Review by Jeff Edwards
Margaret L. Carter. Windwalker’s Mate Amber Quill Press, 2008. ISBN#1-60272-940-9
Asleep or awake, Shannon Bryce feels like she’s trapped in a nightmare. Plagued by disturbing dreams of an alien landscape, Shannon’s sense of foreboding only grows stronger in the daylight: “Freak winds” seem to follow her four-year-old son Daniel wherever he goes, and now the boy’s grandfather – recently released from prison – is beginning to follow him, too. Shannon has no choice but to contact her former lover, Nathan Lange, for help. But is Nathan really the father of her child, or just another tool of an ancient creature threatening to invade our dimension?
In Windwalker’s Mate, Margaret L. Carter attempts an interesting experiment: a Lovecraftian romance. The novel – an odd amalgamation of “The Call of Cthulhu,” Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen – features plentiful Lovecraftian references such as “ruined cities of cyclopean stone blocks” and a “cosmic cycle” in which the stars align so “the Ancient Ones from Outside can break through.” Carter demonstrates her grasp of Lovecraft’s worldview when she describes the sky as “a flimsy sheet of cardboard covering black depths of nothingness,” and when she writes, “None of the powers from Outside care about us one way or another.”
Despite her familiarity with the Mythos, however, Carter seems to have ignored Lovecraft’s assertion regarding supernatural horror in literature: “Atmosphere is the all-important thing.” Amidst the doom and gloom of Carter’s novel, we learn that Shannon feels compelled to “come up with a menu and a suitable outfit” for a meeting with Nathan, and that Nathan’s “deep, mellow voice made [Shannon] feel like a kitten being petted.” Clearly, such details serve to bolster the story’s romance, but they clash unforgivably with the author’s carefully-constructed mood of dread.
Regardless, the plight of emotionally-scarred Shannon Bryce will keep readers turning pages. A single mother trying to hold everything together on a shoestring budget, Shannon tortures herself with constant worry that someone will discover her dark secrets. She fervently wishes for a “normal” life and longs to forget her past. Yet, deep down, Shannon knows this is impossible: She cuts herself off from her boyfriend, but is reminded of him every time she looks at her son; she tries to suppress her own “wild talents”, but is dismayed to see similar abilities manifesting themselves in Daniel.
Readers can’t help but root for a wounded character like Shannon, and this brings us back around to the book’s failing: its split personality. Windwalker’s Mate is an oxymoron; a “Lovecraftian romance” simply cannot be. Lovecraft purists will know that Shannon is right to feel doomed: in an uncaring universe, everyone is damned at birth. Romantics, on the other hand, will cling to the hope that Shannon and Nathan will be reunited, and all will be well in the world.
Fans of paranormal romances who have grown weary of vampires and werewolves should find much to enjoy in Margaret L. Carter’s novel. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, however, may look upon Windwalker’s Mate as a forbidden tome better left untouched.