No Mate of Mine by Lisa Oliver (review)

Tagline: Abandoned Omega and fated mate is rescued from the BDSM torture that made him a vampire’s favorite snack, meaning pack/coven relations may never be the same

No Mate of Mine Book Cover

Title: No Mate of Mine
Author: Lisa Oliver

Genre:  Male/Male Paranormal Romance
Format:  Novel (53k words)
Series: Bound and Bonded #5

Book sites: Author |  Goodreads

Publisher: Oliver Group (July 2015)
ISBN: 9781310423994

Retail: $3.99

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star  (I liked it alot! )


Synopsis: Roger, an enforcer at the Washington wolf shifter pack’s Bound and Bonded BDSM club, met his fated mate Cam when the lad was just twelve years old.  Wanting to give him some time to grow into an adult, Roger left him to grow up in the safety of his home pack.  Years later, when nightmares prompt Roger to look for Cam, the Alpha wolf discovers his Omega mate is missing and the clues lead to a vampire BDSM club in New York.  As the Washington pack stands by its own, and the fated mate link is sacred, rescuing an Omega is who a vampire’s favorite treat means the paranormal fur begins to fly.

Review:  This book covers one of my favorite themes (Omega wolves) and it’s by an author I generally really like, but I did not find it to be quite as strong as some other stories from the same setting. I find these works, centered on a couple gay wolf shifter packs, often walk the line between really fun, fast-paced, and sexy on the one hand, and corny and/or short shrifted plots and characters on the other.  Sometimes the balance swings one way (where I really enjoy the escapist sizzle) or the other (when I’m disappointed by simplistic conflict/character/relationship resolutions).

I much prefer the author’s other BDSM-themed M/M wolf shifter series (the Cloverleah Pack) which seems to be set in the same universe. While I was excited to read about an Omega in this Bound and Bonded series, I found the results to be a little uneven, or at least not quite as compelling as I have found some of the author’s other sexy/BDSM/wolf shifter escapist reads.

Overall, fans of this author, and especially the Bound and Bonded series, should enjoy this book, especially if they like an occasional Omega character in amongst the general focus on very strong and in-control, hot Alpha/Dominant wolves. While some of the plot and setting twists were nicely fresh for an “Omega-in-distress” story, the focus of the work was his true/fated-mate dominant who had semi-abandoned the weaker wolf years before. Watching Roger work through his reactions was interesting, touching on plenty of issues, although not in an extremely deep manner (and therefore not as compelling as it could have been). To be fair, the strength of this author usually isn’t the great detail of slowly evolving and challenging character and relationship angst, but rather presenting a decent premise of a “fated mate” relationship conflict, following with several twists and turns, with each obstacle usually tackled somewhat quickly.

In other words, this author presents decent character, relationship, and setting issues but generally resolves them relatively efficiently and sometimes a bit perfunctorily, but always includes a decent amount of nicely explicit sizzle. Her stories are best for those looking for some escapist, heated reads that combine simple but still intriguing, character, setting, and plot and plenty of male/male sizzle, but nothing overly compelling.

This work fits that mold fairly well, making it a 2.5 to 3.0 star read in terms of quality and and 3.5 to 4 star read in terms of just escapist enjoyment and reading pleasure. So overall, I’m giving it a 3.25 star rating (because I often enjoy these types of works, including this one) rounded up to 3.5 because “Omega wolves,” coupled with a sprinkling of vampire themes in a wolf shifter story, are among my favorite themes.


Recommended for fans of:   Escapist, rescue the tortured Omega reads (without dwelling too much on the logic of the torture or the mate abandonment).

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire fire
Passion: heart heart heart  – The fated mate  chemistry was present, a bit more familiar and friendly, if not overly compelling
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:

My biggest criticism would center on the Omega’s recovery from horrendous abuse. The author is careful to have the newly mated Alpha/Dominant to be caring, considerate, and backing way off typical Master/servant (or Dominant/submissive) etiquette as the Omega is not in need of harsh domination – quite the opposite. Still, there are hints that D/s activities outside of those that mimic the worst abuse previously meted out on the Omega would be pursued. (In other words, things like extreme pain, harsh verbal and physical Domination and humiliation, blood play, etc., would be avoided, but other D/s activities were likely to on the couples’ future menu.) Again, the author was careful to give plenty of power to the abused submissive to help shape their future play, but the discussion of it while he was basically in immediate recovery from horrendous abuse set my teeth on edge a bit.

Again, like others in the series, this is a relatively quick and escapist jaunt into wolf shifter culture where BDSM is keenly integrated their culture. Therefore, I’m not expecting – nor am I really strongly criticizing – the lack of depth and nuance with which some character and BDSM issues are handled. Overall, the author does a nice job at touching on important safety and relationship concepts in BDSM that are brief but fit nicely into short, escapist sexy works involving the topic. However, even though the author took great pains to have Roger be an extremely caring and understanding dominant wolf who rescued his abused Omega mate, my honest reaction to some of the BDSM discussion at the end was both “too soon!” and also whether the Omega would be at all interested in that type of play at all given what he had been through.

Just my honest $0.02. This should not detract from how, overall, the author handles BDSM tactfully, especially for a setting where extreme-tough and resilient supernatural wolf-shifting men enjoy rough physical play with each other.

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Orion’s Circle by Victoria Sue (review)

Tagline: Tortured Omega rescued by a triad of powerful wolves and a fated bond is tested

Book Cover

TitleOrion’s Circle
AuthorVictoria Sue

Genre:  Paranormal Shifter M/M Romance
Format:  Novel (53k words)
Series: Sirius Wolves #1

Sites: Author |  Goodreads

Publisher: Dark Hollows Press (June 2015)
ISBN: 9781942176855

Bonus:  mpreg

Retail: $4.99

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star  (I liked it!)

Synopsis: A tortured Omega is rescued by a Triad of uber-powerful Alphas who claim to be potential mates.  However, when the new bonds are tested by a deceitful plea for help, betrayal, and quick doubt among the potential mates, fear and anger overwhelm trust and developing love.

Review: The genre of an “abused/tortured” Omega being rescued by hunky Alphas is one of my favorites, and this book has some nicely satisfying elements of this type of “Prince Charming” (or, in this case, Charming Princes) tale. The characters were nicely diversified, the emotions (good and bad) had some resonance, and despite a type of “fated mate” trope there were definitely some twists, turns, and potentially insurmountable obstacles in the story and the relationship.

The relationships between the Alphas and the Omega were the most engaging parts of the book, generating some decent interest as well as a twist or two that I wasn’t quite expecting, but also occasionally left a bit to be desired. There were certainly some sweet and reassuring “rescue and comfort the Omega” scenes, but also some interesting conflicts, including some over-the-top reactions that made some sense and helped make this to be a bit more than a simplistic “rescued and then fated  to mate”story.

Still, I enjoyed it enough to want to read more in this series, and especially liked the differentiation of characteristics and roles among the Alpha Triad and their new Omega friend.

The story did not deliver quite as much as I would have preferred, as some of the “world/setting” reveal was rather bland, and the overarching background plot (a Triad+Omega sent by an exiled/almost powerless goddess) was too huge to be easily acceptable. This mega-story certainly is intriguing, but it came across as a bit too blasé for me. (I guess I expect a long, detailed and provocative exploration for such an epic storyline.) Still, this level of drama separates this work from others that are a bit more “mundane” in their treatment of Werewolf-human interaction.

 

Recommended for fans of: Alpha/Omega menage; mpreg; world-saving-ending paranormal/wolf shifter power in plotlines.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire fire – Some explicit scenes  with some kink (mpreg menage)
Passion: heart heart heart heart  – The chemistry and passion was present, if a bit over the top.  If one suspends a little disbelief and accepts just how quickly trust/love/mate was pronounced, retracted, and restored, the passion works.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments – Boring political/world building critiques:
The human political plotline was another that had some great ideas but wasn’t pulled off as smoothly as liked, including brief treatment of two human factions (part of the same team) that seemed to be at odds with any kind of organized effort by a human government to take an issue like this seriously. (People showing up at official, extremely sensitive, top-secret, and should-be-very-carefully-managed negotiations unannounced. A strike force that seemed to be spotted from miles away slowly surrounding and capturing an entire large group that should have easily been able to slip away, but they seemed to just stand there and wait to be surrounded and captured.)
The “werewolves exposing themselves to humans” trope is a difficult one for me to appreciate without an extreme level of thought and sophistication. (The author’s treatment of this “coming out” wasn’t horrible, and had plenty of political and personality-driven machinations, but for those plots to be very enjoyable to me, I yearn for a very significant and deeply well thought-out world building and story. The reasons why werewolves remain hidden for so long, how they’ve interacted with and affected human events in the past, and why they are coming out now are massive questions that are difficult to answer in a short romance. For example, author attempted to address some of this with comments about World War I and the War on Terror, so kudos for at least trying to put such a earth-shattering, seminal event into some perspective. But to me this ices over World War II and the Cold War, which to me vastly, vastly larger threats by far to both humanity and especially werewolves’/supernaturals’ position and stake in the world.) Again, my respect to the author to at least try to address this, even if in this particular case it did not really enhance the believability (or suspension of my disbelief) too much for me personally.

He’s Just Knot That Into You by Nico Jaye (review)

Tagline: Desperate Alpha misses the potential mate right under the horned rimmed glasses in front of him

Book Cover

Cover: Anna Sikorska
Title: He’s Just Knot That Into You 
Author: Nico Jaye

Genre:  Paranormal m/m shifter romance
Format:  Novella (42k words)

Sites:  PublisherGoodreads

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-63216-823-8

Retail: $4.99

Rating:   star  star  star  half-star  (I liked it alot!)

Synopsis:  When Tanner moves to Chicago for a new job, he experiences his First Shift, a revelation that signifies he’s met his mate since the last full moon. The only problem? He doesn’t know who it is. To find his mate, he enlists his new assistant Jon to arrange a series of dates, but each one turns out more disastrous than the last.

With the next full moon quickly approaching, Tanner finally determines the identity of his true mate. Unfortunately, Jon has since disappeared, and Tanner must now begin a new search. Is it really Jon’s family crisis pulling him away, or is Jon just not that into him?

Review:  I loved the premise – a potential Alpha in desperate need of finding his fated mate overlooks a rather endearing Omega who is serving him right in front of his eyes.

A nicely sweet story of an Alpha looking for his mate, it’s a fun piece of mating fluff with a little sizzle and even some shifter toughness mixed in with the yearning and potential love.Overall, it’s simply a nice treat for a quick, escapist read with plenty of sweet and a touch of sizzle.

3.5 stars (rounded up for the knotting)

Recommended for fans of: Quick and sweet romances; Alpha males who appreciate quite and/or young nerdy mates; knotting.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire  – Some explicit scenes  (and tiny bit of knotting kink).
Passion: heart heart heart   – Some chemistry present, especially with
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
A bit of a wolf shifter Alpha / Omega vibe (including a Female Alpha/Male Omega pair of background characters).

Tangling with the Bears by Lisa Oliver (review)

Tagline: Horny wolf has a doubly unbearable time after a bathroom hook-up

Tangling with Bears Book Cover

Title: Tangling with the Bears
Author: Lisa Oliver

Genre:  Parannormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novel  (89k words)
Series: Cloverleah Pack #8

Sites: Author |  Goodreads

Publisher: Self-Published (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781311551863

Retail: $4.99

Rating:   star  star  star  star   (I really liked it!)


Synopsis:  Tobias, a wolf shifter enforcer with the Cloverleah Pack, is looking for a quick, no strings-attached, hookup, but finds himself scarred by a toothy chomp on his neck from a restroom. After biting the anonymous wolf during the bathroom quickie, Luke a sometimes awkward bear shifter, immediately leaves to call his mate Kurt.  Both bear shifters are rather surprised that their third mate is not the human female they expected but a male wolf shifter.

Kurt must protect his mate while trying to track down their new mate, dealing with a pack Alpha prejudiced against bear-shifters while convincing himself, as well as the wayward wolf, to trust the fates that brought the triad together.  The bears will discover their immunity to magic might come in handy when dealing with the powerful Cloverleah Pack, which has plenty of shifter power and magical might running within the group as well as in their deadly enemies.

Review: Fans of the Cloverleah series will likely enjoy this latest installment, although I found parts of it to be not quite as compelling as some of the previous titles. Strengths of this paranormal m/m erotic romance series include extremely powerful alpha males, an increasingly complicated supernatural and political plotline, and, of course, plenty of heated male/male encounters.

The relationship at the center of Tangling with Bears focuses on a menage (m/m/m), and the exploration of the somewhat problematic start of this “instant mate” triad is a bit weaker than other parts of the book or series. On the positive side, the author is attempting to examine what can go wrong in a trope establishing an immediate and permanent intimate connection among the mates, giving the reader some “serious” relationship issues wrapped into the broader paranormal/pack plotline.

Luke and Kurt were interesting characters, sometimes just a little stereotypical but overall they served as nice foils for one another. The fears and hopes of Kurt and Tobias contrasted with Luke’s steady trust, and thereby creating the core relationship drama of the book. This trip through the “instant mate” trope, in this case for three mates, was nicely fresh if not always overly compelling to me.

As typical for this series, the author also explored problematic shifter and paranormal dynamics, deepening the pack’s story with, of course, plenty of explicit intimate encounters. Fans of the series will see the overarching plotline continue to develop with a new set of interesting (and nicely different) mates.  It can be read as a standalone, although surrounding characters and the deeper pack/political plotline will be most appreciated by those who have read the entire series.

Recommended for fans of: Cloveleah pack series; Bear shifters; MMM Menage; a lumbering Bear shifter who is sweet and stumbling and fearsome all at the same time.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire fire fire – A fair amount of explicit heat, an important focus of the book, but interspersed into plenty of story.
Passion: heart heart heart – The three-way chemistry was not quite as strong as I would have liked, but the book’s plot centered on the strain between two of the mates which slowly rose and fell, although not always as convincingly as I would have liked.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
As always, this does a great job of portraying fully reciprocal male intimacy.

Wolfsong by T.J. Klune (review)

Tagline:   “Worthless” teen thrust into a world of wolves, danger, and responsibility

Book Cover

Cover: Reese Dante
Title: Wolfsong
Author: T.J. Klune

Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novel (160k words)

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-63477-165-8

Retail: $6.99

Rating:   star  star  star  star  half-star  (I really liked/loved it!)

Synopsis: Before he left his mother and his family forever, Ox’s father told the awkward and not always articulate young man that his son was worthless.  When young Joe moves in next door, Ox becomes fast friends with the neighboring family and begins to learn many of their wolf shifter secrets.  While Joe and Ox grow to be young adults and become closer and closer, Ox is deeply embedded in the family when violent shifters strike a blow against the whole pack.  As a future Alpha, Joe must shoulder the burden of leadership which might tear him away from the friend who is a potential love and mate.  Years of struggle with paranormal shifter and magical threats split the pair apart at a rather deep level, and the possibility of being reunited brings forth feelings of long-boiling anger that might overwhelm their abiding friendship and potential love.

Review: T.J. Klune is one of my favorite authors, and he delivers a stunning paranormal, wolf-shifter “romance” that draws characters,  supernatural elements, and relationship angst vividly on the page.  While Klune normally writes extraordinarily humorous and snarky contemporary gay romance, he brings similar but more serious rattling, prattling, rapid-fire character thoughts and attitudes to this rather angst-filled and dramatic coming-of-age romance.  The paranormal elements were compelling and the setting interesting. Even though many of the themes could apply to less magical environments, there is quite a novel development that brings a fresh and sometimes dramatic theme concerning a human protagonist not found in other paranormal stories.

Ox’s struggle with his sometimes dim view of himself is challenged dramatically by the events, forcing him to choose just what kind of person, partner, friend, lover, and family member he wants to be.  The tapestry surrounding the protagonist’s struggle is deep and rich for fans of paranormal and extended family settings, intriguingly framing personal growth and coming of age themes with supernatural and relationship struggles.

My small critiques would include the fact that the couples’ relationship was a so angst-filled it was hard to buy the connection between them at times, and the protagonist’s anger a bit over-the-top from my perspective, but these elements also made for a rather atypical and fresh approach to potential shifter mates.

Recommended for fans of:  Somewhat angst-driven (in a serious, adult responsibility manner) coming of age stories; slightly darker paranormal potential couplings;  TJ Klune’s fast-paced and direct character thinking/speaking processes in a more serious/less humorous manner.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire  – A bit of explicit content, but the real heat was in the angst, anger and potential passion much more than the physical scenes.
Passion: heart heart heart heart – In some ways it’s hard to get more passionate (almost five hearts), although most of the passion focused as much on feelings of betrayal and anger as deep friendship and intimate connection (more like 3 hearts).  So, overall, the highest level of emotion but also a strong undercurrent of mistrust and very separate, often diverging character attraction and development.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
I really enjoyed this as a fresh take on paranormal romance applied with TJ Klune’s unique style (even without the humor).  While I didn’t find the protagonist’s anger quite as compelling as other readers, the overall experience was riveting and a great (if just a tad dark) male/male paranormal romance.

A Cobra’s Charm by Meghan Maslow (review)

Tagline: Sshy sssnake enslaved ssshifter dances for his master before meeting his animal’s arch-nemesis

Cobra's Charm Book Cover Image

Cover: Bree Archer
Title: A Cobra’s Charm
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (17k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Sites:  Publisher | Goodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-513-7

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating: star  star  star  star  half-star  (4.5 stars – I really liked/loved it!)

Rounded up for belly dancing, harem pants, and that delicious cover!

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.

Synopsis:  Jiri the Cobra Shifter spent life as a trophy of a collector, part of a harem of a deviant master deep in the Sahara.  When a honey badger shifter is added to the collection, the cobra saw its arch nemesis, a dangerous and deadly foe.  But Jiri the shifter saw more, and the man behind the badger might not always be a frenzied fighter.

Review: For a short work, the author does an excellent job of establishing an intriguing and exotic setting, enough shifter lore to whet the appetite of paranormal fans, interesting characters, the feeling of some real chemistry and heat between the heroes, challenges to overcome, and some climactic scenes.  I found this story to be enticing, plenty romantic, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Of course, one of my favorite themes are repressed and brutalized men rescued by the strong hero, and even more when the characters make it not quite as simple as that.  For a quick read, the author packs a great range of intriguing ideas, characters, and scenes into a brief package.

Recommended for fans of:  Harem boys belly dancing; a Middle Eastern themed harem of shifters; natural enemies to friends; an extraordinarily rough and tough fighter mesmerized by a slim and slick survivor; a “weak” “boy” in distress “rescued” by a tough but true and stout hero (a little bit of a gay version of a maiden in distress).

Sizzle:
Heat: fire fire fire – A couple of hot and heavy scenes, with the feel of a first-time (and definitely a first-time together)
Passion: heart heart heart – For a short story, there was plenty attraction and eventually strong potential for true and deep feelings.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
Belly dancing, loved the hood

A Cat Builds a Raft by Bee Allen (review)

Tagline: Shifter living the life of ease as a housecat finds his otherwise workaday caretaker has otterly dangerous pretensions

Cat on a Raft Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: A Cat Builds a Raft 
Author: Bee Allen
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Sites:  Publisher | Goodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-511-3

Retail: $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star  star  star  (I liked it. – Cat lovers might like it even more.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis:  Unwilling to deal with family expectations and complexities,  Zeke takes refuge with a relatively luxurious life as a housecat. Toby, his human companion, pampers him as a cat demands, and it’s too good to expose himself as a shifter.  When an intruder up-ends the comfortable life of human and cat, family issues haunt both of the companions, requiring a review of their priorities, wants, and needs.


Review: While not the most romantic story in the world (to me), this quick read explores several themes with some intriguing interaction and interplay.  The owner/pet dynamic is on display with just a nice display of cat-like attitude from the shifted man.  For a short story, the author weaves a setting and conflicts within shifter families that is simple enough to absorb but also complex enough to enjoy.  The focus of the story is the relationship between the two men (or a cat and a man), but I found the details surrounding the shifter setting, behavior, and conflict to be possibly more interesting.


Recommended for fans of: Housecat shifters; feline attitudes; alternate shifter paradigms.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat:  fire  fire  – While mostly about characters, there is a small but heated bit of sizzle.
Passion:  heart  heart  – The relationship is a bit more as friendship and respect, but some chemistry builds.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There was another character who was incidentally bisexual, and I am appreciating seeing this type of queer man receive some attention in this genre, as we do make up a significant portion of men who love men.

Werewolf PTA by Felicitas Ivey (review)

Tagline: A doctor with an exotic pedigree comes to a small town only to encounter mysterious deaths – and an attraction to the lawman charged with investigating them

Werewolf PTA Book Cover Image

Cover Art: Bree Archer
Title: Werewolf PTA  
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (18k words, 51 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-509-0

Retail:  $2.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star  (3 stars)

After reading this story, my reaction was very mixed and I was unsure as how to rate it.  As an innovative and interesting shifter story, I enjoyed a somewhat novel approach to “romantic” shifter stories and would give it 4 stars.  However, the romantic relationship was not very compelling to me and perhaps rates just an “o.k” (2.5 to 2.75 stars).  If I average the two, it results in a 3.2 to 3.3 star rating overall

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.

Synopsis: Malak, a doctor of Persian descent who recently set up practice in a small town, knows the three men killed on the night of three different PTA meetings had very suspicious deaths. However, dis cussing his true beliefs with the sheriff may be difficult, as he has a hard time keeping his eyes off the attractive lawman.

Review: The story and ideas felt refreshingly innovative for a shifter story to me as a reader of paranormal romances, although are probably not uncommon in speculative fiction.  The multi-cultural background of a character or two was integrated nicely into the shifter mythos and even a bit into the fearful reaction of a small-town.  Overall, the plot and mechanics of the shifter setting and story interested and intrigued me as a reader.

Unfortunately, I did not find the relationship very compelling.  Mechanically, it’s hard to point to anything in particular but I will just say it didn’t work for me, especially once Faysal entered the picture.  Indeed, I found myself feeling more of a creepy vibe than a lusty, attraction chemistry between the pair.


Recommended for fans of:  Investigations of deadly, evil threats in a Supernatural– style; shifters versus weres; characters of Middle Eastern/Muslim/Persian origin.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire  – There were two quick and nicely heated scenes.
Passion: heart   – The chemistry of characters did not work for me, although the doctor’s sweetness on the sheriff (as opposed to others) worked nicely into the plot.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

 

As somebody who lived through the AIDS crisis and lost a ex-lover during the period, the “I’ve got a one month test so let’s bareback” really squicked me out.  (This is kind of strange, as I think sometimes I don’t bat an eye at unprotected sex in romance novels if the safety issue is not mentioned. This particular scene made me want to go re-read Hope by Rick Reed.)

 

I enjoyed when Faysal spoke with a fake, over-the-top Middle Eastern accent to get the goat of any xenophobic, close-minded listeners.  I had an Iranian colleague who occasionally piled on a thick Persian accent to tease people, and I heard his voice when Faysa took on his rather provocative attitude.

Daniel’s Lynx by Ava Hayden (review)

Tagline:  Jilted fifty-something veterinarian discovers the beauty of small town wilderness, including a rare Lynx and a hunky neighbor

Daniel's Lynx Book Cover Image

Cover: Catt Ford
Title: Daniel’s Lynx
Author: Ava Hayden
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 55 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-507-6

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  half-star  ( 4.5 stars – I really liked/loved it.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released to me one per day during the month of June.


Synopsis: At fifty-five, Daniel had lost his wandering, cheating partner of over a decade, and needed a new start.  Moving from the city to resume his veterinary practice at a remote wildlife reserve seemed just the ticket.  His new home was plenty intriguing, including visiting wildlife, a rather rare lynx, and a sexy, mature new neighbor, Ronan.

Review:  The author does a good job of taking some standard shifter themes and tweaking them just enough to make them a bit more interesting and believable.  Even more intriguing, the story wraps these paranormal ideas around sometimes neglected romance themes, including mature men and a lover jilted by an ex going through a midlife crisis.  For those looking for  young, fresh, extra-heat this might not be quite the right mix.  However, readers who appreciate a decent dose of sweetness woven into stories of slow recovery form deeply felt betrayal and restarting life in one’s 50’s, it’s a delightful story with just the right touch of bittersweet flavor.  For a novella, the work does an excellent job at incorporating a good range of themes, including clumsy conversations, painful memories, and slow but steady recovery, while not ignoring lust or passion or sizzle.

Recommended for fans of:  romance for the mature/middle-aged men; traditional shifter themes with a slightly different  take; the sweetness of establishing a true connection after betrayal; rustic, small-town, wildlife friendly settings; a bit of reality (death and danger to animals) in a wildlife setting.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire  fire  – Although not the center piece of the novella, the two quickly sizzling scenes, including a first-time together and make up sex, were nicely realistic, lustful, and plot-appropriate, if a bit brief.
Passion: heart heart  – The attraction of the men seemed real.  The physical chemistry was a bit understated but definitely present, and a friendlier, more deepset passion balancing vulnerabilities, physical attraction, and growing friendship blossomed slowly.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (with spoilers):

I found this to be an excellent if bittersweet exposition of a mature man separating from a partner who took a different direction.  After 14 years together, Daniel’s break-up with Kit wasn’t quick or easy for the mature man, which I really appreciated.

 

“He’d spent months in a fog. He’d kept wearing the ring long after Kit had made it clear that they were over. And no matter what Jonathan said, that really was pathetic.”

 

One of my favorite parts was the shifter reveal, believable enough and different enough to be nicely inventive and a good break from the most common type of shifter fare.

 

The lynx providing for his “family” was adorable – “Words didn’t say love the way mouse tails did.”

Always Follow Your Goat by Nora Roth (review)

Tagline: Experienced camp counselor who is also a nervous fox shifter lead nicely astray by a goat

Always Follow Your Goat Book Cover Image

Title: Always Follow Your Goat 
Author: Nora Roth
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Short Story (9 k words, 23 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

SitesPublisherGoodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-504-5

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:  star star half-star  (2.5 stars – It was o.k.)

Dreamspinner’s 2016 Daily Dose anthology includes 30 romantic male/male shifter stories released one a day during the month of June.


Synopsis: Newly minted veterarian Noah Matthews is attending his shifter summer camp one last time, serving as a counselor before moving on to his first professional position.  In addition to the usual issues with a stern but well-meaning boss, teens with crushes, and camper rambunctiousness, Noah has to deal with a wandering, bleating, and meddling goat.  Of course Milly does lead him to a neighboring cabin, where a hunky neighbor is more intriguing than another round of camp politics.


Review: This story was sweet and simple. While not very complex, it does provide a nice view into the counselor’s thoughts and his mixed feelings regarding what his involvement with the camp meant to him.  The setting and the character’s changing life are evoked through Jack’s internal musings about being a camp counselor, dealing with a strong but somewhat pushy boss, and his own nervousness regarding shifting.  Milly the goat had an amusing but brief role in the story.  Shifter-human relations were barely mentioned, but just the ideas floated seemed to be potentially interesting and I would have liked to hear more (but that’s just part of the limitations of a short story). Frankly I was hoping for a bit more of the goat!

But as intriguing as I find ideas about summer camps for shifters as well as nervous and cute fox shifters to be, the story’s climax is a potential hook-up with the neighbor man.  Overall, the author painted an interesting if not overly-compelling summer camp background for what technically is an adult fling.  In reality, you could have taken the shifter element entirely out of the story and still had a nice little coming-of-age/summer camp rendezvous story, with the potential for either a happy ending or at least a fond memory.

Recommended for fans of: fox shifters; summer camp hook-ups; meddling bleaters (goats).

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – One brief but explicit scene
Passion: heart  heart – a tiny bit of chemistry, present but not particularly compelling
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments:
There were occasional interesting comments on the characters, the camp, and the shifter world.  I chuckled when I read the shifters referring to humans who lusted after them as “tail chasers,” in the most literal sense of the word tail. “God, he hoped Jack wasn’t a tail chaser.”