Title: Werecat: The Rearing (Werecat #1)
Author: Andrew J Peters
Length: 21k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal
Heat: 2 – Tame (mostly not explicit)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, Shifters (Big Cats), Mythology, Homeless, NYC, Montreal, Disappeared/Runaway, Psychological Control, Secrets & Lies, College, Flashbacks, Shifted Sex
Rating: Pretty Good
For Jacks Dowd, a college senior who feels ungrounded from his family and life in general, an alcohol and sex-infused weekend in Montréal sounds like a pretty good escape. His Spring Break binge takes a detour when he meets Benoit, an admiring drifter with startling green eyes. A hook-up turns into a day, two days, and then a full week in Benoit’s hostel, making love and scarfing down take-out food. But at the end of the week, Benoit demands that Jacks make an impossible choice: stay with him forever, or go back to college and never see him again.
There’s something dangerous about Benoit, but Jacks has fallen for him brutally. The night before Jacks is supposed to return to college, he finds Benoit in Mont Royal Park, where they first met, to try to work things out. Benoit springs on Jacks an unfathomable secret: he’s a mythical creature, half man and half jungle panther. He traps Jacks in an abandoned cabin and performs an occult rite so they will be mated forever.
I’ve been sitting on this one a month or two, waiting to read it. I’m glad that I read it, but also more intrigued than satisfied in a good story, though I’ll certainly read the second one, whenever it’s out.
We first meet Jacks on a supply run in the middle of the night in NYC. He stops at a familiar bodega to pick up some protein, saying hello to the familiar (and cute) clerk, then returns to his hiding place with Benoit, an old turned out warehouse. In flashbacks we see how Jack has come to this point, by meeting scruffy and serious Benoit while on spring break in Montreal after a bad night out and their weeklong tryst that never really ends. As we go through each subsequent flashback, introducing us to their relationship, Benoit’s many quirks, and how he came to be in NYC with him, now his boyfriend.
The blurb makes one half of this story quite obvious — Jacks’ time in Montreal with Benoit — but doesn’t go much beyond that point. I’m no real fan of flashbacks and I’m not sure that I could say that they brought anything particularly important to this story, but they’re a stylistic choice that slowly introduces us to the beginning of the relationship between Jacks and Benoit at the same time as everything starts to go wrong with them in NYC. Benoit, because of his age, is much more like a cat in nature than a human, which is definitely part of his growth as a character in the story. He’s possessive to a manic degree, but also seductive and beguiling to Jacks. Jacks is someone, at least to me, who seems to put on a good front of a simple college student but really likes to flirt with the edge. The allure of Benoit in Montreal, of a man in trouble that he can’t help but fall in love with is really about sex and danger than anything else. It didn’t quite endear me to Jacks, to say the least. In fact, I had trouble through a lot of this story about whether I could really feel their relationship. That is because it was moving in a direction that I wasn’t prepared for.
That change in direction is what galvanized my interest, however, and it doesn’t come until quite late the story. It makes reviewing this harder, no matter how much more enjoyment it gave me in the overall story. It makes this somewhat difficult to talk about while still withholding all the information. But it also means I can tell you that I’m even more excited to see what this author has in store for these characters next, and that I have to implore you to keep reading if you find yourself, at first, reading something that you weren’t quite sure you thought you were.
All of this, including the misdirection, makes for an interesting last minute move, but without the next story I’m still not quite sure if I can think of this as a prequel written first or not. Does this story show the direction for the rest? Or, is Andrew Peters waiting to throw us more curveballs?
I know this is a somewhat enigmatic review, so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like to be kept waiting, then I think you should probably wait for the next installment in this series to be published before you start reading. What I can tell you is that though I suffered through flashbacks 😉 I liked the writing style and I like that this author is keeping me on my toes. So, for now, this first story gets a Pretty Good, with a curious but tempered excitement about what is next to come.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors P-R, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Paranormal, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Andrew J Peters, Big Cats, Cat Shifters, College, Flashbacks, Homeless, Montreal, Mythology, NYC, Psychological Control, Runaway/Disappeared, Secrets & Lies, Series, Shifter Sex, Short Story, Vagabondage Press, Werecat series
Title: Shadows in the Night (Leap of Faith #1)
Author: MA Church
Length: 63,085 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Cat Shifters, Big Cats (Cougars), Native American, Mississippi, Grief/Death, Stalker, Secrets & Lies, Mate Bonding, Diverse Pairing, Light & Sweet
Rating: Pretty Good
When Chip Riley’s beloved granny passes away, she leaves him all her money, her land, and a house that needs some tender love and care. She never mentioned the legacy comes with a Native American shifter who intends to claim Chip as his mate.
Jason Sky has lived since buffalo roamed the land. When his totem spirit, a black cougar, saves a little girl, he doesn’t realize that generations later, her grandson will become his mate, leaving him to take on a modern man with modern ideas. But that’s the least of his problems.
Garon, another shifter with a long-held hatred for Jason, plots to kidnap Chip and lure Jason to his death. Soon Chip finds himself in an untenable position between a rock and a hard place. A leap of faith may be the only way to save himself and the man he’s learned to love.
Shadows in the Night is the first book I’ve read by MA Church. I was really in the mood for a shifter story when this book came up in the review rotation just prior to release, so I decided to take a chance. After all, I’ve been interested in several other books by this author, but I’ve never tried any of them. I got what I wanted, this is a shifter story. And while it would maybe be insulting to call it a simple shifter story, by which I mean maybe a classic shifter romance with mating bonds and all, that’s really what this is. And because of that, it was a satisfying read.
Chip grew up in a loveless home. His spoiled and cold mother and a workaholic absentee father made his relationship with his Granny grow and grow with age. Granny lived in a small town in Mississippi and every summer Chip escaped there to run in the grass, swim in the ponds and fish and play with his “horsie”, a very large black animal that he used to ride like a horse. He remembers those days with fondness when he loses his job and his Granny dies. It’s a low period for him, but it’s important to return to her home and the small town to pay respect to her and to remember such a wonderful, independent and loving woman, the only real mother Chip ever had.
His grandmother’s last words to him — “Trust him. He’s the one.” — baffle him, but Chip puts them out of his mind as he goes through her arrangements and her will. She left everything to him, which was surprisingly a large amount of money and her home and land. He no longer has to worry about finding a new job, which is freeing. Chip can spend the time he needs to go through her things and then live as he’s always wanted to, there in her house in the country. He soon meets the colorful characters of the town, her wizened lawyer, the creepy realtor, and his neighbor Jason, with beautiful Native features and long black hair. Jason seemed to know his Granny rather well and rather quickly Chip grows to know him well also. The two form a quick bond that seems perfectly right. It’s only when he’s nearly attacked by a tawny brown cougar and rescued by a black cougar — one that by all means shouldn’t exist — that things change drastically.
As I said before, in many ways this is a typical shifter story. We have a shifter and his secrets from the man he’s recognized as his mate, and the man himself who knows nothing of the paranormal world. There’s a mating bond and a threat coming from one of the men’s past that acts as a catalyst to move the plot and relationship forward. It makes an enjoyable read, but not a wholly original one. But, that’s okay. It’s all about what you like to read that will make this book good for you or not. I know that shifter stories such as this one do really well, because there are so many fans of shifters out there. There are also some of you that don’t like to read these stories that much. I fall somewhere in between. Every now and then I will always want a shifter story to fall back on and read. It’s comforting and why I’m a big proponent of not hating on the “fluff”. Sometimes that’s what you want to read, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, most people (or those that don’t read romance) would call all romance fluff as a blanket term (so let’s not nitpick people).
Anyway, sorry for going tangential on you. While I maybe wouldn’t define this completely as reading candy (in the fluff sense), it is mostly a lighthearted read. I found the shifter culture in this book to be rather interesting, in that there didn’t seem to be highly defined pack structure. The community of shifters are all related by Native American culture and Jason, when he finally must tell Chip everything, talks a bit about the creation of the shapeshifter. I liked this part of the book the best, and I found the author’s genesis of the shifter and their human’s relation to the animal totem to be pretty interesting. There is mention of a little detail about a representation of their totem that I really wanted to know more about that isn’t much explained, but hopefully that will come up in the next book. This story focuses mainly on Chip and Jason and their world in this book is incredibly insular. There are a few moments where other characters are present, but this book is highly focused on their relationship and their internal conflict, with the external conflict I mentioned before acting as a catalyst to their relationship’s progression. I’ll be really interested in reading the next book because I’d like to see if there is more of their native cultural history.
This is a fairly quick read and definitely a book that you should know if you’d like from reading the blurb and from reading this review. If you’re a fan of shifter stories then this is definitely something you’ll want to pick up. It’s not trying to push any boundaries or re-define the shifter romance novel, but that probably opens it up to a wider audience as well. Sometimes what you want to read is something that you know will give you pleasure and which you won’t have to stress over while reading. It makes for a pleasant experience and this was a book that I enjoyed. Plus, you’ll love Jason in bed. HOT!
Posted by Cole in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Big Cats, Cat Shifters, Diverse Pairing, Dreamspinner Press, Grief, Leap of Faith, Light & Sweet, MA Church, Mate Bonding, Mississippi, Native American, Secrets & Lies, Series, Stalkers
Title: Born This Way
Author: Poppy Dennison
Length: 25,383 words
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (just one [super hot] scene!)
Keywords/Tags: Shifters (Big Cats), Mate Bonding, Injured Character, Alphas, Teachers, Famous (friends), Music, Lawyers, Atlanta
Rating: Pretty Good
Dayton Whitmore injures his arm playing basketball with his lion-shifter friends, and his best friend asks Dayton to check on her estranged brother Hart while he’s in Atlanta visiting a specialist. Though Dayton and Hart were never close, he grudgingly agrees.
Banishment from his pride meant Hart Sherman could never see his family again. His liger heritage—a tiger mother and lion father—was a thorn in his alpha father’s side. He always planned to go back for Dayton, the man he knows is his mate, but he uses his career as an entertainment attorney as an excuse to avoid risking Dayton’s rejection. When Dayton shows up unannounced on his doorstep, Hart wants nothing more than to claim him.
Knowing what it means to be a lion’s mate, Dayton isn’t in any hurry to make a lifetime commitment. To convince Dayton he’s serious, Hart must come to terms with the circumstances of his birth—and find a place in the pride for them both.
Ever since finishing the finale of Poppy’s Triad series with Soul Magic (reviewed here), I’ve been really excited about this new release. At the time, I almost begged Poppy to tell me that she was going to write a spin-off about the kids in that series (Garon & Riley), only to have my poor heart crushed 😉 There is still a spin-off coming, also about cat shifters, but in the meantime this story isn’t associated with that series yet still, in some areas, I found reminiscent, like the pack politics.
Dayton grew up with Hart’s family, or pride. They welcomed him in as a kid with a mom who wasn’t around much and took care of him, making him one of their own. He exists in a strange kind of half adoption. While he’s part of the family and they consider him, a human, part of the pride, he still can’t really understand what it’s like to have a cat as a part of himself. Then there’s Hart, the son of the Alpha who was born as a cross-bred liger and subsequently more powerful than his father. His banishment ensured his father’s reign.
But even though Dayton doesn’t think Hart ever liked him much, Hart has a good reason why he’s willing to take the banishment. He’s known since they were teenagers and his first heat came over him that Dayton was his mate, but as an outcast among his own family, he couldn’t offer him much. In the years that Hart has been gone, forbidden any contact with the rest of his family, he’s made a career and a name for himself, all in the hopes of going back to claim his mate with a life to offer him. Somehow though, Hart can’t work up the nerve, knowing that accepting their mating may mean leaving his adoptive family behind. Having to face Dayton not choosing him is too hard, so they remain parted until Hart’s meddlesome sister Tawny, Dayton’s best friend, sets them on the same course. The ramifications, however, are more than any of them expected.
This was really a cute story and I think that it stands well on it’s own. I’ll say straight up, I was a little confused at first whether this was the spinoff that Poppy talked about, just because it has to do with cat shifters, but it’s not at all. Still, with the recent release and a similar type of story, I wouldn’t be surprised if people make comparisons. It’s probably bad to do that, in fact, because the Triad series had a real forward momentum that involved an overarching series plot. This story is different because it does stand alone. And while it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, it isn’t obviously just part one of a longer story. That means that the focus of this story is really the relationship, something quite different from the Triad series. And considering the characters and the setup of the plot, this story didn’t need a convoluted journey, no matter how much longer I wished it could have been so that I got to know the characters better and all that. It worked well as it is and I’m really just being greedy.
The story works in the Alpha Man trope with a larger stronger man and a smaller, more emotional and fragile man. But it also doesn’t play to stereotype, but allows the characters to become themselves as the story progresses and buck a few of those conventions. I think that the story could have benefitted from a little more concrete knowledge of the pack politics as well as some better knowledge of the secondary characters in the pack. Otherwise, the story mostly focuses on Hart and Dayton and uses the pack as a catalyst for the changes in their relationship.
I’m excited whenever I get a story to read from Poppy and this was no different. In particular, the two of these guys together are super steamy. Even though we don’t get more than one intimate scene with them, it packed a punch! Recommended, especially for fans of the author and fans of shifter stories.
Born This Way is available today from Dreamspinner Press!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors D-F, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Alpha Men, Atlanta, Big Cats, Dreamspinner Press, Famous, Injured Character, Lawyers, Mate Bonding, Music, Poppy Dennison, Shifters, Teachers
Title: Change of Heart, Trusted Bond, Honored Vow, and Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart series #1-4)
Author: Mary Calmes
Length: 74,682 / 91,717 / 97,139 / 68,260 words (respectively)
Genre: m/m Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty (Overall)
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex (Overall)
Keywords/Tags: Series, Shifters, Big Cats, Mating, Alphas, Egypt, Action/Adventure
Rating: Really Like It (Overall)
Change of Heart
As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn’t want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them. But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won’t give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint.
Jin Rayne is having trouble adjusting to the new life he’s supposed to love. Instead of adapting to being the mate of tribe leader Logan Church, Jin can’t get past the fact that his lover was straight before they met. He’s discovered the joy in belonging to Logan but fears his new life could disappear at a moment’s notice, despite Logan’s insistence that they are forever, end of story.
Jin wants to trust Logan, but that desire will be put to the test both by a rival tribe leader and by a startling revelation about Jin’s existence. At stake is Jin’s life and his place in the tribe. If he’s going to survive to see Logan again, he’ll have to release his fear and freely accept the bond, for only then can he truly trust.
Jin Rayne is still growing into his frightening new powers as a nekhene cat and his place as reah of Logan Church’s tribe when he learns that a sepat, an honor challenge, has been called. Logan, who has never wanted to do anything but lead his small-town tribe, must travel around the world to Mongolia and fight to become the most powerful leader in the werepanther world.
Logan won’t be the only one making the journey. As his mate, Jin must fight with him to honor his commitment to Logan, his culture, and his tribe. But the trial is long, involving a prolonged separation between the two men, and Logan’s humanity is at stake. In order to make it through the nightmarish sepat, Jin and Logan must accept their fates, trust each other, and honor the vows between them no matter the cost.
Crucible of Fate
In the secret city of Sobek, Domin Thorne is making his way as the newly chosen semel-aten, the leader of the werepanther world. He aspires to make sweeping changes—he’s set goals for himself and the people he chose to bring with him, modeling his reign after that of his friend, Logan Church. But Domin may have set too lofty a goal: his normal leadership style isn’t working. While juggling a homesick Crane, a moody Mikhail, a bullwhip-wielding Taj, servants with murderous intentions, a visiting ex, and a mate on a dangerous goodwill mission, Domin has to figure out his new role alone. He also must determine how to deal with a conspiracy, all the while falling hard for a man who, for the first time in Domin’s life, reciprocates that love. Whether Domin is ready or not, Fate has stepped in to teach him a lesson: internal threats are just as dangerous as external ones.
Change of Heart and it’s sequel, Trusted Bond were my first introduction to Mary Calmes’ work. As two (CoH & TB) of my very first reviews — ever — and in the first week at my gig reviewing at Jessewave, I hadn’t quite settled into my own rating system. So I wasn’t sure if my feelings and ratings would stay the same (then, 4.25 stars and 5 stars, respectively), because I didn’t have much to compare them with. I hadn’t even joined Goodreads at that point! It was later December of 2010.
I knew though, that if I were going to get caught up on this series and read the third book and the fourth, released just this week, that I’d need to read them all again. As much as I love a book, you have to understand, I very, very rarely re-read romance books. There are just so many that I have waiting to read for the first time that I rarely allow myself the luxury of going back to a favorite book. It has to be good, really good. So I was so happy to find out that I loved these books the second time around just as much as the first. And with a whole different arsenal in my possession — better analytical thinking and also a much wider breadth of experience reviewing m/m in particular — I found that I appreciated this series in ways I couldn’t the first time I read it. But really, I just loved Jin and Logan again and I doubt they’ll ever stop being one of my favorite couples.
I love Mary’s work, and in the past I’ve said that her paranormal/fantasy work has been so so while I tend to adore every contemporary she writes (which is the opposite of how I usually feel about romances). But re-reading this series has made me change my mind about that. This is my favorite series of Mary’s over all of them, and it is very paranormal.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, it works as a trilogy. The latest book, number four, deals with all of the same characters but with a change in focus from Jin and Logan to Domin and Yuri, two favorites from the first three books. It is a shifter world, focused on big cats and here’s your class on werepanther 101. We meet Jin in the beginning of the first book and he admits himself to be a “reah”. On the run with his best friend Crane (called a “beset”, meaning a companion of a “reah”), we don’t learn much about what Jin’s identity as a “reah” means other than that he’s extremely rare and everyone wants a piece of him, especially “semels”. A “semel” is the leader of a pack or tribe and are always male. They all wish to find their true mate (a “reah”), which is always a woman, but they’re so rare that most of them end up having to take a “yareah”, or a chosen mate. Now you see why Jin is so unique — he’s the only male “reah” known in existence.
In typical Mary Calmes’ fashion, they have enemies, lots of enemies. Everyone covets Jin so much, for his unique qualities and simply for the heart that pulls people to him which makes up a “reah”, that they’ll do just about anything to separate the two. The first three books follow the two as they travel the world making enemies and allies. Two of those are Yuri and Domin, from their tribe in Lake Tahoe. Yuri is Logan and Jin’s “sheseru”, the physical arm of the “semen” (Logan). He is in charge of security, specifically he is Jin’s protector. Domin was once a “semel” just like Logan, but due to his bad choices lost his tribe and was assimilated into Logan and Jin’s, becoming the “maahes” of the tribe, or the prince, whom acts as an emissary to the tribe. They have their own sub-plots during the series, only to be brought together at the end of the third book. Crucible of Fate takes over their story in Sobek, Egypt, their new home. But that is getting ahead of things!
There is something about these books that grabbed me and still hasn’t let go. I could analyze and critique, but the basis of it is that I love these books. And even though there are books I love more than others (in particular, the first and third), I know now that I’ll always love this series. She’s taking it to places that I never, ever expected, but I love it. It isn’t something that is just good, it is addicting, and I was sad when I finished Crucible of Fate.
With this last book in particular, I have to admit that I found it just a little disappointing. Right off there is an acclimatization necessary because it is the first story not about Jin and Logan. No matter how much I love Yuri and Domin, I was sad to say goodbye (even though they’re still there, sometimes) to Jin and Logan. Of course, I warmed up to getting their own story, but Domin’s voice is quite different and much more pessimistic, which took some time to get used to. All of that I could work with — it simply takes time after you’ve been with another character’s POV for so long. I did wish, however, that there was more romance in this book. So much of the love story between Yuri and Domin happens off page in the third book, when they’re first getting together, and then in Crucible of Fate their lives are focused on more pressing issues. But I missed that connection. They were together in a minority of the book and if I didn’t think that there would be another sequel coming (I see no reason it will stop here), then I’d be more upset. I’m hoping that with the way this one ended, that the next one will have them together for more time. And I’m certainly excited about the direction the series is starting to take for Domin, as well as getting to know quite a big part of the world that we weren’t privy to before.
So, while I loved this book because I loved the series, I’m more excited about the next book than I am about this one. It was satisfying enough, but since my expectations from the series are so high, it didn’t quite meet up. Also, reading directly after the third book made it difficult to live up to. Honored Vow, which I read for the first time in this read, I absolutely loved 🙂
So, please read this series! It is such a guilty pleasure read and there should be no negative connotations with that phrase here. It is simply that they are a pure pleasure to read and now that I know I’ll love them again and again, I’ll just have to make sure to read them all again the next time another book comes out.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors A-C, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Paranormal, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Action/Adventure, Alpha Men, Author Backlist Project - Mary Calmes, Big Cats, Change of Heart, Dreamspinner Press, Egyptian, Mary Calmes, Mate Bonding, Series, Shifters