dollar.” Overwritten, much?

I’d have to say my read of the month had its flaws, but there’s a compelling quality about Byrd’s writing that kept me going. After I finished Edge of Hunger, I still wasn’t entirely certain how much I truly liked it. However, the plot and some of the assorted craziness of it lingered in my mind. I’m not sure I’ll continue with the series, but I both got annoyed and had fun with this one.

– Lynn Spencer

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.