This is yet another popular urban fantasy series. It’s also a coming of age story where Elena Michaels struggles to find her place in the world as a werewolf. In fact, Elena is the only female werewolf in the world. The male ones are also pretty rare, though.

At the start of the story, Elena lives in Toronto with her boyfriend, who’s a normal human and doesn’t know Elena’s secret. She’s struggling to hide and suppress her werewolf side but in this world, a were has to change and run at least once a week no matter what the phase of the moon is. She can’t just suppress her urges so she has to travel far outside the city to run in secrecy. Her boyfriend Philip is worried when he finds out that she slips out at night all by herself especially when she can’t explain her behavior. Then her former Pack leader calls her for help. Elena doesn’t want to go to the Pack which lives in the country side of New York County but she lies to Philip that the caller is family and worried Philip practically forces her to leave and see what’s wrong. Elena leaves reluctantly and swears to herself that she’s going to get back to Toronto the next day.

However, the Pack is achingly familiar; there’s the leader Jeremy who cares for her almost like a father and Clayton who was Elena’s fiancé before she left. Then she finds out that someone is targeting the Pack and she has to stay and help her old friends.

The story is told in the first person and partly in the “now” intermixed with short glimpses of Elena remembering her past. I really like the first person narrative so it works well for me.

Elena was orphaned at a young age when both her parents died in an accident. She went from one foster family to another and was often abused, even sexually. Not surprisingly, she ran away when she was old enough to make it on her own. She dreamed of a normal life with a family of her own and she was successful enough to get into Toronto University. There she met and fell in love with Clayton. He was a werewolf and their tradition demands that the male werewolves don’t make permanent connections with women. A werewolf’s male child is taken away from the mother and raised among the Pack. Elena didn’t know that and Clayton had plans of his own.

Clayton bit Elena and made her a werewolf. That was quite a shock to her and it took over a year for her to finally accept her changed state. Not surprisingly, she had lots of conflicting emotions about Clayton. She was determined to have a normal life and fled from the Pack to Toronto. Unfortunately, she didn’t make her plans clear to the Pack. Clayton already considered the two of them married and expects Elena to return to him.

Considering the rather intense and conflicting history Elena has with the Pack, most of the members treat her warmly and accept her back fully. Clayton expects that they are back together and instead of making things clear to him, Elena enjoys frequent sex with him.

In this world, there’s only one Pack and the membership seems to be by kinship or adoption. The werewolves who aren’t members of the Pack are called “mutts”. The Pack’s leader Jeremy found Clayton when Clayton was very young and already a werewolf, and adopted him into the pack. Similarly, Elena was adopted into the Pack after she was bitten. The others’ fathers have all been Pack members. The Pack members all look down on the mutts so they all feel rather like a royal family to me.

There are some discrepancy between what Elena tells the reader about werewolves and how we see them behaving. For example, all the werewolves are said to be brutal and aggressive but the members of the Pack are quite friendly. However, the mutts are mostly rather brutal but that could be because of both plot purposes and because of the plans the mutts have.

For a woman who is thirty years old and has lived through quite a brutal life, Elena seems quite immature to me. She yearns for stability and a family. She has even realized that the family doesn’t have to be blood kin but could be one of chosen ties. And yet she doesn’t realize that the Pack supports her and nurtures her. Instead she tries to run away from them. Also, she has an attentive, kind boyfriend in Toronto and yet she almost instantly gets back into her relationship with arrogant and possessive Clayton who she claims to hate. Additionally, she doesn’t seem to realize that her relationship with Philip is based on quite fundamental lies even when she continues to invent stories about why she stays with the Pack.

I also feel that Armstrong makes Elena too special: she’s the only female werewolf in the world and so a prize to some werewolves. Also, the Pack goes out of their way to protect her. Clayton is completely fixated on her. Despite the name of the series (“Women of the Otherworld”) there were no other supernatural women in the book. Elena also doesn’t seem to have any female friends.

Overall: entertaining enough but I doubt I’ll continue the series.