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Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima

Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima (Celtic Wolves #1)Released: September 24, 2013
Format: e-book
Publisher: Penguin

Series: Celtic Wolves #1

Source: Purchased

Excerpt: Yes

Like father, like son…
 
Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.
 
Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.
 
When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it….

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Don’t let the cover dissuade you: CELTIC MOON is an interesting book. It’s not the best werewolf book I’ve ever read but it has some strong points.

First, I enjoyed the mythology that DeLima brings to the table. It’s Celtic, as you can probably guess from the book and series titles, which is something we don’t see too much in the genre. The author has created a novel history for her shape shifters (which is how the characters self-identify, as opposed to werewolves) and I really liked the details that are included. The main one, of course, is that there are basically two factions of shape shifters: those that follow the Guardians (there’s a long Welsh name that goes here) and those who are opposed to the Guardians, like our protagonist Dylan and his people. The Guardians are very prescriptive and dogmatic, which is why not everyone is enthused by their rules, which lead to the killing of children who can’t shift or who are born as animals, for example. They aren’t nice people so it’s easy to get on-side with Dylan and his people.

Another aspect of the mythology is that these shape shifters live for a very long time. Dylan is thousands of years old and remembers growing up in Wales back when it was called Cymru. Some of his followers and guards are his contemporaries while others are younger. Sophie, his wife, is a regular old human but I found her to be much more interesting because of the transformation she goes through to become the woman she is in present day in CELTIC MOON. We get some flashbacks to when she met Dylan and she was a much softer, naive version of herself. I liked tougher, warier Sophie a lot better, because she was more secure in herself and because she’s more equal to Dylan in strength of personality and conviction (even if she can’t match him for brute strength). You can see why they’re drawn to each other. I also really liked their son Joshua and I hope he’ll get his own book once he’s a bit older.

On the negative side, though, some of the plot/characters are a bit predictable. There are definitely moments where I was surprised, which I loved, but CELTIC MOON does have its more typical moments. Nothing distracted me from my reading — which I did in a single sitting — but you’ll be able to guess where certain plot strands are headed.

I’ve got the second book in the series, SUMMER MOON, for review so look for that to post over on Team Tynga’s Reviews some time in September or October!

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Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus

Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus (Moon Shifter #1)Released: February 7, 2012
Format: e-book
Publisher: Signet

Series: Moon Shifter #1

Source: Personal shelf

Excerpt:

Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Sean Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again. But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Although I’ve read some less-than-positive reviews of ALPHA INSTINCT, I was still eager to give it a try because I’d heard some good things about the world building. The Moon Shifters series is set in an open world, where regular folks know about shifters, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night, with varying degrees of acceptance. In the town near Ana Cordona and her family’s ranch, people are generally okay with their presence, though not many humans go out of their way to socialize with the shifters, who are much stronger and longer-lived. In fact, the main people who take issue with Ana and her pack are the neighbouring group of shifters, led by the completely sleazy criminal Sean Taggert. Ana and her pack are quite vulnerable, as the blurb says, because all of the males died after someone tried to poison the entire group; Ana is trying to lead because she knows that the remaining women and children could lose everything if she complains to the shifter leaders about Taggert’s behaviour. She’s completely on edge when Connor shows up to save the day, in his supremely Alpha way. I generally liked the way Reus constructs the world but it wasn’t terribly extraordinary.

The characters were also likeable but unextraordinary. Ana and Connor have history and chemistry and I enjoyed watching them do the dance but I wasn’t dazzled by any of the people in the story. I did like the incorporation of Native American people (as secondary characters) and belief systems, though, and I hope this is something Reus will explore more in  future novels.

There’s also an overall mystery of who killed all of the shifters that led to Ana’s rise to leader and that part was well executed. Although we don’t find out the poisoner’s motivations until the big reveal, it was a logical storyline and one that may have consequences beyond ALPHA INSTINCT.

On the whole, this novel is a fairly average entry into the paranormal romance genre but I did enjoy reading ALPHA INSTINCT. I think there’s potential in this series and I hope that Reus will continuing developing her world and characters, so that the Moon Shifters series can become something truly outstanding.

The Sweetest Torture by Amanda Bonilla

The Sweetest Torture by Amanda Bonilla (Sexy Shifter Short #1)Released: October 16, 2012
Format: e-book
Publisher: NYLA

Series: Sexy Shifter Short #1

Source: Personal shelf (online freebie)

Thirty years ago, when the sultry and headstrong Cait left Logan Paige, the Alpha cougar shapeshifter of his Montana pride, his entire world came crashing down. He couldn’t explain where he’d been the previous night or why there was a strange woman in his bed…because he had no memory of the night before. Wounded and betrayed, Cait refused to listen to Logan’s excuses and walked straight out of his life…determined to exact her revenge on the sexy cougar who had crushed her heart. With a little help from her influential father, she made sure that Logan’s business, as well as his life, crumbled into ruins. Hell hath no fury, indeed.

But now it’s thirty years later and two of Montana’s most powerful cougar prides are on the brink of war. A tenuous peace is reached, but it’s dependent on Cait and Logan marrying on All Hallow’s Eve. Spitfire Cait has her own plans of revenge…using her feminine wiles to turn Logan into a purring kitty lapping cream at her feet. And Logan has his schemes to regain control and dominate like the Alpha he is…

When they realize that the erotic passion between them is still so intense, Logan and Cait will have to decide if dwelling in the past is worth sacrificing the future…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m not a huge lover of erotic romance novels/novellas, mostly because I feel like they can emphasize the sex more than the relationship. But I’m a fan of Amanda Bonilla’s Shaede Assassin books (at least the one I’ve read so far) so I thought I’d give her Sexy Shifter Shorts a try, especially when I got her newsletter announcing that The Sweetest Torture was free for a limited time. (It’s only $0.98 on (Canadian) Kobo and $0.96-$0.99 with most American e-book  vendors so it’s still a deal.)

Overall, I liked The Sweetest Torture. Cait and Logan have some great chemistry and a lot of history, unfortunately mired by the fact that Cait caught Logan with another woman some 30 years ago. Turns out, it was all a manipulation but Cait doesn’t know it so she’s  holding a grudge. There are some nicely tense moments between them on the way to their HEA. Of course, since this is a paranormal romance, everything is resolved by the end of the novella but I generally enjoyed the main storyline, especially since there were a couple small surprises along the way. There are some things left unexplained but not to the detriment of the love story.

What was detrimental was the lack of development about certain parts of the universe. For example, we know shifters are long-lived since it’s been 30 years since Logan and Cait have seen each other but there’s no real explanation about shifter lifestyle or biology. The reader just needs to accept that shifters live for a long time but we don’t really know too much about why or how. I know that length necessites brevity a lot of the time in novellas but I feel like there was room for a bit more development on this front. I only have a fuzzy idea of the world that Bonilla has created for her characters to inhabit and that’s a problem for me since I love me some good worldbuilding, and I know she can do it so well after reading Shaedes of Grey.

Will I try out the rest of the Sexy Shifter Shorts? Probably. They’re priced to sell and the cover copy sounds good. But I don’t think that The Sweetest Torture is a novella that I’ll be re-reading, at least not any time soon.

Blood of the Pride by Sheryl Nantus

SherylNantus-BloodOfThePrideReleased: February 13, 2012
Format: e-book
Publisher: Carina Press

Series: Blood of the Pride #1

Source: Review copy from publisher

When a severed rabbit’s paw is delivered to her office, outcast cat shifter Rebecca Desjardin recognizes the summons home. One of their own has been murdered—and a shocking photo published in a local tabloid—and her Pride needs Rebecca, now a private investigator, to track down the killer.

Investigative reporter Brandon Hanover wants to find out who slipped the photo of the half-shifted cat-woman under his door, marking him as a suspect in her death. Determined to stay one step ahead of the sexy journalist, Rebecca reluctantly agrees to partner with him to find the real murderer. But as their mutual attraction heats up, Rebecca finds it harder and harder to keep Brandon from discovering the existence of the shifter society—and her own true nature.

When the search leads them back to the Pride, Rebecca must attempt to Change for the first time in years to face the killer, and save the man she loves…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I’m always on the lookout for new Canadian authors and Sheryl Nantus fits the bill. I’ve had this review copy for a while and actually read the book a few times but I’ve been on the road and not in a great position to write up a review. With the second book in the series now available, I thought it was past time to talk about it because it’s a great story. There’s a lot to like in Blood of the Pride. First, it’s set in the Toronto area, which was really fun for me since that’s where I’m from. It was cool to see local places referenced — it’s something I really get a kick out of. Beyond that, though, there’s lots for readers to enjoy. To begin with, there’s the worldbuilding. I’m a sucker for the supernatural outcast storyline and Sheryl Nantus does a great job of making Rebecca an outcast with a bit of a chip on her shoulder, simultaneously willing and unwilling to go back to the fold when she’s summoned. Her return to the Pride digs up old feelings and resentments and also shows Reb just how far she’s come from when she was exiled.

Rebecca was an engaging protagonist. She’s smart and resilient and dedicated. I found it really easy to relate to her, which is always a good quality for a main character. Her emotions left off the page and I really felt for her at certain points in the story. Brandon provided a strong male lead, with his smarts and resources. He brought a lot to the table for the romance and for the investigation. The relationship between Reb and Brandon was well written and fun since you could feel the connection between them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the investigative portion of Blood of the Pride. This part of the plot was quite smart and I enjoyed the twists in Rebecca’s search to find the murderer. I’m quite excited to see what will happen in Claws Bared!

Demon’s Curse by Alexa Egan

demonscurseThis week’s post on Tynga’s Reviews tackles a historical paranormal romance: Demon’s Curse by Alexa Egan. It’s the first book in the Imnada Brotherhood series. Click here to see what I thought.

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