Elena Michaels is the only female werewolf in existence, but right from the start, it was all too easy - and painful - to see her trying to deny that part of herself. Bitten over a decade ago by the man she planned to marry, Elena's entire world changed. Despite all her attempts to acclimate into "normal" everyday life - she has a boyfriend she cares about, and a steady job - Kelley Armstrong weaves Elena's inner torment into the pages seamlessly enough that I at once sympathized with Elena: struggling to belong, fearing she doesn't fit in anywhere. When she goes home to Stonehaven (the home of the current Alpha, and her foster-father figure, Jeremy) Elena's past comes back in the form of her Pack brothers, and her former lover, Clay.
And oh, did I fall head over heels for Clay and Elena. From the first "Hey darlin'," and that Lousiana drawl all the way to the very last page, I was completely invested in them. Their romance was more than a little tortured, with their past always right there between them. They had their issues, huge ones that at times made me want to grit my teeth for worrying if they would get past them. The tension between them made the book hard to read sometimes, but in that awful, good, emotional way that happens when you (or in this case, I,) really connect with two characters.
I found myself invested in all of the main characters. Kelley Armstrong does a fantastic job of creating this cast of characters that I immediately wanted to know more about. Even the characters that are only mentioned and/or seen a few times do not feel flat or overlooked. Clay teems with mischief and emotional baggage, in a way that feels real. Jeremy is a stalwart and inspirational Alpha. Nick is fun-loving and loyal to his friends. And the list goes on. :)
Mutts, or werewolves that (usually by choice) are not a part of the tight-knit Pack are closing in on the Pack and its members. Elena is worried for her Pack family, and at the same time, dealing with the resurgence of her formerly somewhat buried feelings for Clayton, who bit and turned her.
The plot, as it unfolds, just kept me almost breathless. I stayed up too late two nights to finish this book. I loved the mythos of the series - how many werewolf books have there been, have I read, and how pleasantly surprised was I to see that this particular paranormal romance was indeed original, with new ideas that sets Bitten away from the rest of the pack (so to speak!) Kelley Armstrong has really put some serious thought into the rules of her spin on werewolves: the way they live, the enemies they make, and how they love. I couldn't turn the pages of this book fast enough, and when I finished it, I made sure I went out and bought the sequel, Stolen, right away!
I would have given this book a full five stars, but for one plot arc that really bugged me. I don't want to be spoiler-ish so I will just say that even though it was handled very well, maybe the only way it could have been and could have played out, it still left me a little disappointed. Other than that, Kelley Armstrong's urban fantasy Bitten is a truly solid and engaging read.