Review: Stripped by Marcia Colette

I was excited to win a copy of Stripped by Marcia Colette from the Deadline Dames. The author’s post there seemed fresh, open, and friendly. I liked her immediately and immensely. So when I won the giveaway, it made my day.

Here’s the official back cover copy:

Someone wants their perfect weapon back, only she’s not coming quietly.

Alexa Wells wants her life back. She’s just not sure what that life was. The memories inside her head—a stripper’s—aren’t hers, and before she humiliates herself onstage one more time, she sets out to collect the scattered pieces of her mind. The trail leads to Boston, charges of identity theft and murder, and the real bombshell: a forgotten werewolf lover who insists she’s a werewolf hybrid.

Matt York doesn’t care that she looks at him like he’s been smoking crack between court cases. Now that he has her back he’s not about to let her go it alone, even if she can easily kick ass and take names all by herself. Amnesia only scratches the surface of her problems, and like it or not, she’s stuck with him.

She’s also stuck with Robert Gamboldt, a venture capitalist who’s not above murdering his way to the top. He’s not about to lose his prize possession without playing dirty. It’s a simple enough offer. Be his personal assassin, or go to jail.

With options like that, it’s enough to make a hybrid go full-blood.

Warning: Delicious sexual tension with a werewolf who’ll wait as long as it takes for his hybrid werewolf mate to come around.

I jumped into Stripped immediately, and it was a bit like leaping into the deep end of the pool. Alexa has woken up on the stage of a seedy south-west strip club with no memory of who she is or how she got there. The rest of the book is spent gathering bits and pieces of her past life, meeting the people she’d known and loved before, all while dodging mysteriously-powered bad guys and the cops.

The characters are vivid, fully realized people – with the exception of the ultimate baddie (Gamboldt), whose motivations fell a little flat to me. I suppose money and power are a good enough reason to become involved in mind control, exploitation and murder. We didn’t, however, get to learn much of what started our baddie on his path to mayhem and homicide.This made him a bit one-dimensional, but there’s so much else going on in the story that you don’t notice too much.

Our main characters and even the supporting cast, on the other hand, are bright and lovable. My personal favorites were Charles and Flora, the elderly couple who helped Alexa run her bed & breakfast. The romance between Alexa and her werewolf beau, Matt, was hot and believable – sure to please any fan of paranormal romance.

I do have a couple of beefs with this book, however.

Firstly – one of the times that Alexa gets re-kidnapped, it’s because a servant of Gamboldt surprises her in a dark room. This shouldn’t have been a big deal for a werewolf hybrid with enhanced sight and hearing. Except that she focuses on sounds from upstairs and outside instead of watching out for the baddie in the room with her. This doesn’t ring true for a woman who has previously hunted with (and killed) werewolves. This two-page scene ends with her suddenly unconscious, and then immediately jumps to her dancing back on stage at the strip joint. I’m sure that the author meant for the transition to be jarring, but instead of leaving me surprised at the turn of events, it left me skeptical. Alexa didn’t even fight back – and that seems completely out of character for her.

My second beef has to do with the wrap-up at the end. The final fight scene, though chaotic, was satisfying. But with the last two chapters (or technically – the last chapter & epilogue), we’re suddenly skipped forward in time by first two weeks and then several months. The last chapter is 5 pages, and the epilogue is less than 2. This makes for a lot of condensing. We’re told (not shown) that Alexa now has her memories back, and that Matt would “give up the entire world” for her. In the epilogue, we’re skipped “several months” forward and told about Alexa and Matt’s future plans (which I won’t spoil by listing here for you). It’s good to have the wrap up,  and according to the author’s website Stripped is actually a prequel, so I can see why Colette would want to condense the “boring stuff” that happens between novels. But I think it could have been handled better. I felt like I was being related a second-hand account of those events, instead of being engaged with the characters’ ultimate decisions.

Personally, I’d classify Stripped as leaning more toward paranormal romance instead of urban fantasy. This book definitely has a strong (and steamy) romantic element, and the HEA (Happily Ever After) of the ending is my personal criterion for the difference between the two. Alexa also depends on Matt’s help and rescue much more than your typical UF heroine would — in my opinion, of course.

Even with my complaints, though, I really enjoyed the story and characters. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read this book. I would much rather read a book like this one with an awesome hook but a little rough on mechanics, than one with perfect mechanics and a bland story. The plot was unique, despite the fact that werewolves have gotten a bit tired lately. That is no fault of this author, though, and she does well to include Alexa’s back story of how she became a half-breed werewolf hybrid.  With the exception of the one scene I mentioned above, I believed in Alexa’s decisions and motivations. I’d definitely read more about her exploits, and I recommend this for anyone who enjoys werewolves, kick-ass heroines, or paranormal romance.

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