Review of Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5) by Bailey Bradford

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Amur Leopard shifter Jihu Warren was imprisoned by the leader of his lepe, forced into Chung Hee’s rigidly controlled breeding program by the use of drugs and beatings. But even in his cell, Jihu heard of his half brother’s Bai’s freedom and escape from the lepe life that is all Jihu has known.  And that fact gave Jihu hope.  When Chul, father of Bai and Jihu, comes to the compound and confronts Chung Hee, a fight breaks out that allows Jihu to escape with the help of another half brother.   With only an address and dilapidated vehicle, Jihu takes off, intent on finding Bai and a safe place to hide.

Gilbert Trujillo is puppy sitting for his brother, Isaac and his mate, Bai while they are conducting animal rescue from the Colorado wildfires.  Home from a run to the  store, he finds a strange truck in the garage and a very frightened Jihu hiding in the house.  Gilbert realizes immediately that Jihu is his mate but Jihu’s senses are impaired, a result of the injections he received at the compound.  Not only can Jihu not smell that Gilbert is his mate, but he unable to shift, causing physical pain and leaving him unable to tell who to trust as his senses are impaired. Gilbert must win Jihu’s confidence and trust, and quickly.  Because Jihu has brought with him something that will change everyones life around them and Chung Kee is intent on capturing Jihu and returning him  and his package to the compound.  Together the men and the family will have to band together to fight against an insane man bent on continuing his rule.

Gilbert is the fifth in the Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford and it deepens the mystery concerning shifters being drugged, encarcerated, and experimented on that started with Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3).  We met lepe lord Chung Hee in Isaac’s book, but the true measure of his rigid rule is made apparent here, very similar to North Korea’s Kim Jong il. Under the guise of furthering Amur Leopards population growth, Chung Hee has kept his people confined to a rigid lifestyle in which men and women are used as breeders only with no affection shown to each other.  Or to the babies who are quickly removed from mothers who never wanted them to begin with.  Kept in fear and ignorance, those who rebel are imprisoned and experimented on with drugs, to what end is never made clear.  But Bradford is clearly setting the stages for momentus events coming in future books.  I anticipate the answer will find us returning to the Himalayas and the Russian Far East, the Amur Leopards original territory.  I love where this series is going and continue to be frustrated by the book length, here only 138 pages.  This has all the aspects of a rich plot and I would love to see it given the space and attention it deserves.

Once again this brings me back to the amount of pages spent on sexual activity.  In Isaac’s book, it balanced out with the plot.  Here not so much. We tip the scales back to so many sexual descriptions of Jihu and Gilbert’s mating that the increasingly complicated plot and wonderful characters are almost lost among it.  Why the author continues to do this when she has so much to offer in characters and storyline baffles me.  I can only hope that as the series moves forward, she finds a balance between the two that both promotes the bonding she obviously feels is necessary to the story and the story itself.

The reason for the higher rating is that the characters are wonderful to go with a rich plot.  Jihu captures our sympathy from the start. Jihu is a young man desperate to escape from the compound he has lived in his entire life, the lepe run much like the cults that end up in the news today, its members so brainwashed that to live otherwise is almost unthinkable. The reason he is so determined to escape is one of the book’s great joys, a spoiler I won’t giveaway here.  Gilbert Trujillo is another remarkable member of his family, fully realized as a kind and gentle  person, awkward outside his family, he finds his strength in coming to Jihu’s rescue and the events that  follow.  I loved Gilbert almost as much as Isaac who is back along with Bai Allen Warren, his mate and other Trujillo family members from previous books.

Gilbert ends with much up in the air, family members are harmed and we are not assured of their status, the villains points the way to a deeper conspiracy, and Esau, the subject of the next book, is missing.  With a lesser author, I might have abandoned this series long ago, but there are so many strengths here, from plot to characterizations, that I gobble up each story as soon as they come out.  Do I get frustrated by the same quibbles over and over, yes.  But the pull to find out what happens next overpowers whatever faults I find in the writing.  So it’s on to Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) coming out in October.  I will be first in line to get it.

Cover by Posh Gosh is gorgeous,  the models are  perfect for Jihu and Gilbert, the leopards stunning. what more could you want.

Here are the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they should be read to fully understand the plots and the characters within:

Levi (Leopard’s Spots #1)- read my review here.

Oscar (Leopard’s Spots #2) – read my review here.

Timothy (Leopard’s Spots #3) – read my review here.

Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4) – read my review here

Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)

Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) coming in October 2012

Review of A Self Portrait by J.P. Bowie

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars

Artist Peter Brandon is getting ready to have old friends visit for the weekend and is a little irritated that his partner, Jeff Stevens has scheduled a meeting in L. A. about a case at the same time he was hoping to have help with the preparations. As it gets closer for Jeff to leave, Peter starts having feelings of dread, twinges of intuition that have always been right in the past.  But Jeff goes anyway promising to be back in the evening. When Jeff doesn’t arrive home as planned and doesn’t answer Peter’s phone calls,  Peter knows that something terrible has happened. A vision shows him Jeff, hurt, bound and gagged and Peter  jumps into action, determined to rescue Jeff at any cost. And one of the people Peter counts on to help him is none other than the spirit of his dead lover, Phillip.

Peter finds out that Jeff had been pulled into a case involving a Satanic cult whose leader, Lefevre, has followers everywhere and the LA police have no leads on Jeff’s location.  As Peter and Jeff’s friends gather round to help in the search, Peter heads out with only Phillip as his guide. When Lefevre finds out about Phillip’s ability to aid Peter from beyond the grave, he plans to acquire the spirit and kill all who stands in his way.

In my opinion, A Self Portrait is really two separate books attached loosely two thirds of the way into the plot.  While I enjoyed each separately, I don’t that it worked successfully fused together.  The first two thirds of the book happens when Peter falls unconscious after hearing the news of Jeff’s disappearance. During this state, he remembers his love affair with Phillip from beginning at age 15 to the attack that killed Phillip and severely injured Peter to the point he remained in a coma for 3 years.  I loved their story although Phillip’s sheer perfection got on my nerves a bit. While I can see the memory of a deceased loved one become burnished over time so that their imperfections vanish, I don’t think that was the case here.  I just wish Bowie had Phillip gnaw on a cuticle or two, something to humanize Phillip more for the reader.  Peter is far more the believable human being here, with his flaws and imperfections front and center, I certainly liked Peter more.  And I was genuinely upset when the couple was attacked and devastated when Peter woke alone in the hospital.  That said, I also saw the attack coming, much like watching one of those college kids go down into the basement in Scary Movie.

The remaining third of the book deals with Peter, his visions, and his attempts to locate Jeff before they are all killed in a satanic ritual.  Again, Bowie built the reader’s apprehension and suspense bit by bit, so much so that in parts I was on the edge of my chair reading.  Very skillfully executed indeed.  The one thing that threw me off balance was Lefevre turning out to have real powers as opposed to being just another bogus whackjob with pretensions to evil.  J.P. Bowie never built a case for that happening so it didn’t seam to fit in with the rest of the story.  I did like the idea of Phillip’s spirit assisting Peter but wish we had a more solid base for all the actions of the last act, especially when the psychic powers become all important to the plot and its resolution. As I said I think that there are two successful books here, I just am not sure that A Self Portrait contains one.  I liked the book (with reservations), and I like the author.  If you find my quibbles palatable, then I recommend this book to you.

Cover.  This is not the cover on my book. The cover artist for that particular cover is Deana Jamroz.  But both covers have the same elements and work for the story