Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale

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Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale
Author: Joshua Skye
Publisher: Fanny Press
Cover Artist: Sabrina Sun
Genre: Paranormal M/M Romance
Length: Novella
Rating: 2 stars

A Guest Review by Sammy

Review Summary: A bold attempt at a paranormal romance that got bogged down by endless tirades about politics and religions.

Blurb: Alex lives in Wren, Pennsylvania—a small, conservative town with little to offer a young gay man. Wren doesn’t cater to minorities of any kind, let alone a group openly scorned by the community. So when Alex meets Morgan and finds himself the object of the handsome foreigner’s affections, he willingly tumbles head-first into a passionate, animalistic, and careless affair. Meanwhile, people are dying, victims of a wild animal that has supposedly wandered into town from the surrounding national forest. After a weekend of untrammeled lovemaking, Morgan disappears, and Alex becomes deathly ill. He is convinced he’s contracted a fatal venereal disease. Only after Alex has languished for days does his mysterious lover resurface. Alex discovers that he has indeed been infected, though not in any way he could have imagined: he is now a werewolf. Who else but his lover, a ruthless man/wolf, could be responsible for the deaths that are terrorizing the community? Bareback presents a new breed of lycanthrope, a thinking creature as sexual as it is savage.

Review: Well first things first–the blurb–well it is the synopsis of this story so, I don’t feel the need to waste your time or mine rehashing that. Instead, I will focus on what worked in this novella and what went wrong.

So, I thought the best way to do this might be a sort of point/counterpoint. (Bear with me–I promise to never try this again if you and I hate the format by the end.)

Point: There was at the heart of this novella the beginning of a very good romance story. Alex and Morgan had great potential to become a couple that you would want to cheer on–see succeed and watch grow. The two young men were likeable characters–and I found myself wanting to know more about them. There was a heat in their encounters, a spark that you could feel in the text and Alex’s lust for Morgan was palpable.

Counterpoint: Unfortunately the beginning sputtered out too soon and so the main characters never seemed to develop. In fact, by the end of this story, you knew little else other than the fact that both men hated the town of Wren, as well as most of the people living there and they were leaving as quickly as possible. Their sex was fierce, I think they liked one another, they had obviously mated, and, well, that’s about it. Not much else to say.

Point: Werewolves as a genre are often overdone and campy. Not so with this rendition. While traditional aspects of what we know about shape-shifters from other novels were hinted at, these creatures developed by Joshua Skye were uniquely different. More half man and half wolf yet possibly with the potential to be all or either. They had a keen awareness of their sense of self–never giving over to their animal tendencies completely. They were, as a result, more compelling to read about and more than once I wish they had more page time.

Counterpoint: Ok, that is true but…are these wolves or men with overactive hair growth and long tongues? The descriptors used to show Alex’s transformation from man into beast were really exciting–almost painful to read because there was all kinds of bone snapping and spine jutting and long tongue lolling. But then he shifted to this man beast thing and I got totally confused–was he a wolf?? A half wolf/half man hybrid? In need of a good shave? I just was so lost.

Point: The storyline had amazing potential. It was very suspenseful at parts–was it really Morgan killing these people or some other unknown beast? When Noni, Alex’s sister, is stalked and attacked by the wolf-like beast my heart was in my throat and I was running with her–trying to escape. The secondary characters were interesting, but, alas,  undeveloped.   There were many avenues that this novella chose to venture down and each had great possibilities; they just never seemed to advance beyond the basic introduction.

Counterpoint: Storyline? What storyline. Many times this seemed to be a series of vignettes tied loosely together with very little connecting interaction. We were in the story listening to employees discuss the fact that no one wanted to go to a company picnic and then all of a sudden this guy Kyle remarks that neither his boyfriend or girlfriend would want to attend. Wait. What did I miss? Four paragraphs before this the author was standing on his soapbox yelling about religion and how most of the town were bigoted religious fanatics. Mind you–I agreed with most of this rant–but it was endless and if Kyle is part of a menage how did this fit in with this uptight conservative town?

Then we switch to a scene where an older male employee is going down on a secretary–an older, buxom secretary–(think your grandmother). Shudder. What is going on here? Who are they and why am I watching a m/f sex scene in the middle of an M/M romance?

Does anybody remember the show Twin Peaks? Well, welcome to Twin Peaks, the lost Werewolf stories. Each time I thought I had a handle on where this novella was going, another strange side story would yank me right out of the flow and leave me just absolutely frustrated.

Point: This story had some very important things to say about organized religion, it’s false and bigoted doctrine, and it’s propensity to spread hate. Bareback also had critical analysis of the current political environment, it’s blatant marginalizing of gay rights and it’s obvious repression of free speech. I think this author made some very valid and reasonable assertions and exposed the hate mongering that can be viewed as an earmark of the conservative right.

Counterpoint: I get it. I do. You really did not have to wax prosaic every few pages on the ills of society.  I lost the story–it became a mere addendum to your political views. Please–you have to learn to reign yourself and your views in a bit. They are important–most definitely but this is not a poli-sci term paper, it is a paranormal romance novel–just tell the story!

And that is why this novella, Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale is only a 2 star rating, because every time I felt like it was going somewhere–that we were making progress–the story would hit another wall and I would be left dazed and feeling just a bit cheated.  The story got lost, the political and religious critique was indulgent and so many nice plot elements as well as characters were never fully developed. I think this writer has great potential but this was not his finest hour. He bears watching, does Joshua Skye, that is for sure. However, this story? Well, as always, dear reader, I leave it up to you.

2 thoughts on “Bareback: A Werewolf’s Tale

  1. Sirius

    Ooooo I love unusual take on werewolves – but based on your review it is very likely I will be annoyed at non existent character development and political lectures ( I have no problem with politics in the story if they enhance it). Pass. Thanks Sammy.

    1. Sammy Post author

      I really wish he would have had an editor who kept the basic story on track–it was such a good beginning. :sad:

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