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).
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To Arizona by Meg Harding (review)

Tagline: Hockey player/otter shifter shipped to the desert deals with a tough captain…
Altnernate: Alphahole turns a tough but smaller hockey player into a buttercup…

To Arizona Book Cover Image

Title: To Arizona 
Author: Meg Harding
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 46 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:

My true reaction:   1 star  – I hated it.
My Objective-ish rating:   3.5+  stars (for intriguing shifter ideas and writing)
Summary:  Hockey is my least favorite professional sport, and at times some of the worst aspects of the (in my opinion) over-the-top aggression displayed by hockey players (and not really related to the athletic skill required to play) is front and center here. Readers who love the “rough and tumble” of hockey players’ behavior on the ice are much more likely to find the love interest in this story to be compelling and interesting than I did.
Why I’m reviewing it:
I might have skipped even reading this, but I enjoyed another m/m romance between hockey players so much (Him by Sara Bowen), I thought it was worth a quick read.
One of my favorite author’s once said she’s not happy about a newly released book until she receives her first scathing, 1 or 2 star review.  (She has a good fan base, so I’m guessing her  “excitement” at receiving a bad review means she wrote something compelling and strong enough for somebody out there to be offended or repulsed.)  I’m offering my two cents about this book in that spirit. Since I had such an extremely negative reaction, and since there are plenty of other glowing reviews (so my one honest but negative critique shouldn’t adversely impact a talented author’s sales), I’m mostly posting this in an attempt to complete my reviews of the entire anthology, hence my honestly felt (but perhaps over the top) rant is below.
The writing quality and innovative setting probably rate at least three or more stars (some of the shifter scenes were incredibly cute) but in all I honesty I wish I hadn’t read this.

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: Otter shifter Dustin gets traded to the professional Arizona hockey team, where the weasel shifter captain Chandler takes him in, shows him the ropes, and tries to make him toe the new line.  Of course, this means the two fight like hell. 

Review:  Chandler struck me as the worst type of example of the obnoxious, domineering Alphaholes from male/female romance (or instead, perhaps more charitably, just acting like a typically rough and tumble hockey player enforcer and captain).  The writing was fine and sometimes very interesting and innovative, especially in the area of cute shifter behavior.  However, at the center of the story were two characters with a potential romantic interest. basically with a larger hockey player going all “emotionally-stunted caveman” on a smaller hockey player’s a**.  This means acting like a possessive, uncommunicative douche, picking fights with him and bashing other players as ways to “court” the new guy.  I know a romance story is not working for me when I’m routing for the two protagonists to not get together.  When Dustin (who I liked) realized the Chandler (who I thought of as “the Alphahole”) was “courting” him and decided to give in (because he liked Chandler’s aggressive dickishness, I guess), I ending up disliking both characters so much I felt they kind of deserved reach other.

On the positive side, the shifter scenes were innovative and absolutely adorable.  Given the adolescent, thuggish, Neanderthal, emotionally stunted behavior of the main love interest, unfortunately there is no way in hell I can find the entire story “cute.”

Recommended for: Hockey fans;  Romance readers who appreciate emotionally stunted domineering men (alpha-wannabe alphaholes) who let their “caring” out in other ways.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  fire  –  A couple of explicit scenes (hard for me to rate, since I disliked the main love interest so much).
Passion:  No hearts for the humans involved. (Dustin seemed to like muscle-bound dick well enough, but it’s too bad the guy attached to it came across as a  super-douche.)
heart heart – Some passion and chemistry expressed in shifter form.  (Of course, the way Chandler expressed “passion” and “chemistry” and “lust” did not work *at all* for me.)
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (uber-snark with spoilers):
Dustin concludes that Chandler is—in his own backward way—courting him. He suspects if he doesn’t figure out what signal Chandler is looking for specifically, this will continue on for a while and leave both of them nothing but frustrated.”
 My reaction to that line:  How about get the fuck away from me you obnoxious, emotionally stunted, domineering, preening fucktard douchebag?

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.”

Holy Cow! by E.M. Lynley (review)

Tagline: American medical student visits India and stumbles into the home of the Nandi, shifter descendants of Shiva’s personal mount

Holy Cow! Book Cover Image

Title: Holy Cow! 
Author:  E.M. Lynley
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (17k words, 52 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-503-8

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star star star  (4 stars I really liked it!)

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


Synopsis: American Duncan Stirling takes a break from his medical studies to travel India with his honeymooning friends.  He appreciates the wonders of the culture, especially in the magical city of Jaisalmer, where he meets a revered bull as well as Akash, an extremely attractive man from a well-connected family.

Review: This story succeeded on multiple levels, including multicultural explorations, family conflicts, a touch of personal sacrifice among friends, and an interesting shifter dynamic.  The short but interesting introduction to an aspect or two from an “exotic” (from a isolated American perspective) but vastly influential world culture was appreciated and made for a nice change of locale and mythology within this genre. I particularly appreciated the brief but enticing descriptions of India in general and Jaisalmer in particular. While there was only a tiny bit of cultural and religious aspects explored, the political intrigue related to shifters was also effectively and quickly woven into the short plot of this novella.  I also liked that neither “side” in various conflicts were monolithic and most of the characters (including an antagonist or two) had defensible if conflicting motives.

Finally, for a relatively short work, I think the author did a decent job of entwining the two protagonists in a relatively quick manner.  The story includes very brief descriptions of the physical intimacy, yet the connection and passion between the characters seemed rather real.  All in all, the novella took a quick trip to an “exotic” locale, with an interesting and alternative shifter setting, presented an array of interesting characters outside of the couple, wove a decent tale of shifter intrigue, and provided passion without relying on detailed, explicit explorations of their physical intimacy.

It was an enjoyable and entertaining jaunt into an enticing shifter setting.

Recommended for fans of: Indian/Hindu mythology; Brahman bulls; developing a passionately intimate couple without dwelling on extensive explicit scenes.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – While there were multiple intimate scenes, they were mostly one sentence fade to black descriptions, with only slightly longer explorations of a couple of key intimate moments.
Passion: heart heart heart – the emotional and physical chemistry between the characters actually seemed palpable, even though the work was short and the physical intimacy mostly off-page
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (spoilers):
I also appreciated that despite the very brief descriptions of physical heat, the author included that the partner who happens to also be a huge, hulking, supernatural bull (and therefore fit very nicely on top) was also physically receptive of his human lover.
When Akash tracked Duncan across the desert, riding on a stallion to find his erstwhile lover, the scene evoked a nicely romantic and even a bit passionate response in this reader.

Wild Fate by Savannah Brooks (review)

Tagline: A man in the Alaska wilds tells the traveling photographer he is fated to mate a bear – an insta-mate, lumbersexual, mpreg story that works

Wild Mate Book Cover Image

Title: Wild Fate 
Genre:  Paranormal M/M Shifter Romance
Format:  Novella (17k words, 55 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Book Sites: AuthorPublisherGoodreads
Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-501-4

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star star  star  half-star  (3.5  stars – I liked it a lot.)

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

Synopsis: Caden is a wildlife photographer looking forward to spending time isolated in the Alaska wilderness practicing his craft – until he meets Drake.  The rough and tumble lumberjack of a man has a reputation for being a grumpy loner, but when Caden gets past the initial awkward meeting, his mind (and other parts of his anatomy) can’t stop thinking about the rustic hunk of a man.  When Drake tells Caden they are fated mates and, oh yeah, he can turn into a bear, the functioning brain in the photographer doubts the wisdom of staying in an isolated cabin near this man, while his body seems to have other ideas.

Review:  Fated and “instant” mate stories are often drafted with too much of a trope that seems incredibly artificial and unbelievable.  For a short story, this author handles the “insta-mate” phenomenon with some fineness and more credulity than many novels.  While the pairing was a central theme, surrounding setting and plot devices nicely brought out and reinforced the hesitant yet strong connection between the two, yielding for a pretty decent, quick, and enjoyable read.

Spoiler:  On top of a good insta-mate bear shifter story, the author adds a hot lumbersexual and mpreg in a very readable and decently written story – nice work for topics that often veer into incredibly cheesey, simplistic, or sex-focused smutty reads.

Recommended for fans of (spoilers):   Bear shifters, lumbersexuals, mpreg, and couples with kids.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire fire – Only a couple explicit scenes, but they add an appropriate, nice sizzle to the story.
Passion: heart heart  heart – The instant mate attraction and need for each other was handled in a pretty decent manner, reinforcing the story without losing all believability.
Genre:  Adult Romance


Other Comments (spoiler):

Human mates, instant/fated mates, mpreg, bisexual character – this story covers many of my favorite themes.

Faerie Riddles by Cassia Rose (review)

Tagline: Human scholar of the fairies beyond the wall runs into an enthusiastic changeling puppy, riddles, and plenty of fae trickery and danger…

Daniel's Lynx Book Cover Image

Title: Faerie Riddles
Author: Cassia Rose
Genre:  M/M Fantasy (Fae)
Format:  Novella (17k words, 51 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

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

ISBN: 978-1-63477-496-3

Retail:  $3.99

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   starstarstarstar  (I really liked it!)

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


Synopsis: Alastar the scholar studies the fae creatures who live beyond the Great Iron Wall, and he is assisted by the puppy-like but also mischievous Gadhar.  When his changeling friend presents a riddle that stumps him, the researcher must continue to seek answers in the changeling village.  The problem of riddles at first fade as an injury, a misunderstanding, and encounters with extremely dangerous creatures all glower over Alastar. Eventually riddles become front and center again, in a way only a fae can make things happen.  When a difficult and dangerous turn takes Alastar’s need to care for the bouncy fae-ling to a new level, danger erupts from a wide variety of unexpected places including, perhaps most chillingly, Alastar’s own short-sighted words.


Review: I am a sucker for fairie-inspired stories with the right balance of trickery and enjoyable whimsy, and this story had a wonderfully faelike exploration of these lighthearted, devious, flighty, and dangerous creatures.  The author has a somewhat straightforward story wrap around plenty of fairie-inspired twists and turns for such a short piece.  Alastar’s earnest and serious scholarship is a nice contrast to Gadhar’s puppy-like enthusiasm.  Through quick moving plot developments, interesting characteristics of the changeling village, dangers to changelings from human inventions and prejudices, and threats to Alastar’s well-being due to his own misjudgment and fae trickery, all these elements are woven nicely into a flowing story.

Recommended for fans of: Fae; riddles; dragons; serious scholars who need to lighten up a bit.

Sizzle:
Explicit Heat: fire – Not explicit: A coupling central to the story that is mostly fade to black, a nice moment but not a page burner
Passion: heart  heart –  Some passion:  decent chemistry is definitely struck, although the step to the next level is a bit awkward.
Genre:  Fantasy / Romance

A Wolf’s Résistance by T.J. Nichols (review)

Tagline: Loup-garou in the French resistance flees to an isolated blacksmith, where the forge may burn hot in a sizzling and scarring manner…

Wolf's Resistance Book Cover Image

Title: A Wolf’s Résistance 
Author: T.J. Nichols
Genre:  Historical Paranormal M/M Romance
Format:  Novella (15k words, 47 pages)

Series: Walk on Wild Side

Publisher: Dreamspinner (June 2016)

ISBN: 978-1-63477-487-1

Also available:  Walk on Wild Side Anthology

Rating:   star1 star1 star1 star1  half-star (I loved it!)

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

Note on rating: This story might be a little dark for some romance readers, but its depiction of gay men living in an especially hostile, pre-sexual revolution/LGBT-rights movement world very much resonated as truthful, accurate, and in the end intensely intriguing to me.

Synopsis: As a loup-garou, Renny was valuable to the French Resistance, but was also identified by the Germans and their French collaborators as especially dangerous and physically branded as such. Unable to return to his pack due to his proclivities, upon escaping and fleeing his captors, he heads for a small town.  Stumbling upon a blacksmith’s cottage on the edge of town, his wolf can’t keep his attention away from a coup of delicious chickens.  As with all living in occupied France, Marc struggles to make ends meet, perhaps even more than most given his physical handicap and his unnatural attractions.  A wolf menacing his chickens is something he cannot risk, and he’s a good shot with his rifle.


Review: I put off reading this story, as the description intimated it might be rather dark.  I have studied Vichy France and suspected this might not be a pleasant tale.  While it certainly was not a light, sweet romantic story, and it might be a bit too dark for some romance readers, it was absolutely perfect for me.  In part, I think I related to it because it seems to me to present a good, realistic flavor of how difficult it was to be a gay man before the sexual and cultural revolution of the last forty years.

The writing gripped me from the beginning, with initial scene of a resistance fighter (and wolf shifter) on the run from German-aligned French “soldiers” (Milice militia-like policemen, I assume).  The author’s slight tweaks on typical shifter paradigms, including significant but not complete healing from injuries, also signified this would not be a typical shifter tale. The strength of the work, however, had little to do with the paranormal aspects, but the struggles of two injured men trying to survive in an extremely hostile world, and both doing at least a bit of their part towards a better future.

The romantic connection might be considered rather flat compared to many entries in this genre, but to me the whole story was a slow, steady, and very palpable building of an intimate connection, even if it was deeply internalized and not apparent to others (or even themselves).  Actually, this slow, internal build seemed to ring very true for those who had to live extremely closeted life.

Recommended for fans of: Stories of gay men trying to survive in an extremely hostile, homophobic environment; World War II/French resistance settings.

Sizzle:
Heat: fire  –  There was one, brief semi-explicit and somewhat euphemistic oral encounter, and a couple of fade to black moments.
Passion: heart heart  –  The chemistry of the characters was low-key but slowly builds to something very palpable to me. (Others might find the intimate connection to be bland, but it reverberated to me as how gay men needed to express themselves before the sexual and LGBT revolution)
Genre:  Romance


Other Comments:

The story indicated the pursuers were French soldiers, but by 1944 I believe the remnants of the Vichy French Army had been dissolved, and in any case had been restricted to the Vichy controlled area.  In its place, a French fascist militia-like police force had been raised, and operated in all of occupied France, including the Vosges Mountains where this story is set. The only true soldiers in this area would have been German units (including possibly German SS units that included French  volunteers, but they wouldn’t be considered fighting for France per se).  I’ve always heard the Milice referred to as police and not soldiers, but their militia-style uniforms certainly had a military appearance, so I assume the “French  soldiers” were actually Milice police (militiamen).