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The Dog Days of Summer

I love to travel.  I’m fortunate to have summers off and that my husband travels nearly every week for work (well, that’s unfortunate) accruing thousands of flight and hotel points for our family to use to get away.  As a voracious romance reader, I always have too many books in my TBR at any time, and I often read what I hope to review.  But summer/travel reading is different!  On the road, I generally limit myself to one author and binge their catalog – bonus points if they have a long running series that will keep me occupied over many days.

Generally speaking, this hasn’t been a super great reading year for me (so far).  So, during trips this summer, I opted to re-read remembered favorites from my earliest days reading historical romance.  I worked my way through The Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas, all of Sherry Thomas’s standalone historicals (I fell in love with Not Quite a Husband all over again), the Rules for the Reckless series by Meredith Duran (every book improves on the one before it), and Duran’s standalone titles (I didn’t enjoy these nearly as much the second/third time around).  But on my most recent trip (a remote cabin in Maine with no electricity, wi-fi, or AC, and an outhouse – THE WORST), I re-read the Howl at the Moon series by Eli Easton, before picking up the newest book in the series, How to Run with the Wolves.  This was an excellent idea my friends.

The Howl at the Moon series centers on the small remote (fictional) town of Mad Creek, tucked away in the California mountains.  Against all odds, Mad Creek has managed to keep a very big secret:  half the town is made up of ‘quickened’ – dogs who can shift into human form.  The series kicks off with How to Howl at the Moon, in which we meet human Tim Weston, who has lost everything.  After discovering his boss patented all of Tim’s vegetable hybrids under his own name, Tim quit the business.  When a friend offers him a free place to stay for six months in exchange for an elusive rose hybrid, Tim takes off.  With limited savings and little more than the clothes on his back and the plants and seeds he was able to keep away from his boss, Tim arrives in town depressed and a bit desperate.  Hoping to grow enough vegetables to sustain a small farm stand business, Tim is determined to survive and thrive in his new home.

Strangers are a rarity in Mad Creek, so when Sheriff Lance Beaufort (a Border Collie in his dog form) catches Tim’s scent in the local diner, he decides to find out just what Tim’s doing in his town.  Communities close to Mad Creek are struggling with an influx of illegal marijuana farms – and Tim’s scent reeks of the plant.  Lance decides Tim is up to no good (unbeknownst to him, Tim hitchhiked much of the way to Mad Creek and picked up the scent from one of his rides), and he launches an investigation into Mad Creek’s newest resident.  The highly unorthodox ‘investigation’ takes on a life of its own and Lance soon finds himself regretting his actions – and falling hard for the awkward, handsome, loveable Tim.   Along the way, readers get to know more about the town and the humans and quickened who call it home – many of whom become recurring secondary characters – and with every story, I fell more and more in love with Mad Creek and this series.

Look friends, I’m not a pet owner, but Easton obviously loves dogs, and she imbues each of these unique stories with that love.  All of the books are variously charming, sweet, low-angst, romantic, and funny, and the series is simply a delight.  And whether or not you like dogs (or animals, really) or shifters, the pleasures of this series are hard to resist.  Each book introduces readers to a new principal character (some human, some quickened) and then chronicles his path to happily ever after.  Mad Creek couples mate for life, and there are no cliffhangers anywhere in sight.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be either How to Howl at the Moon (book one) or How to Walk Like a Man (book two).  But I’ve enjoyed every book in the series, and the newest, How to Run with the Wolves, introduces a new pack that will feature in a future series.

Howl at the Moon is everything I want in a fun summer/travel series.  Funny, sexy, sweet…and at five books, the series is a solid DIK for this reader.  Do you differentiate summer or travel books from your regular reading?  What are YOU reading this summer?

~ Em Wittmann

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