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 Gregory’s Rebellion (Shifters’ Haven #6) by Lavinia Lewis

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars

Leopard shifter Gregory Hale has been sent by the supernatural council to pick up a young jaguar shifter in Las Vegas and bring him into Council headquarters as they have determined the young man’s loner status has made him a potential danger to the humans around him.  But Gregory has watched Hayden at a distance for days and everything about the young shifter shouts neglect and pain.  When Gregory finally contacts Hayden, he realizes that Hayden is his mate but there is no acknowledgement on Hayden’s part that the recognition is mutual.  Hayden is skinny to the point of starvation and his face is marred by a raw scar that stretches from eye to mouth on one side of his face, a scar that should have healed when Hayden shifts.  Hayden has come from a traumatized past, but he won’t confide in Gregory, not yet at least. More than ever, Gregory is determined not to let Hayden fall into the council’s hands and he pretends to his superiors that Hayden has slipped away from him, to their immediately displeasure.  Gregory is, in fact, taking Hayden to Kelan’s Crazy Horse Ranch knowing the Alpha will help him hide Hayden and keep him safe.

Gregory still has the corruption within the council to deal with and a new series of murders to investigate.  Someone is murdering the mates of council  members, as Gregory knows all too well. Now with a mate of his own to protect, Gregory needs to get to the real culprit behind the killings before its too late.

The Shifters’ Haven series is built around Wolf Creek, Texas and its pack of wolf shifters.  Wolf Creek is two thirds shifters in population, a situation that the human population is ignorant of as all shifters have worked hard to keep themselves hidden. Each book brings together a different mated pair with a continuous plot line of dissension among the Supernatural Council which is composed of shifters of all types, from hawk to cougar. From the first installment, you are made aware of the Council who governs all shifters with their rules and regulations and the possibility of corruption within that impacts Wolf Creek and beyond.  From book to book, each time a member of the Council intervenes or arrives on the scene, you become less assured as to who the “good guys” are.  Also each book widens the Wolf Creek pack with new family members and sometime new species of shifters are given haven.

Gregory’s Rebellion picks up right where Nate’s Deputy leaves off, with Gregory on his way to Las Vegas on council  business. Gregory is still heartbroken over the events that happened back in Wolf Creek and unsettled because the real leader behind the shifter problems and crimes has  not been fully identified, at least not with proof he can use.  There has been a really nice development of Gregory’s character from book to book, from his first appearance as a council member somewhat rigid in demeanor to the compassionate person he is here.  But my focus was on Hayden, who was kicked out of his home at the age of 16 by his parents for being gay, an all too real occurrence.  Hayden has suffered since being thrown out of his home and family and has done what he had to in order to survive on the streets.  He has no self confidence, he is all shame and humiliation, his trauma written across his face in a scar he refuses to heal as a measure of his torment and degradation.  When Gregory comes into his life, he has just arrived at a modicum of security, with a boss who regards him as more family than employee and a job he likes.  Now all of that is gone in an instant, disrupted by a stranger who tells him the council is after him and wants his trust.  Lewis does a beautiful job in conveying Hayden’s confusion and fear.  I became invested in Hayden from the very beginning and stayed so to the end.  You will too.

Also carrying over is the issue of corruption in the council and the fact that someone is murdering the mates of council members, but to what end? Gregory gets caught up in trying to deal with his new mated status as well as his investigation into the problems of being part of a council he no longer trusts or believes in.  Again, all very credible and in keeping with the persona of an honorable man trying to do what’s right when confronted with the reality behind the supernatural council.  Lewis’ wonderful way with location and characterization is in top form here. It is becoming a saga of Wolf Creek versus the old order of council rule, a storyline that has intrigued me since the start of the series.

Once more, I felt the ending rushed and not as satisfactory as it might have felt to have the villain meet his comeuppance. Had the story lasted a little longer and with a more detailed exposition, then the end would feel more complete given the buildup.  Perhaps Lewis is doing this intentionally to keep the thread going in the next book up, Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7).  I hope so, for it’s an interesting part of all of their stories  and it doesn’t feel finished yet.  So I am waiting impatiently for October and the next in the series.  Pick up the first book, read them all and meet me here for No. 7.  See you then.

Once again Posh Gosh is giving us lush, gorgeous covers for the entire series. Beautiful branding and great design for each and every book.

Here are the Shifter Haven series in the order they were written and should be read in order to fully appreciate the characters, relationships and plots.

Luke’s Surprise (Shifters’ Haven #1) . Luke Morgan and Mark Malone’s story

Cody’s Revelation (Shifters’ Haven #2) – Cody Morgan and Stefan Drake’s story

Kelan’s Pursuit (Shifters’ Haven #3) – Kelan Morgan and Jake Bradfield’s story

Aaron’s Awakening (Shifters’ Haven #4) – Aaron Drake and Cary Lewis

Nate’s Deputy (Shifters’ Haven #5) – Nate and Jared. Read my review here.

Gregory’s Rebellion (Shifters’ Haven #6) – Gregory and Hayden

Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) coming in October 2012