Rogue, by Rachel Vincent (Mira 2008)

As part of making peace with her father, one of the most powerful werecats in North America, Faythe Sanders has taken on the job as one of his enforcers. With her partner/boyfriend Marc, she helps to keep unaffiliated werecats — strays — from trespassing in their Pride’s territory, which encompasses a great deal of south-central America. It’s not what she wants, but as one of the very few female werecats around, she’s obliged to serve the Pride. However, when dead strays start turning up in their territory, Faythe realizes that there’s something going on, and the answers won’t make anyone happy. Guided by one anonymous phone call after another, she and the other enforcers turn up a series of dead werecats, as though someone’s on a journey and leaving corpses in their wake. But what does this have to do with a number of missing human women? And why is Faythe’s ex-boyfriend, a man she hasn’t seen since she left college months ago, now leaving her increasingly bizarre, threatening phone calls? Murderers, mysteries, grudges and indiscretions, they’re all converging on Faythe just when she’s trying to figure out her future. Marc’s getting serious, and Faythe’s not sure she’s ready for that level of commitment. . . .

There’s a lot happening in Rogue, but it all ties together as the story progresses, and not always in predictable ways. At times it feels like the characters were making some convenient leaps of logic, but in general, the underlying mysteries were fairly well laid-out. There were enough surprises planted along the way to keep the reader from getting complacent, and the addition of several new characters into the mix helps to spice things up. Unfortunately, the part of the story that didn’t work for me is the relationship between Faythe and Marc. He’s a little too demanding when it comes to reassurance and emotional reciprocity, and too quick to take things the wrong way, while she’s a bit too self-absorbed and unwilling to compromise on the important issues. Naturally, this makes for a lot of arguing and hurt feelings, and their relationship just doesn’t seem like one that could last long-term without some serious work on both their parts. I hope we see some more growth in this area if they’re meant to be the central couple in a series that’s as much romance as it is urban fantasy. Faythe wins points in my book, however, for ‘fessing up when she realizes she’s the inadvertent cause of a major problem, rather than trying to hide her suspicions. It bodes well that she’s willing to accept the consequences, though we won’t find out just what happens as a result until the next book.

Rachel Vincent has created an interesting, if somewhat stylized, society for her werecats to inhabit, where the males vastly outnumber the females, and the females are supposedly relegated to breeding and status symbols, and not much more. It’s clear that there’s more to it than that, but we’re still getting the information in bits and pieces. We get to see Faythe’s mother in action, which is a nice change of pace, and another moment of revelation, for us and Faythe.

I’ll definitely pick up the third in the series, if just to see how Faythe deals with the consequences of her actions, and to see if she and Marc have any chance at a lasting, loving, relationship after all. It’ll likewise be nice to see more of the werecat world, and how it works on a grander scale. Rogue, like Stray before it, is a perfectly pleasant paranormal romance, and the use of werecats as its central conceit helps to distinguish it from others in the field. I enjoyed it.

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