When He Was Bad
Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden
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Buy *When He Was Bad* by Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden online

When He Was Bad
Shelly Laurenston and Cynthia Eden
352 pages
June 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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When He Was Bad consists of two novellas featuring shapeshifters - a werewolf in the first story, and a werejaguar in the second.

'Miss Congeniality' is another of Laurenston's stories about the shapeshifter groups, this time wolves of the Van Holtz pack. The Van Holtzes are rich, important people and consequently much in demand at fundraisers for the local university. Dr. Irene Conridge is a child prodigy professor at the university, a woman who feels little emotion and whose relationships with men have been mostly pointless. When she bumps into Niles Van Holtz, or Van, as he's known, she assumes he's nothing special, just another handsome womanizer from a rich family. However, when Irene finds herself attacked by a pack of hyenas, Van wades in to rescue her - in his wolf form. Irene actually already knows about shapeshifters because her flatmate, Jackie, is a jackal; this means that when Van realizes he has to mark Irene for her own safety, she's reluctant. Van nonetheless gets his way, and they assume their lives will continue as normal - separately - after this.

But Van begins to discover the truth of his family's claims about marking, and Irene also finds that, despite Van being completely different from her, he can bring out the best in her and they can laugh together. When Irene is threatened by people who want to make use of some of her exceptional knowledge, she needs the assistance of the Van Holtzes and the other shapeshifters to keep her safe.

While a reasonable story, the plot feels thin at times, and most of the action consists of sex scenes between Van and Irene, rather more than strictly necessary. Irene's cold nature makes it hard to warm to her, and this reader wondered, along with her, what Van sees in her. It's a passable read, but nothing special.

The second story, 'Wicked Ways' by Cynthia Eden, is notably better. What struck me after finishing this story is that it doesn't feel like a novella or short story but has enough going on to feel like a full-length book. The characters are also well-rounded and fully portrayed, and the plot boasts a fair amount of depth.

When Miranda Shaw finds herself under attack from a man she's met on the Internet, she's rescued by her new neighbor, Cain Lawson. Her date was decidedly odd - mainly because he tried to drink her blood from her neck - but her rescuer doesn't seem entirely human either. Miranda soon discovers that Cain is something different and that he's a former FBI agent - and that the man who attacked her has killed other women and might well try for her again. The pleasantly feisty Miranda decides to help Cain and her cousin Sam, the local deputy, to catch the vampire. But Miranda doesn't know everything about supernatural creatures, and it might be harder to keep herself safe than she thought.

The relationship between Miranda and Cain is one of instant attraction/lust, but Cain has to overcome his reticence about human women disliking his animal state. Miranda seems fairly self-confident and centered, just slightly prone to doing her own thing at the wrong times. The story is overall very enjoyable, and Cynthia Eden achieves excellent pacing and some varied characters.

In conclusion, the better story by far is the second story, but 'Miss Congeniality' also makes for a reasonable read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Helen Hancox, 2008

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