on Oct. 2, 2015 :
“Why don’t you tell me how long you’ve had lycanthropy?”
And with that line, Harley Easton’s novella Turn to Me, her first attempt at long-form erotica after being published in several anthologies, takes a turn in the literal sense. What begins as a somewhat standard setup for this genre – new girl in the office engages in belligerent banter with co-worker that builds towards unrequited sexual tension before throwing out the modifier “unrequited” – goes a bit deeper and more specific into the domain of the supernatural: the co-worker, a detective, is a werewolf, and she has Were blood but is unable to fully change. With no real foreshadowing of its pulp horror subject matter (save, perhaps, the white wolf on the cover, which I completely overlooked), the sudden appearance of this line early in Turn to Me disarms the reader, albeit in the best way possible, and provides an added dimension that carries Easton’s work above the erotica AND werewolf tropes that it concurrently embraces.
Chrissy returns home to Michigan in immense grief: her parents had been killed in a car accident many months prior, leaving her with the family cabin and a nearby rental property but little direction on where to pick up the remaining pieces of her life. She starts by taking a file clerk position at a nearby police department, where a homicide detective, Landen, starts catching her eye in spite of his seeming unwillingness to reciprocate. Coincidentally, Landen is also renting the lakeside property she has inherited, and his stays are coordinating very neatly with the lunar cycle.
On one such weekend, Chrissy decides to confront Landen at the property, revealing that she knows he’s a werewolf, albeit one very uncomfortable with such periodic changes of skin. She reveals her heritage; as a “Skip,” she is the daughter of two natural-born Weres, possessing many of the attributes of her parents (including a voracious appetite for sex around the full moon) short of actually making the change. She finds out he is a “Turn,” a human bitten or scratched by a werewolf who now must live the rest of his life as one. Chrissy hopes to use the weekend to train Landen to embrace his inner lycanthrope and their primal passions for one another, although the weekend also portends troubling secrets to be shared, not just by Chrissy, but by Landen.
Despite her relative newcomer status among the world of erotica, Easton excels at establishing fluidity with her writing. Turn to Me provides the right balance of intelligence and pragmatic word choice to make it a very quick read while also cerebrally stimulating. None of this subject matter is really “new” within this genre; yet, Easton has found the right flow and pace to keep the reader engaged, making Turn to Me a page-turner in the literal sense. Moreover, Easton refreshingly conveys sexual moments in a manner that maintains passion and raw energy while not resorting to being overly graphic. This maturity gears her approach more for older readers, being reminiscent of the red-bound Harlequin paperbacks of yore. Some may question whether the afflictions of the protagonist should lead to some “animalistic” moments in the literal sense, but that’s a matter of taste, and the restraint is more fitting with the tone.
In other areas, though, Easton has some difficulty tailoring her story within the novella format. The restrictions of the length compress the events of the story primarily into one weekend. Consequently, this prevents Easton from fully developing her world of Weres, and more specifically Were relationships. To compensate, Easton relies on the “imprinting” trope – one already stretched to its groan-inducing, creepy limits in the Twilight series – as a shortcut for presenting a long-term growth and development in Chrissy and Landen’s bond. Had the story been set over multiple lunar cycles, with the change of their interactions at the workplace over time serving as counter-commentary, Turn to Me would allow the reader to integrate in this world with less suspension of disbelief. Ironically, one could also argue that, given the context of this compressed timeline, Turn to Me actually suffers from a bit of ending fatigue. There’s a great beat at the end of Chapter 11 that provides a fitting resolution to this story; yet, Easton continues on for one more chapter, which provides no new developments other than underscoring how future events will unravel. Since the reader can already deduce these fates on his or her own, these last moments are completely unnecessary.
As Harley Easton begins to hone her craft, many of the narrative issues with Turn to Me will likely fade from her work. I suggest she consider expanding this story into a full novel, as the likability of her characters and the potential of a strong story centered on a burgeoning Were relationship is very much there. Easton’s writing style is already quite strong, and her ability to be sexy without resorting to being simply lewd makes her a worthy addition to the world of modern erotica: an “old school” perspective conveyed through modern eyes. Those positive attributes alone make Turn to Me and its author worthy of your attention.
(reviewed 30 days after purchase)