Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Better Watch Out by Kate SeRine
Published by Kensington Books on October 17, 2023
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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Miscast as the villain most of his life, Seth "Big Bad" Wolf never believed he would get his very own happily ever after—until he found it with Lavender Seelie, Cinderella's former fairy godmother and the Tale whose magic transplanted them from Make Believe to the ordinary human world. But now, as the holidays draw near, Seth senses something dark in the winter wind, something deadly that threatens the peace and happiness he's finally found. And one thing's for sure—whatever evil is coming to town better watch out, 'cause there's nothing Seth won't do to protect his family, even if that means unleashing the full fury of the wolf he keeps caged inside…
Better Watch Out is a novella set in the world of Transplanted Tales and could be considered the 6th book of the series. Set as Christmas time, this is a fun look at Seth and Lavender’s life after settling down and having a little one of their own. Christmas is almost here and some of the children of their sleepy little outcast town for Fairy Tales have gone missing, snatched in the night. Seth and Lavender know of the dark tale from Make Believe responsible. They have only a short time to find the kids before they end up devoured.
Seth was the villain, the Big Bad wolf for so long that he has a uneasy relationship with the creature he can turn into. But he will draw on every bit of its strength to find the kinds and the evil that has stolen them. Lavender and their child means everything to him and no price is too high to pay to keep them both safe. Lavender, on the other hand, is not one to sit back when the fight comes to their hometown. She was a flop as Cinderella’s godmother and she might be the person whose magic drew some of Make Believe into the real world but she is not going to sit at home while the man she loves goes out to fight monsters and things that go bump in the night. Good thing Grandpa can come babysit.
I liked this Christmas type tale with some characters from a story I never read that snatch children before the holidays. It was an interesting take on what life after your happily ever comes. Both Seth and Lavender love their new life but also feel a little restless that there hasn’t been any real danger since their story in The Better to See You. Each longing for some kind of adventure, they both feel a little bad when the adventure comes, but with it all the children of their town are in danger. Better Watch Out explores the whole be careful what you wish for idea and how to find new adventures after happily ever after comes.
Like many novellas set in a specific worlds you should have at least read to The Better to See You if not the entire series to really be able to really enjoy the story. While it could be read as a stand alone, I don’t think the characters would pop enough since you wouldn’t have their backstories.
The Better to See You
Along Came A Spider
Better Watch Out
Monsters are real.
I don’t give a shit what you’ve been told. Those brave reassurances from well-meaning parents meant to assuage childish fears that torment you in the lonely, murky darkness? Total bullshit.
The shadows that slither across the walls, undulating with foul purpose, just on the edge of moonlight? Exactly what you feared. Monsters in the closet, ready to pounce. Under the bed, waiting to grab your innocently dangling feet and drag you down into their hellish realm, eager to tear the flesh from your bones and devour your soul.
I would know.
I’ve spent most of my life hunting monsters down, bringing them to justice—dead or alive—even before I was cursed to become a monster myself. Then the hunter became the hunted, living life on the run, hiding in those very same shadows I knew harbored the worst abominations.
I thought it’d be better after we Tales were transplanted to the Here and Now, living among the very same Ordinary humans who’d told our stories for centuries. But freed from the constraints of our narratives, the monsters that had once been confined by plot and characterization and literary conventions were made flesh. And once more, I was forced to bring them down, even while trying to keep myself from being pinned with every attack on Tales and Ordinaries alike.
Then I met her. Lavender Seelie. Former fairy godmother to Cinderella and currently my heart, my love, my life. When she came crashing into my world—quite literally, actually—I realized just how empty my life had been. And this beautiful, powerful force of nature filled my world with light and love, healing my broken places, giving my life purpose again.
Together, we’ve battled not only our own demons, but also the monsters who threatened everything we’d built in the Here and Now and everyone we care about. Loving Lavender has given me the kind of strength that I’d always imagined I had but had never actually realized. And then she blessed me with the most amazing gift of all—she loved me in return, despite all my failings and mistakes and self-pity.
I owe her my life.
And for the last five years, we’ve lived in blissful quiet, healing each other’s wounds, building our own little corner of the world, confronting whatever came our way with the kind of courage that only being truly loved can inspire. And when we were blessed with our daughter Violet, that courage increased ten-fold.
Holding that baby girl in my arms for the first time made me feel invincible. Me. Seth Wolf. You’d know me better as the Big Bad Wolf, one of the most hated and hunted Tales in both Make Believe and the Here and Now. The same guy who had—once upon a time—been so devoid of hope that he’d kept a silver bullet hidden in a book of poetry, a last resort in case the monster ever completely consumed the man. I’m a big guy and my wolf is pretty impressive. But I’m definitely not bad. Just misunderstood and profiled by people looking for someone to blame.
Okay, yeah, back in Make Believe I’d had a history with Tess Little, aka Little Red Riding Hood. But I wasn’t some predatory asshole stalking her in hopes of a hot lunch. She was a grown woman, and we were lovers. And the only harm I ever did was break her heart—and my own, for the record. But that was a long time ago and we’re still close friends, our paths crossing again while she was investigating a gruesome series of murders (for which I was a suspect, of course) a year or so before I met Lavender—which, coincidentally, was a meeting engineered by Red.
And don’t get me started on the Pigg brothers. Those pricks were fleecing people out of their hard-earned money with their shoddy building practices. They got what was coming to them.
So, yeah, what you’ve read about me is bullshit.
These days I’m a husband, a father, a restauranteur and chef…hell, I’m even the de facto law enforcement, the local representative of the Fairytale Management Authority—or FMA—in the little town of Tales we call the Refuge. My life is perfect now—as quiet and calm and blissfully happy as I’d always dreamed.
So, what the hell was my problem?
As the holiday season ramped up, Christmas just a week away, my wife and daughter literally glowed with excitement and joy (hey, they’re fairies; it’s their thing) as they looked forward to all the festivities, the time with family and friends, the visit from Santa. But I had reverted to my old brooding ways.
The truth is, I didn’t trust this perfect peace. Still didn’t think I deserved it. And I missed the monsters.
I mean, not the actual monsters. They could fuck off and die. But it was what I knew, what I could control, especially before, when I’d only had me to worry about.
I missed the adventure, the hunt, teaming up with the woman I love to kick some ass… I wanted that again. Wanted the danger, the adrenaline rush, the victory over evil, the feeling that I’d made the world just a little safer, a little better for the people I care about.
And, hell, I don’t know…maybe it was because I was a dad now that I felt it was a moral imperative to protect my sweet girl and every other child from the foul, vicious, malignant miscreants I knew were out there, waiting to strike.
I had to do something.
The inactivity was driving me crazy. I couldn’t just sit on my ass and let everyone else deal with the dangers of the world. Otherwise, what good was I? What did it matter that I’d once been a formidable force against every evil under the sun and every villain hiding in darkness?
But, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
’Cause one thing’s for sure: When you’re a Tale, you better watch out wishing for monsters to darken your doorstep. You never quite know what the hell could be coming to town…
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