In the Book Spotlight: Oliver (Whitedell Pride #6) by Catherine Lievens

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Oliver (Whitedell Pride #6) by Catherine Lievens
Release Date: March 1, 2015
Goodreads Link

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Author Catherine Lievens

Catherine lives in Italy, country of good food and hot men. She used to write fantasy as a child, but it was reading her first gay erotic romance novel that made her realize that that was what she really wanted to write.

After graduating from college in English language and translation, she divides her day between writing, reading, taking care of her son and reading some more.

Where to find the author:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.lievens.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorCLievens
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/catherine200405/
Other: https://authorcatherinelievens.wordpress.com/

Publisher: Latrisha Waters
Cover Artist: eXtasy Books

Sales Links: eXtasy Books

STRW Author BookSynopsis

 

About Oliver…

What matters is not what you are, but who you are.

oliver72Oliver is human, or at least he was until the Glass Research Company kidnapped him and experimented on him. Now he has a bear sharing his mind, but he’s not able to shift, and he’s confused. Is he a shifter, or a human? What’s worse, he’s getting sicker every day, and no one seems to know how to help him. He can’t even bond with his mate because he doesn’t want Sebastian to hurt if something happens to him.

Sebastian wants his mate to be cured, and the only way to do that is to go to New York and kidnap one of the company’s scientist. With the help of his pride brothers, he manages to do just that, but having Oliver cured doesn’t mean all their problems are over.

Oliver will have to deal with learning how to shift and trying to convince Sebastian that he’s fine and that he can be claimed, but once he manages to do that, other problems arise. Will the two lovers finally have the time to just be together, or will the pressure push them apart?

Categories: Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Paranormal, Romance

 

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

Shit. Shit, shit, shit! Oliver didn’t know what had happened or how to solve this. Well, he knew what had happened. He had shifted for the very first time, but did he really have to do it while naked in bed with Sebastian? Even more so, did it really have to be like, seconds after they had just made love and claimed each other?

If Sebastian hadn’t been so quick to move away, Oliver would have shifted while…ugh, he didn’t even want to think about it!

“Uh, love? Careful with those claws, okay?”

Oliver realized that he had been digging into the mattress so he awkwardly tried to get his claws out of the fabric, but it seemed that every move he made, he managed to just rip it apart a little more. He was scared to move, but he could hear the bed creaking. It wasn’t exactly made to host a fully grown bear plus his mate, even if Sebastian was in human form.

Pages or Words: 37,854 words

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Contest:  Enter to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Use the Rafflecopter code provided by Pride Promotions below to enter and for all additional contest details.

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Tour Dates: March 2, 2015

Tour Stops:

Parker Williams, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Molly Lolly, Inked Rainbow Reads, Wicked Wolves and Dreaming Dragons, Bayou Book Junkie, For the Love of Bookends, Bike Book Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, 

Kimi-Chan, Fallen Angel Reviews, Cate Ashwood, My Fiction Nook, BFD Book Blog, My Fiction Nook, Velvet Panic

 

Review: The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

IThe Choosingn the shapeshifter village Eladir, all are shapeshifters regardless of gender.  But how they become shapeshifters differs dramatically for the boys.  Unlike the girls who are able to shift almost from birth with their animal already tattooed on their bodies, the boys have to wait until their 18th birthday or so when their fangs first drop and then must go through The Choosing in order to find out what animal they are, have the ability to shift and find a mate.  And what Jerath fears the most, at 19, is that his fangs will never drop and he will never have an animal spirit of his own let alone find someone to mate with.  On top of his insecurity about his lack of fangs is the fact that Jerath is attracted only to boys, not girls, and the ritual through which he is chosen depends upon his sexual union with a girl, something Jerath is not sure he can do.

The Choosing must only be performed at a full moon which is still some time away so Jerath and his best friend Serim spend their time running in the woods and discussing their hopes for the future.  While on just such an afternoon, the village Eladir is attacked by slave raiders who capture all the boys still unmarked as well as others.   Fearful and in need of help, Jerath and his best friend, Serim, head out cross country to the one place they hope will help them, a village and people known to them only through stories. Along the way, they meet Meren, a handsome warrior who is returning to the very village they seek.  The attraction between Meren and Jerath is immediate and deep.  But Meren is not a shapeshifter and his feelings towards sexual encounters is far more relaxed than the virginal Jerath’s.   With the full moon fast approaching, it is imperative that the prisoners be rescued or they will lose not only their freedom but the ability to shift forever.  Jerath needs Meren’s help but his own shifting moods and emotions are not helping, making the search harder as does the increasing depth of their attraction towards each other.  As the obstacles in their path mount up against them, will Jerath be able to save the prisoners and keep his heart from breaking?  Or will all be lost before the next full Moon?

The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs brought about a myriad of emotions and thoughts about this book.  The author has painted a story that has a broad canvas with a far reaching story that covers religion, coming of age, and differing cultures, perhaps too large a canvas.  Jacobs has created a geographical universe bound together by a Goddess and the limitations of population upon a singular habitat.  There are several villages surrounded by Arachia Mountains whose four peaks protect the valley and the villages from being attacked “from the rear”.  The villages are surrounded by woods as well which are being cut down to make room for more families as each village contains three to four hundred people.  The villages are governed by the laws of the Goddess of the Woods.  Here is an excerpt that will explain it in village lore:

He listens to Serim sigh before she begins to recite the oldest of the forest laws. “When the moon is full, each and every boy who is of age shall choose a willing female. If the boy is deemed worthy, together they will consummate their union and invoke the spirits of the forest to bless the boy with their magic. Only then will his animal form be revealed.” The people of Eladir can shift their human form into that of one of the sacred beasts of legend: the lynx, tiger, black panther, and jaguar. These animals used to roam the forest when there were no villages here, so the village elders tell. It was by the Goddess’s goodwill that people were allowed to settle in the forest, and in return the villagers accepted her magical gift—the power to shift—and helped protect her animals whenever they were in danger.

By now some of the oddities in her world building should be popping up at you.  A confined habitat ruled by one Goddess that has given her people the ability to shift into animals to help protect her other animals and the woods.  The animals chosen just happen to be four large cat species that used to roam the woods the people now inhabit.  Hmmm, so what happened to those original cat populations?  And would you really chose large predators to protect deer, fish and bunnies? Perhaps not in my universe but it definitely happens within Jacobs’ world building.  Now add to that the fact that the villagers are growing in families. What happens to a habitat that becomes overcrowded? I think a Woods Goddess might have a problem with that.  And she did and she took care of it. By banishing another whole village from the woods and mountains because of overhunting.  That’s where Meren’s people comes in.  But no where it is addressed that Jerath’s villagers are rapidly deforesting said woods because of their own exploding populations, so the world building starts to break down even further.  I also wonder about a Goddess that has a finite range of influence because the raiders definitely aren’t Goddess worshiping people.  Now I have many, many more questions, observations about the incongruities in this author’s world building but by now there are so many piling up that its just not necessary.  It’s kind of neat, but all the elements just don’t add up to one cohesive universe in which to place her story.

The Choosing is Annabelle Jacobs’ take on the ritualized coming of age in fantasy stories.  I liked the fact that each gender has its own path with the females born with fangs and the ability to shift, their animal already identified by marks (really cool birthmarks not tattoos which are artificial), cat figures on their skin. Gender specific characteristics do occur in nature and I liked that she picked up on that. Then for some reason, the Goddess later decides the men should have the ability to shift as well and gifts them with the chance to choose a cat and shift through a ritual called The Choosing.  It includes male/female sex that brings the Goddess, a real presence, into the situation and lets her bless the joining.  But Jerath just happens to be gay and doesn’t want any f/m joining and doesn’t think he can apply himself as it were to the situation.  No worries, it turns out that when the time comes, he does too and the Goddess smiles on him.

And that large part of the story will leave most readers of m/m fiction frowning and wanting to leave this story behind. Because the m/f joining and the het sex does  take up most of the first part of the story.  Jacobs does handle it by saying it gives Jerath and his friend a deeper connection to each other (well, yes) while leaving them free to find their mates but I think more readers looking for primarily a m/m romance will be gone by that time.   Honestly, I felt this aspect of the story could have been made smaller and the romance between Jerath and Meren enlarged without hurting the plot but that is just my opinion.

The rest of the book is the hunt for the villagers taken by the raiders and the will they, won’t they romance of Jerath and Meren.  I still don’t feel that the author gave us a good explanation as to why a village of over three hundred cat shifters was taken by surprise by a smaller group of raiders.  Or if it was a larger group of raiders, it would have to have been a city’s worth and they would have sounded like elephants.  Surely the Goddress would have let them know danger was coming?  After all didn’t she create them to help protect her woods and creatures?  Wouldn’t all those birds have given flight and sounded alarm? How about all those cat senses?The more I think about it, the more holes appear in the plot and I just have to leave it alone.

So I think I will leave this review here.  The Choosing has some inventive  elements and some nice characterizations in a story that takes 210 pages to tell and for me those pages did not go by swiftly.  If you like your m/m romance minus het sex, than this is not for you.  If you like your stories cohesive and powerful, this isn’t for you either.  But if you are a fan of fantasy and shifters and love them all, pick this up and add one more cat shifter universe to your collection.

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht is just stunning.  I so wished the story had lived up to the promise of the cover.

Buy Links:    Dreamspinner Press          All Romance eBooks (ARe)           Amazon     The Choosing

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published October 18th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981918 (ISBN13: 9781627981910)
edition language English

Review: Wesley (Leopard Spots #8) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating: 4.25  stars

Wesley Leopard SpotsWhen Wes Ward’s older brother Sully left home for college, Wes felt like he had lost the only friend he ever had.  Painfully shy as a child, Wes depended upon Sully for everything and Wes was unable to fill the void Sully left behind him.  Then Sully found his mate and forgot about his little brother completely.  In pain and full of bitterness, Wes turned to drugs and alcohol and his addiction almost cost him his leopard spirit.  When his parents catch him using, they send him to San Antonio and to Sully who lives there with his mate Bobby and Wes must confront his true feelings and see if he can heal the bitterness within.

It’s been two years since the vicious sexual assault Armando suffered in the club owned by Bobby and the wounds have not healed.  Armando now works at a Center for Homeless GLBT youth, helping others who were thrown out of their home like he was.  The center is his life as he cannot bear to even think about dating or getting close to another man since his rape.  Then Armando sees Wes when Wes starts to volunteer at the shelter.  Wes is almost a twin to Sully in their looks and his presence brings conflicting emotions to the surface in Wes.  Wes has hated Bobby and Sully for two years and seeing Wes makes all those memories Armando has tried to bury come out.  Equally shocking, he also finds himself attracted to Wes, an attraction Wes returns.

Both men have problems in their past they must face before either can go forward with their lives.  Wes is sure he has found his mate in Armando but can Armando put aside his hatred for Wes’ brother to see Wes for himself or will Wes be an way to revenge himself on Sully and Bobby.

This is one of the most tightly knit and well written books of the series.  Bradford’s focus is two badly damaged people and she treats both the characters and their issues with sensitivity and care.  Wes and Armando are also two of the best characters Bradford has written in a while, each having more depth and dimension than those in the past book, namely Sully and Bobby, who return here.  Wes is facing issues rare in shifters, that of drug and alcohol addiction.  Normally, shifters can’t get drunk or stoned due to their metabolism but Wes learned that certain combinations and amounts of drugs will see him either intoxicated or high.  With Wes, she paints a portrait of a young man whose poor self esteem and debilitating shyness make Wes unable to cope once his support in Sully is removed.

Given the treatment of Armando in the last book (Sullivan), I was unsure what would happen to him here but Bradford handled Armando and the trauma of his sexual assault with sensitivity and realism too.  Armando is stuck in the past, unable to go forward with his recovery for many reasons but one of the strongest is that he cannot be truthful with his therapist as to the exact nature of the assault as the predator was a shifter. So we find him two years later still having nightmares and suffering flashbacks.  He has purposely gained weight to appear unattractive and wears loose clothes, all authentic markers of abuse.  Normally Bradford fills her books with pages of mate induced sex which includes biting, claws and bloodletting.  Thankfully, most of that has been left out of a book dealing with two traumatized souls and she treats their slow path to a sexual relationship with thoughtfulness and tact.

In fact, I find this is the best book of the series if you can discount the lack of any continuing threads the previous books have established.  I think that had a little more of the themes of the series been included, this would have gotten a much higher rating.  It seems as though we are heading away from the Leopard element and more towards the wolf pack with the next in the series which I find a little disappointing as the Snow/Amur Leopard theme seemed to be  central to the series.  But if Wesley is any indication of the future of this series, than it is very bright indeed.  I can only hope for more like this one to come next.

Cover art by Posh Gosh who has done a fantastic job with the series with rich covers that are treats for the eyes.

Here is the Leopard Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly):

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)

Wesley (Leopards Spots #8)

Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven #7) by Lavinia Lewis

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Pete's Persuasion coverTony has been examining his life in New York and doesn’t like what he sees, a shallow man pursuing his career, without friends or a man to love. Tony is missing his best friend, Jake who is now living with his cowboy in Texas and happier than Tony has ever seen him.  So when Tony decides he is due for a change, its to Texas and Jake that he decides to vacation.  A vacation that will land him in the middle of a killer’s quest for revenge and into a world of wolf shifters.

Pete Johnson, beta of alpha Kelan’s Wolf Creek pack, is tired of seeing all the shifters around him find their mates while he remains alone.  After the madness with the council member gone mad, all he wants to do is buy the bar he manages and settle down.  But once more, a killer rises up from the ash of the plot by a Supernatural  Council rogue member to threaten all the members of the Wolf Creek pack.  The night Tony arrives, someone burns both the bar and Kelan’s Crazy Horse Ranch to the ground, killing humans and shifters alike.  During the investigation, Pete meets Tony for the first time and realizes Tony is his mate.  When Jake gets critically injured during the blast that brings down the bar, Tony sees something so unreal, so unbelievable, that he thinks he is hallucinating.  Both Kelan and Pete’s features start to change and Tony discovers the reality of shifters.

As the killer escalates their plan to make the people involved in the rogue Councilman’s death pay, Pete must make Tony understand they are mates, sooth his concerns over shifters being real, and try to keep him safe until the killer is caught.  Not a easy take when Tony is divided between wanting to help and wanting to flee back to New York.  Can Pete persuade his mate to stay with him in Texas or will the killer take revenge on all the shifters in Wolf Creek, and their mates as well.

Shifters’ Haven is a series that continues to grow in depth and complexity and Pete’s Persuasion is the best book yet in this terrific series.  In fact, I still find it hard to believe that it is only 92 pages long as it has the feel and emotional heft of a much larger book.  Pete’s Persuasion continues with the aftermath of the death of the rogue Council member who was killing the mates of shifters who wished to remain hidden from the human world.  Now someone is seeking revenge for his death and everyone is a target.  I loved the continuity that flows smoothly from one book to the next, with nary a dropped plot point.  Lewis never gives us extraneous storyline side trips but instead juggles all the characters and locations masterfully as she maneuvers her characters and the reader towards a goal yet unseen.  If a certain element appears, whether human, shifter or Council law, then you can be sure it will figure seamlessly into the plot at some point, even if it takes a book or two to accomplish it.

Another facet of Lewis’ stories that I admire is that there are no throwaway characters.  If she mentions someone, then you can be sure they will make another  appearance down the line.  Tony, Jake’s best friend of 10 years, is first mentioned in Kelan’s Pursuit (Shifters’ Haven #3), but it took four more books until he reappeared as a main character.  And there is no such thing as a cookie cutter character in her stories either.  These men or shifters laugh, love, and hurt in such a believable fashion that there is never a strain to remember the cast of characters and their relationships to each other, something that can happen with long running series.

A nice element that Lewis works into her shifter universe, is that there is no instant love between mates.  There is desire certainly (hot sex too), there is a feeling of completeness and a recognition that each melds with the other but it takes time for the love to form.  Her shifters also physically shift instead of  a blink of an eye transformation, but there is no physical pain, just a momentary disconnect between the wolf and the man.

And finally, Lewis gives us scenes of such intensity, such fear, that she can make your heart pound and your pulse rate speed up with her action sequences, fight scenes and blazing conflagrations as the  burning buildings start coming down around our characters.  Really, she does an amazing job with her harrowing descriptions and vivid scenes that you feel like you are there.

So I cannot wait for the next in the series and one of the main reasons is that at the end of this book, the killer is once again on the loose.  The plot continues, the anxiety and dread rises with the stakes higher than ever.  Shifters’ Haven has me well and truly hooked.  You will be too but don’t start here. Go back to the beginning and read the series in the order they were written, which is the only way it will make sense.  You are going to love this.

Luke’s Surprise (Shifters’ Haven, #1)

Cody’s Revelation (Shifters’ Haven, #2)

Kelan’s Pursuit (Shifters’ Haven, #3)

Aaron’s Awakening (Shifters’ Haven #4)

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

Gregory’s Rebellion (Shifters’ Haven, #6)  – read my review here.

Pete’s Persuasion (Shifters’ Haven, #7)

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  The covers for this series is lovely but not up to the heights of the Leopard’s Spots series.  Still, it pulls in many of the elements of the story and still manages to brand the series from other shifter books.

Review: Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 5 stars

Crucible of Fate coverDomin Thorne should be on top of the world.  He is the semel-aten, the leader of the werepanther world, ruler of the city Sobek in Egypt, the capital of the werepanthers.  At his side are his new mate, Yuri the former shersuru of Logan Church as well as Mikail, Crane, and Taj from his former tribe, courtesy of Logan and Jin who knew it was crucial to have people he trusted around him as he began his rule.

But the tasks before him are even more formidable than he had imagined.  The old priest who supported him has died, and the new priest is intent on undermining his authority.   Crane is homesick and both Yuri and Mikail are not acting like themselves.  And Domin finds himself short tempered, and impatient with the pace of change in the rules and regulations he wants implemented.  Then his ex shows up just as a servant tries to kill him, and Yuri goes on a goodwill mission that turns deadly, and faced with his loss, Domin realizes that he truly loves Yuri, the only one to love him deeply and forever.

As his enemies gather all around him, Domin must prove to himself and all of Sobek that he is truly the semel-aten Logan believes he can be if he is to save those he loves and the werepanther world so desperately in need of change.

I hope that Mary Calmes intends to continue this series because with each book, it gets stronger, more deeply layered and complex.  Crucible of Fate picks up after the events of Honored Vow, and the fight in the arena between Domin and the former semel aten, Ammon, a circumstance planned by Logan.  Now in Sobek, the werepanther capital city in Egypt, we are given a Domin in crisis mode, inside and out.  Everything has  changed for Domin and it is overwhelming him on every front.  Domin has a mate in Yuri and it is so new for them both that neither has adjusted to their new status.  Yuri has always loved Domin, but Domin’s feelings for Yuri are still so brand new, bringing with them a measure of insecurity.  Logan gave permission for several close members of his tribe to go with Domin to insure his safety and to insure he would have people around him he could trust but none of them are acting like themselves.  Even the goals he wants to set for change within their society seem to distant to enact.  Mary Calmes gives us this wonderfully volatile man puts him down within an equally volatile framework and lets the explosions start to happen.

The author places characters we have come to love into situations where  their interpersonal relationships must expand and grow to their potential or all will be lost.  And it’s not just  Domin who must change, but Crane, Mikhail, Yuri and the entire court of Sobek.  It’s wonderful because we get to see the start of a social revolution but from the person’s view point who is planning it all.  Just a lovely touch.  As this author has done in the past, she takes the facts she has given us and then uses them to turn everything we know on its head by the end of the story.  All the little twists and turns she throws into the story takes Domin into a place I did not see coming, and I loved that.

And it’s not just the wonderful characterizations that greet us like old friends, but the vivid descriptions of Egypt, from the palace to the catacombs that help the reader visualize each and every scene our beloved werepanthers find themselves in.  But no matter how wonderful the settings (and they have been outstanding, especially Mongolia), it is the characters that continue to bring all of us back for more.  I never thought I would come to love Domin as I do when I initially met him. Then he was a bully, and a bit of a thug, deserving of a smackdown, which he got and then some.  But over the series, we have watched Domin evolve into a man of honor, worthy of both respect and love.  One of the true pleasures of this story, is Domin and Yuri’s story, watching their relationship deepen, strengthen and finally reveal itself as one between true mates.  It is just so rewarding and satisfying, I can’t wait for you to experience it yourself.

In fact you won’t find a quibble here.  Just the plea for another book.  Ilia, Jin and Logan’s son is introduced here, and while not giving you any spoilers, let’s just say he is worthy of his own series.  Crane has a wedding coming up, and so much more is on the horizon for them all that their story cries out to be heard (yes, that would be Danny’s voice we hear). So here I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the future will bring us more in the Change of Heart series.  Until then I will return to the beginning and start over with Jin and Logan.  Don’t miss out on any of them.

 

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur:

Change of Heart (Change of Heart #1)

Trusted Bond (Change of Heart #2)

Honored Vow (Change of Heart #3)

Crucible of Fate (Change of Heart #4)