Review: Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Turkey in the Snow coverHank Calder is a good man, he’s worked hard  to get a home and be responsible, remarkable considering his background.  So when his sister dropped off her 4 year old daughter and left without a word, Hank accepted Josie into his home and heart because he wanted for her more than what he had growing up.  But Josie is so young and missing her mother while all Hank wants is  to make everything as perfect for her as possible, with as little drama as possible.  Drama is something both Josie and Hank have had too much of in their lives. Stressed out, Hank turns to his gym workouts for relief and takes Josie along to the gym’s daycare.

Enter Justin, daycare worker extraordinaire, young and flamboyant as they come.  Justin consistently helps Hank with Josie even though Hank is determined to leave drama and Justin out of their lives.  But fate and Josie intervene until Hank realizes that Justin with all his goodness and all his support just might be the man he needs and has been looking for all his life, that Justin might be his “turkey in the snow”.

I am not going to even attempt to explain that “turkey in the snow” reference.  It has to be read in context but let’s just say it had me in stitches and is such a perfect Amy Laneism that I was absolutely delighted.  It had me giggling and going back to reread it again and again.  It made me laugh, it made Justin laugh and it will make you laugh too.  But as this is a Amy Lane story, there will also be angst that will arrive on the heels of  such laughter and love.  Another perfect moment, this of sadness and regret between Hank and his sister, Amanda.  Everything here rings of authentic human emotion, pangs of despair, anger over past actions, and so much remembered love to help conquer life’s worst moments as well.  That scene will stick with me for some time to come.

I don’t need to go into the author’s gift for characters, it is there in every book she writes.  With her characters and her story lines, you can count on depth and layering that feels effortless that it goes by almost unnoticed.  Just sit back and enjoy the wonder of two men, both so different on the outside, but match up as equals in the inside where it counts.  I just loved Turkey in the Snow.  It brightened my holiday reading and left me full of smiles and joy.  That to me is the perfect holiday story.   Grab up Turkey in the Snow and make your holiday brighter too!

This cover by Paul Richmond just amazed me.  It is in a totally different style than the one I have come to expect from him.  Here the gentle edges are softened by snow, the darkness of the turkey illuminated by the light around it.  But instead of a harsh mood, the contrast is soft, you can almost hear the whispering of the snow as it falls.  Really, one of the best covers of 2012.  Just outstanding.

Review: Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 4 stars

Esau Leoppard Spots 6During the confrontation with Chung Kee’s lepe and the death of Chung Kee and his shaman, Esau Wallraven was separated from the rest of his family with the mission to find Ye—sun Warren, the brother who helped Jihu Warren and his son Daniel escape the compound.  The compound burned to the ground as the different factions fought and neither Bae and Jihu are sure their half brother survived. So as the family gathers their wounded and leaves for home, Esau remains behind to search for Ye-sun.

Ye-sun Warren has had a hellish life.  Imprisoned and tortured by his grandfather as punishment for helping Jihu escape with his son, he is shocked and drugged, as his grandfather hopes to force him to impregnate the females in the compound, something he has refused to do.  When he is left to burn with the building, he manages to escape and runs directly into a Snow Leopard, Esau.

Both men are astounded to find that they are mates and the biological drive to consummate their bond is overwhelming. But Esau is tormented by his past and doesn’t want a mate, a fact he communicates to Ye-sun after their mating.  Hurt, rejected by family and mate, Ye-sun runs off, leaving Esau wondering if he hasn’t just made the worse mistake of his life.

Esau (Leopard’s Spots 6) picks up directly after the events of Gilbert (Leopard Spot’s 5).  The Warren family and their mates and friends have confronted the heinous Chung Kee at his compound with the results that several key members of both families were injured, and Chung Kee and his shamans were killed. Esau had disappeared into the woods at the end of that story, looking for the missing Warren brother, and this story picks up just as Esau gets the scent of a Amur Leopard in the woods.

Most of this story deals with the past traumatic histories of both men.  Ye-sun’s is one most familiar to those who have read the previous books.  Brought up in a cult like compound, under the strict rule of a obsessive leader, his grandfather Chung Kee, Ye-sun was looked at more as a breeding stud than as a person and to refuse that role meant hours of torture and shock treatments to get him to submit to his grandfather ‘s plans.  In addition to the physical trauma, his grandfather also used emotional abuse to inflict pain on the young man and chemicals to keep him from shifting.  Bradford does an excellent job of giving us a young man, confused and so full of anger that he is not sure about anything now that he has escaped.  I liked both main characters here immensely.  Ye-sun pulls at our heartstrings and his anger is something everyone can relate to.

Esau Wallraven makes a formidable mate and partner for Ye-sun.  The only child of his parents, he lead a sheltered life, where his only dream was to be normal, an impossibility for a Snow Leopard shifter.  As soon as he could, he left to travel the world, never settling down, always looking for that elusive “something” to fill up the hole within him.  Then a horrific event in South America leaves it permanent scar on his heart and cements his life of isolation.  Everything about Esau makes sense, including his rejection of his mate, done out of fear and past pain.

There is no case of instant love or even instant affection.  What draws them together is a natural imperative to mate, brought on by their animals and hormones.  And mate they do, for about 75 to 80 percent of the book, in both animal and human forms.  It’s brutal, snarling, biting and bestial for the most part as is fitting for cat shifters.  As humans, there is an exploration of their sexual natures through spanking and mild bdsm, as pain with sex seems to be part of the shifter sexuality as written by Bradford.  Ye-sun is a virgin to anal sex but is not treated like one, a subject that is brought up and dealt with.

And that is really my only quibble with this book.  Yes, there is tons of hot  sex but too much hurts the book when exposition is left behind as it is here.  I wanted to know more about the injured family members left in a coma in Gilbert’s book.  Here there was only a sentence or two to say all will survive but it did not address some of the serious situations mentioned previously.  Another Amur Leopard is scented in the woods during their mating frenzy but never brought up again.  Did someone else survive?  Is this a red herring?  Don’t know and it’s frustrating.  There are so many issues and conspiracies involved in this series and this story moves none of the plot lines forward.  We need more depth here in storyline, and to resolve some of the problems addressed in Gilbert.  None of that really happened here and it makes this story much weaker than it should have been.

We also get a look at a character just introduced, Bobby the wolf shifter brother to the alpha wolf mated to Oscar.  Bobby seems to be a good ole boy red neck shifter but Esau sees below the shallow, callow demeanor Bobby projects.  Bobby lit up the pages with his sass and moxy.  I can’t wait to see more of him.  He really deserves his own story and soon.

So on to the next story which is Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7).  Bailey Bradford has me hooked good and proper.  I need to know what happens next, who is drugging the shifters, what happens to all those poor schmoes from the compound who survived.  What about the Amur Leopard they smelled in the woods?  Who was that?  See, so many questions and I need the answers.   Hopefully, I will find some in Sullivan.  I will let you know.

The gorgeous series covers by Posh Gosh continues.  Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, their relationships and events:

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) read my review here

Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) read my review here

Gilbert (Leopards Spots #5) read my review here

Esau (Leopards Spots #6)

Sullivan (Leopards Spots #7)

Change in Reviews for Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

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There was a mix up in scheduling for Andrew Grey’s Snowbound to Nowhere.  So the reviews for tomorrow will continue with holiday stories.

December 12th: Peace in the Valley by Jana Denardo and Yes, Darling by Dawn Kimberly Johnson

December 19th:  Andrew Grey’s Snowbound to Nowhere and  Compensations by Kaje Harper

Also coming up my list of 2012 Bests and Favorites of the Year!  And no that’s not redundant, just me trying to see which word will fit some of my rather extensive lists!