Series: Secret McQueen, #0.5
Genres/Themes: urban fantasy, one-wild-night, short story, werewolf/vampire hybrid protagonist
Author: Sierra Dean
Excerpt: available at publisher website
This quick read was a lot of breezy fun. The protagonist, Secret McQueen, is the major draw here, with her wry sense of humor and complex identity issues. It's the perfect lead-in to the series--or a great way to sample the tone of the series before diving into book one.
Book Description (via Goodreads):
They say it's impossible to find a man in New York City. Secret McQueen needs to find two in one night. Of course, it’ll mean pulling off the impossible—find and kill a displaced rogue vampire without disrupting the first promising date she’s had in ages. As a werewolf hybrid used to walking a fine line of survival in the vampire world, though, Secret eats impossible for breakfast.
Somewhere between hello and the first round of drinks, Secret makes her move. Her target, Hollywood’s biggest star, shouldn’t be hard to spot. Just look for swarms of fans. Except every time her vampire liaison, Holden, helps keep her mission on track, her date runs further off the rails.
Either Holden has a hidden agenda, or he knows more than he’s letting on about her quarry. One way or another, Secret is determined to get her man, and meet Mr. Right. Or die trying.
What a freakin' surprise this little story was! The premise to this story seemed pretty no-nonsense, nice and straightforward. While that's exactly what it ended up being, I was charmed by the characters and quirky style of the protagonist, Secret McQueen.
The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters didn't have a whole lot in the way of exposition and world building, but I think that's the whole point. I hear that it was written (and certainly published) after the first full-length book in the series was released. So more than anything else, this story is something to whet the appetite, to fill in some of the tiny but promising tidbits alluded to in Something Secret this Way Comes. I'd personally recommend reading this before Something Secret, both because the events of Secret Guide chronologically come first, and because the read does not require great commitment and investment to be enjoyed.
As such, the plot moves fast here, but since there's not a whole lot of world building and complex character interactions, it reads like something of a quick procedural. It takes what would've been a straightforward event--Secret's date with a nice, "normal" guy--and throws everything in the path of preventing it occurring in a normal way.
I really liked Secret's narrative voice, perhaps more than any other aspect of the story. She's witty, sexy, and she's got a bit of a chip on her shoulder. I really liked the element of her being part vampire, part wolf; yes, I know we've heard of that trope before, but it works well here, allowing this feisty, judgemental protagonist to wrestle with not only real baddy monsters, but also the "monsters" within herself. But Secret's everyday observations were amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Whether she was high or low, she was always magnetic.
I must admit that I had some trouble envisioning some of the action scenes based on the descriptions. Granted, such scenes (along with "action" scenes, if you get my drift ^_^) can be be tricky to stage, especially if the choreography is complicated and the pace is really fast. There was one crucial scene in a subway that felt almost too frenetic to grasp. It was definitely a lot to untangle and figure out, at least for me.
But overall, this story was a lot of fun. It sets up a very promising world with a highly likable heroine. After finishing this one, I'd immediately followed up with Something Secret This Way Comes. I really think this will be a series for the urban fantasy masses.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"I really liked it."