My Rating: 4.5 stars: Loved it - enthusiastically recommend (A)
Originally posted: http://www.twimom227.com/2012/12/review-kept-by-shawntelle-madison.html
WARNING: this review discusses multiple plots that occur throughout the book. Due to the nature of how the book is set up, I may reveal things about the story that some would consider spoilers. So, if you don’t want to know anything that happens in this book, you may want to avoid my review!
After surviving numerous attempts on her life and helping her former pack win an attempted takeover battle, Natalya (Nat) Stravinsky realizes it’s time to work past her mental and emotional issues and rejoin the South Toms River pack. Kept opens a few months after the conclusion of the first book, Coveted. During dinner with Nat’s family, it appears that her relatives have welcomed her back into the fold (she’s been a rogue wolf for the past several years, having been kicked out of the pack). However nasty Auntie Yelena (dad’s sister), reminds Nat, as well as the rest of the family, of Nat’s past failures. Yelena apparently lives to put down, degrade and bully Nat.
At dinner, we learn that Nat will have to compete in some sort of trial to rejoin her family’s pack (and that she’s supposed to be training). We also catch up on family events (like the wedding of Nat’s brother Alex). In addition, Nat overhears her parents in a serious conversation that leaves her a bit worried.
Nat’s concerns blossom to fruition, when her dad goes missing. He’s gone back to Atlantic City, where he once worked for a crime syndicate, to repay a “moon debt.” Nat’s training for the trail is put on hold, while she, along with Alex and her ex-lover (and future pack Alpha), Thorn, journey south to save Nat’s father.
Although there is a lot that happens in Kept, I enjoyed the crossing storylines and changing scenes. Early on, we get insight that Nat is lonely. She's working on her OCD and learning to deal with changes in her schedule (thanks to her therapist). She has blown off training to get back into her pack, which tells me that although she says she really wants back in, she's scared that she'll fail and remain the outsider. And although she’s back in with her family, she doesn't feel like she has too many wolves on her side. But what we do see is that Nat finally has some spine and believes in herself. This is such an improvement from her behavior in Coveted.
The next section of the book is dominated by Nat’s attempts to save her father. She agrees to fulfill his moon debt, and the first task is to retrieve a missing item from a goblin. With Thorn at her side, they take on the task, and we finally get some one-on-one time between Nat and Thorn. I was NOT a fan of Thorn after the first book. I was hoping this alone time would win me over, but during the first half of the book, I still felt like he is a total ass. He has no people skills and apparently thinks only about himself.
After that task is completed, Nat must drive a delivery truck north to a pack in Maine. She has no idea what the cargo is, but understands that it’s not going to be a safe journey. For this part of the story, we get some excellent group bonding action. Nat is accompanied by her friends from therapy, including her other potential love interest, the good wizard Nick. The trip to deliver the mysterious freight was one of my favorite parts of the book. I enjoyed the group of friends working together. They make a great team. In addition, the action was excited and much better than the first book. I also enjoyed the tender scenes between Nick and Nat.
When Nat fulfills the blood debt halfway through the story, I wondered what would happen for the rest of the book. It’s here that the story shifts back to the pack and Nat’s personal life. We witness Nat interacting and learning from her Grandma about Old Magic. We find out more about Nick. And we also witness more of Nat’s loneliness and continued outcast status, even though she saved her father. At a Welcome Home party, Nat starts to finally see the that Thorn is sort of a jerk. Then at a family dinner, Yelana is utterly horrid to Nat, and once again Nat is unable to stand up for herself. Although the scenes were tough, I felt that they added some needed emotional depth to the book.
One of the things that I really enjoyed in Kept, that was missing from Coveted, was the intimate and honest dialogue between Nat and various characters. Nat and Nick share some fabulous moments, some of which hurt a bit emotionally. Likewise, Nat and Heidi (her mermaid friend) also share a few tender moments. Also, Nat and Thorn finally air everything that has passed when they were apart for five years. Each of these interactions made for a much richer overall story.
When Nat and Thorn finally have their moments, it is both hot and romantic (even in a run down cabin), but also incredibly heartbreaking. Thorn is obligated to another (total b*tch), and although he says he is willing to put aside his duties and commitments, Nat is not. However, the truth and weight of pain is finally out in the open, and I have to admit, even I fell for Thorn (at last!)
The story concludes with Nat’s attempts to rejoin her pack. The physical trial for Nat was as good as any action scene. I loved that some of her fellow competitors helped her out. It shows that despite what some may say or even what she thinks of herself, she is liked. The final battle was gruesome, but a good fight scene. I don't feel like it was cut short or ended too quickly.
Overall Kept is near one-hundred percent better than its predecessor, Coveted. Although there is a LOT that happens, and the scenes shift dramatically within the book, the storylines and dialogue are tight. In addition, there is great emotional depth, giving the book the extra heft needed to make it so good. Kept has everything I enjoy in a story… great heart, action, romance and a happy ending that didn't compromise our heroine.