A MelanieM Review: Bayou des Enfants (Rougaroux Social Club #4) by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Bayou Enfants coverA year has passed since Scott Dupree took Ted Canedo as his mate and assumed leadership of the St. Jerome pack.  They’ve moved in together into Scott’s house near the bayou, Ted’s private detective business is slowly getting off the ground as is Ted’s career as an artist.  Scott’s police department is solidly behind Scott so what could go wrong?

That would be Scott’s mother, Darlene Dupree. She’s not happy because she wants grandkids and she wants them now.  As she usually does, Maman, (as Scott and Ted call her) takes matters into her own hands.  A little spell or two in the middle of the night next to the bayou and Maman’s magic sets events in motion that has profound ramifications for all in the bayou.

What happens when two boys are suddenly in need of a home and parents?  Especially when Ted isn’t even sure kids are something he wants?  It’s chaos when change is forced upon everyone with just one accident.  Ted and Scott have a chance to become not just partners but parents and a family, if only they and everyone else can agree!

I have loved this series from Lynn Lorenz from the first story, Bayou Dreams (Rougaroux Social Club, #1).  It was a clever tweak by Lorenz that had Scott’s wolf being attracted to Ted before Scott was.  And throughout the story we watched as Ted tried to overcome his fear of involvement with a man who had been “straight” as well as Scott trying to adjust his ideas of sexuality to the needs of his wolf which soon becomes the needs of the man.  Plus there was the whole “and I’m a werewolf” thing to adjust to as well as a magical spell throwing Mama to contend with.  I fell in love with every bit of characterization and plot that Lorenz threw at me and then some.  And I have followed the series gleefully ever since, through three stories to arrive here at what is possibly the last story in the series, Bayou des Enfants.

Maman has been a strong character in every story and usually the impetus for events and relationship explosions that happen along the way.  See, Maman wants what she wants and uses magic to do it but her spells never go as planned, veering off onto another unexpected wild path to the end she wants and asked for.  I adore Maman and her raggedly black cat, she is straight out of the bayou, with a complicated religious outlook and dialog that rises right out of the swampy waters near her home.  One thing Maman has always wanted was first for Scott to get married (check, although not the way she planned) and now she wants grandchildren.  And yes, that doesn’t occur the way she wants either.  It never does.

The children that arrive at Scott and Ted’s home feel so real.  They are hurt, grieving, and troubled, well, at least one is troubled and more than a “handful” as they say.  Lorenz makes these children so believable and vulnerable that the reader becomes invested in their safety and future almost immediately.  Also just as authentic is the community’s reactions to a gay couple wanting children and the CPS involvement in everything that occurs.  While there was not be as much action as in the past stories here, the emotional adjustments that have to go on and the shifting of attitudes that must take place come so cautiously and slow that the suspense is enough to pull us in and keep our attention firmly focused on the people and events happening.

Did I love the ending? Absolutely.  I have been meaning to ask Lynn Lorenz if this is it for St. Jerome, Ted, Scott, Maman and all the rest.  I hope not.  I want many more tales to come just as surely Maman has more spells to cast to shake up any community.  Here’s hoping for more Rougaroux Bayou stories in the future.

If you are new to this series,  they really should be read in the order they were written.  Otherwise some of the people, events and relationship developments must not make sense.  I highly recommend this series to all lovers of romance, wolf shifters, and the bayou setting of Louisiana!

 

Cover Artist April Martinez has done a good job in branding the series with her covers, they belong together as a group.  I just wished the setting had a little larger place somewhere in the design.  It just doesn’t convey much about the story inside.

Sales Links:   Loose id LLC       All Romance (ARe)     Amazon    Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 25th 2014 by Loose Id (first published November 24th 2014)
original titleBayou des Enfants
edition languageEnglish
seriesRougaroux Social Club #4

Rougaroux Social Club Series in the order they were written and should be read:

 

Review: Belligerent Beta (Pack Partners #2) by Poppy Dennison

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Belligerent Beta coverBeta Dan Keller always assumed he would take over the pack as Alpha if anything should happen to their leader.  But when the dead Alpha’s son chooses a human to become Alpha and lead their pack, Dan wasn’t sure of his place in the pack or his position.  With ex cop Lex Tompkins as Alpha and new pack members, there is a lot of adjusting to do by all. One of the youngest members is also one who is having the most problems.  Nathan Ross, the Omega of the pack, has a troubled past that has not only made him a target to other wolves but left him unable to shift as well.

When Lex suggests to Dan that he needs to get more involved with pack members, become a true beta, Dan never anticipated that the one who needed him the most would be Nathan.  But a broken down car and a offered ride gives Dan a chance to get to know Nathan and to his surprise he finds he likes the shy man hiding behind poor posture and long bangs.  When trouble arrives in pack territory and local animals turn up dead, all clues points to Nathan as the culprit.

Will Nathan and Dan’s friendship and burgeoning romance be lost just as its getting started or will the belligerent beta find his true strength in time to protect a man he wants for his own?

This is such a cute series.  Accidental Alpha, the first story, revolved around an ex cop Lex Tompkins who gets bitten by a neighbor’s toddler which turned him into a shifter and pack Alpha.  The kid was/is adorable and the situation Lex found himself in was funny with a few serious elements attached.  Belligerent Beta is a perfect title for Dan Keller who is still smarting at being passed over for Alpha and by a child no less.  Dan is aloof, intimidating, and in a quandary over his role in the pack.   The story picks up with the pack and Lex still adjusting  to the new order and Lex’s new powers.  Nathan, a young Omega wolf, in jeopardy in Accidental Alpha remains troubled here for an unknown yet hinted at reason.

Nathan’s character is a little shaky here.  His history is one he only told to the last Alpha with hints of abuse or something equally horrific.  He is naive or ignorant about shifter culture.  And his inability to shift has caused him to withdraw even further into himself.  I expected more from Nathan’s history than is revealed here.  Either the reader still doesn’t have the whole story on Nathan or some of the implications were too overwrought,  Either way I felt his character could have used some additional information or substance.  Did that keep me from liking Nathan?  Absolutely not.  As someone in need of support and compassion, Nathan hits all the right buttons in order to connect with him.  Who did I love?  Well, that would be Dan.  Big, gruff, isolated Dan.   Dan is a character that you like the more he opens up and that happens as gradually as it can over 97 pages. And when Dan finally starts to get to know and get closer to Nathan its as cute as a puppy pile.  That’s the best part of this story. It’s heartwarming and so sweet.

If you are looking for drama or angst here, you won’t find it.  That element is almost completely missing from this story.  Any hints of turmoil or large crisis such as we saw in the first story are just so much smoke or a quick reference to Lex’s continued adjustment to his new shifter status.  This is a sweet, adorable romance..  The couple is endearing and they make a perfect pair.  When you are finished,  I think you will find you were happy you spent more time with this pack and their latest mate pairing.  Poppy Dennison continues to flesh out her portrait of this pack and their members with each new story.  I’m not sure who is next up in the series, but I can’t wait to find out.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  I would call that model a wonderful bear but this is about wolves after all.

Buy Links:    Wilde City Press          Amazon                 ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 97 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Wilde City Press
original titleBelligerent Beta
ISBN139781925031008
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-romance/belligerent-beta/#.U2hU16JQ7sc
seriesPack Partners #2

Pack Partners Series:

Accidental Alpha  (Pack Partners #1)
Belligerent Beta (Pack Partners #2)

Don’t Miss Out! The Tameness of the Wolf Insanity Continues with Contests and Dog Tags!

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Strength of the Wolf Banner

It’s been a week since Strength of the Wolf was released and the insanity continues!!StrengthoftheWolf4

If you missed yesterday’s post, go check it out really quick. I talked about the werewolves in, Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf, how I created them, and why I gave them the characteristics that I did. There’s still time to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf, so go get yourself signed up! The winner will be announced, right here, tomorrow!

Today, you can enter to win a set of authentic Dog Tags for the main characters of Strength of the Wolf! These are highly coveted dog tags, featuring the vital statistics of Tim Madison and Jeremy Wagner, from Strength of the Wolf. These are brand new! No one has a set, yet, so you might be lucky enough to be the first!

KM Dog TagsHere is everything you need to know to get entered for your chance to win! The winner will be announced tomorrow, as well, so don’t wait! Get entered!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30764

Love and Dog Tags,

Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.comBlack Wolf from the back

www.facebook.com/kendallmckenna

www.facebook.com/thetamenessofthewolf

www.facebook.com/therecondiaries

Buy Links:

MLR Press LLC

Amazon

All Romance 

Review Repost: Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Strength of the PackAt a time when tales of the Human Dominant and his True Alpha Shifter have been consigned to myth, along comes human Marine Lt. Lucas Young.  As he readies his command of mixed human and shifters for their deployment to Afghanistan,  he is assigned True Alpha pack leader Sargent Noah Hammond to his platoon. From the beginning, Lucas and Noah circle around each other, Noah pressing for dominance and control while Lucas is equally determined that his authority and rank be recognized and respected by the True Alpha. Small skirmishes and exercises bring human and shifter together in an ever strengthening bond as Lucas learns to dominate Noah and understand the ways of the Pack.

Once their platoon has landed in Afghanistan, they find themselves under fire, and the wartime stresses find their bond deepening and getting stronger with each trial and success. Soon the pair are mirroring the legendary bonding of Dominant and True Alpha from ancient lore. But the bonding is incomplete and when one is wounded, can misunderstandings and military regulations be overcome in time to save them both?

It has been a while since a new shifter book blew me away.  Strength of the Pack has done that job and then some.  McKenna gives us an alternative world where shifters and humans have been together for millennia and throughout much of history.  But through human rewriting, their place in our history has been purposely obscured. Now, because of some unmentioned war or occurrence, shifters are now partnering with humans in all aspects of life, including the military.  McKenna gives us just enough back history to whip up a thirst for more while still making her current setting feel realistic and well thought out.  Little by little, McKenna delivers glimpses of this magical back history, reinterpreting such legends as Joan of Arc and Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

McKenna’s world building is a wonder with no element left to chance.  We are given pack hierarchy, which is folded  into Army and Marine structure in such a way as to feel utterly real and authentic in every detail.  She has a way of describing army life as lived while deployed that I wondered if she was a Reservist or active in the military.  From their packs to their guns, to the dust and heat of the land they are bivouacked on, it felt as though you were there with them, close to the insurgents and ambushes.  It just rang true, right down to how the Pack reacts after skirmishing with the enemy.

And that brings me to another aspect of this book that I loved, the natural history of the wolf.  Unlike other shifter stories, here the wolf shifters act like wolves, including their rank and status within the pack and how it regulates their behavior to one another.  While I enjoy seeing different authors take on shifters, as a park naturalist I love seeing an author who gets the science right, especially where natural history is concerned. Kudos to McKenna for that lovely take on wolf shifters and shifter society.  She also opens up for an explosion of options in the books to come.  I can’t say more without giving away some of the plot but oh my, what possibilities could be in store for us in the books ahead.

Kendall McKenna’s characters are worthy of such marvelous world building too.  I loved the reserved nature of Lt. Lucas Young.  He is brilliant, concerned about regulations and the safety of those under his command.  There are so many levels to this man and they are slowly peeled away as he  realizes that he is not prepared to handle the presence of either a True Alpha or shifters in his platoon.  The decisions he makes (and we are inside his mind as he makes them) paint a portrait of a man, honest to his true nature with the capacity to grow with the challenges before him. Lucas is matched up with the indomitable True Alpha, Noah Hammond, a nordic warrior shifter.  This is not a cardboard hero but again a being adjusting to a bond thought unheard of and having his own problems with it.  McKenna has made Hammond vulnerable, at least to Lucas, a necessary facet of his personality if we are to believe their bond to be true.  This will be one of my favorite new pairs of the year.  The needs of the wolf for taste, touch, smell and markings deliver sensual scene after sensual scene as Lucas and Noah adapt to each other and their needs.

This book is 336 pages long and felt like 90.  I got to the end and wailed because I wanted much, much more.  I have so many questions for McKenna.  Has the government been working to find this combination again?  When did the shifters come forward again?  And what happens to Tim Madison?  Consider my feet stamped in frustration.  Lucky for all of us, this is just the beginning.  I hope the series is a long one.  But either way, long or short, I can’t wait for the next installment in The Tameness of the Wolf.  Go get your copy and let’s start this journey together.  I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

Stunning cover art by  Jared Rackler

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)

Review: Pack Business (Pine Hollow Wolves #2) by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 3.75 stars

Pack BusinessShifter Liam, human Travis and his daughter Hannah are still trying to settle into the new living arrangement as one happy family.  Liam adores Hannah and is quickly falling in love with Travis, the man he rescued from living on the streets, along with his daughter.  Travis too finds himself falling for the shifter with the icy blue eyes who protects them both so lovingly and is paying for him to attend university.  But trouble is brewing from within Liam’s back and Hannah, the 2 year old human is the focus of all the discord.

Hannah can see all the shifters in their true form and calls them all “puppies” because that is what she sees when she looks at them.  And that can be a problem when you are trying to hide from the human society you live in.  Plus there is that all bogeyman tale of human Hunters that could see the shifters in their human form and know they were wolves.  The pack is not ready to find out whether it is truth or fairy tale, they just want the little girl dealt with.  Can their new family succeed and thrive when all around them want the family broken apart and the child to disappear?

Pack Business is a continuation of the Pine Hollow Wolves series started with Almost Paradise. The story begins 6 months after the end of Almost Paradise.  Liam, Travis, and Hannah are living together in Liam’s house with his two Mastiffs, Lucy and Ethel.  They are really starting to feel as though they are a family, and adorable Hannah is the child that Liam never thought he would have as a gay man and shifter.  Travis has started back at school, and everyone is happy, mostly.

Ricci’s wonderful characters that drew me in to  start with are all back and flourishing.  I fell in love with Liam, Travis and Hannah immediately and became invested in their future so I was very excited to see where the story is going.  Liam’s pack is an interesting one where the Alpha is almost two wolves, powerful twin brother and sister who also happen to be African American, a rarity within the shifter universe.  Samson and Evangeline are two strong characters that you want more of, including their backstory, especially Evangeline.  I love Evangeline.  She is strong, charismatic and independent and her brother, the Alpha, loves her and depends on her judgement and strength.  Less is known about her brother but I believe that is intentional.  At least I hope so because i can see glimpses of Samson that just cry out for his own story.

Pack Business also starts to address the fact that Hannah can “see” the true wolf form of every shifter she meets when they are in their human shape.  How do you explain to other people when a 2 year old continues to call you “puppy”?  Staying hidden is to be achieved at all costs and to some that cost is Hannah’s life.  Additionally, Ricci introduces a shifter legend or their own version of a Grimm fairy tale in which long ago there was a group of humans called Hunters who possessed the ability to identify a shifter on sight. These Hunters used their ability to kill every shifter they found.  But as the author tells it, not even the shifters are sure if this is fact or fiction.  With each new element, Ricci ups the anxiety and uncertainty about Liam and Travis’s ability to keep Hannah safe and happy.

I really love this series but recognize that there are several aspects that will not set well with other readers.  One is the fact that if you have not read the first book in the series, not much of this story will make sense,  In fact , Pack Business has more the feel of a really long chapter than a separate book on its own.  To be a satisfying read that deserves a four star rating, this book should be folded in right after Almost Paradise, and read together.  Then it makes sense and becomes an even more compelling read.

Another is that the wolf shifters here are of the I Dream of Jeannie school of shifters.  Blink, they are human, blink and they are wolves sort of thing.  I will admit to a certain niggling little sarcastic voice in the back of my head that goes “Really? And their clothes reassemble too?” I like this story enough to kind of overlook this but I will admit to preferring the more sensible bone jarring, skin stretching, more realistic form of shifting.  It just is more agreeable to the naturalist in me.

I find the Pine Hollow Wolves series to be so captivating, so full of promising glimpses into future stories, that I am willing to shove my quibbles with the books into the background.  I want to see what happens with Hannah and her gift/curse.  Are Hunters in fact, real? And is Hannah is a Hunter, what will happen when a Hunter is raised by a wolf pack?  This element just cries out for a YA book, don’t you think?  With Hannah as the heroine?  And there is Liam ready to leave the pack and his financial security for Travis and Hannah.  And Evangeline, with her divided loyalties?  I can go on and hope that Caitlin Ricci does so as well, while answering all the questions that keep popping into my mind.

This is a short book, only 110 pages and it cries out for a much longer length.  But I will take a sequel no matter how long or short it may be.  I am now fully invested in these characters and their future.  I need to know what happens to them and that is wonderful story telling.

Lee Tiffin is the cover artist and this cover is just as adorable as the family pictured.  It works both as a cover for this book and to brand the series.

Books in the Pine Hollow Wolves series in the order they were written and should be read, one immediately after the other:

Almost Paradise (Pine Hollow Wolves #1)

Pack Business (Pine Hollow Wolves #2)

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 of With or Without Series by JL Langley

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ating: 5 stars for the series

My first introduction to JL’s shifters came when I picked up the Hearts From The Ashes anthology and read With Love, the first in Langley’s shifter series.  It featured a young clutzy Omega wolf named Laine Campbell who was perpetually in hot water over things he said or creating chaos with the things he did.  Everything about Laine was adorable, from his hair to his manner of speech and I fell in love immediately.  So did Dev, the Alpha wolf moving to Ashton with his betas and business partners.  He was hooked on Laine and I was hooked on Dev.  I could not believe it when the story was over. I wanted more shifters, specifically I wanted JL’s shifters and I wanted them now. This is a reoccurring theme with JL Langley’s books so be prepared.

Then came Without Reservations in 2007 and my addiction was official.  Without Reservations is the story of Chayton Winston, a veterinarian living in New Mexico.  He is also a shifter and all his life he has been dreaming of a fair haired mate, much to his Native American  parents chagrin.  His entire life Chay has considered himself heterosexual until an injured wolf is brought into his office.  The wolf is a gorgeous male shifter and his mate.  He is also Caucasian something he is sure his mother will never accept.

Keaton Reynolds wakes up in a veterinarian ‘s office to find himself injured and being treated by his mate.  He should be overjoyed except he just got out of a relationship from a shifter who had a girlfriend on the side but also said he was Keaton’ mate.  Keaton is not one to repeat his mistakes and a hetero shifter is not someone he wants to take a chance on, no matter what his body and even his heart may think.  But Chay won’t give up on Keaton and finally Keaton agrees to get to know Chay better.  And slowly they start to build a relationship together.  But there is Chay’s mother’s disapproval to overcome and a power struggle in Keaton’s Georgia pack that threatens them both.  How will they overcome the odds to find the happiness they both deserve?

I reread this book all the time.  Chayton Winston and Keaton Reynolds are such wonderful creations that I return to their story time and again.  Chayton is one of the nicest people you will meet in the author’s novels.  He is both elementally patient and rock solid in his beliefs so that when presented with a man as a mate, he accepts it.  If it switches his sexuality over to gay, ok as long as he gets his mate, something no wolf shifter would ever turn down.  And you believe this paradigm shift absolutely as being in character for Chayton because he is so real from the moment we meet him.  Keaton also engages our hearts and affections with his prickly nature  and forceful personality packed into a slight build.  A small white wolf, he has the personality and power of an Alpha without needing to lead. Keaton would rather teach and help educate so the fact that his mate would be a healer, a veterinarian makes complete sense.  JL Langley surrounds these two with people as authentic and believable as they are and gives us a mystery to boot.  Just an outstanding novel.

With Caution came next.  It remains my favorite of the series and again one I read over and over again.  With the characters of Remington Lassiter and Jake Romero, JL brings a level of complexity and depth to her characterizations that I had not seen before.  And added to our main characters, she introduces us to the rest of the men who will become their pack.  Each man is a unique unforgettable creation as they sit astride their motorcycles and roar into our hearts.  Remy is a shifter we meet in Without Reservations and he makes a rather disastrous first impression upon us in that story.  But here we discover the dark background that surrounds him in shocking detail as well as the reasons for his actions.

There are parts of this novel so bleak and despairing your hearts will bleed for Remy and his brother Sterling  even as our hero bleeds out from the abuse.  Remy’s sexuality and his acceptance of a male mate is a huge part of this story and his past as well.  I cannot give Langley enough credit for the sensitive way she deals with child abuse and recovery as an adult.  There is also a murder mystery to be solved, and the exploration of a naturally submissive nature.  There is some mild bdsm that works beautifully within the plot of the story and the glimpses of new couples, mates, for future stories.  One couple in particular has had the fans clamoring for their story since this book was published.  This story has depth, multi-layered characters and a multitude of themes running through it, not the least of which is how Reservaton law can also isolate the members it is supposed to protect, control issues and child abuse.  Heavy themes indeed but this book is also packed with love and redemption.  With Caution is an incredible read you won’t want to put down.

Next comes a series of free stories that can be found on the Fiction With Friction website until JL Langley’s site is back up and running.  These are in order:

A Lot To Be Thankful For (With or Without Series 3.1) Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (the fans just wouldn’t shut up for their story)

A Sterling New Year (With or Without Series 3.2)  with Sterling Lassister and Rhys Waya (love, love these two and so will you, get on the bus)

With Abandon (With or Without #4) brings back Aubrey Reynolds and the rest of the Georgia pack that we met in Without Reservation.  Aubrey is Keaton’s brother and our introduction to him in Without Reservation was not exactly a positive one.  Matt Mahihkan, one of Gadget’s sons from With Caution is back and going to college in Georgia. Matt was a quirky young man who we got to know only superficially but JL Langley brings him together with  Aubrey Reynolds and that combination sparks all sorts of problems not the leasts of which is that Aubrey is not out to his family or the pack. And Matt is not only out and proud but turns out he is Aubrey’s mate. It took me a while to like Aubrey, perhaps some of that was left over emotions from Without Reservation.  But his reluctance to accept Matt officially as his mate made him hard to like.  He has to grow on you, something none of the other characters has had to do.  Matt, of course, is absolutely adorable and we entrust our affections with him from the get go.  And with Matt, comes some of the members of the New Mexico pack we have come to love as well.

Next come three free short stories in succession. I am convinced JL Langley thought the fans would be showing up on her doorstep if she didn’t at least throw them all several bones. I will admit to being one of them:

Christmas Dinner at Reynolds Hall (With or Without, #4.1)

Attack of the Killer Dust Bunnies (With or Without, #4.2) 

Christmas Cookies and Garland (With or Without, #4.3)

So what and who are coming next?  That would be Sterling and Rhys.  This is the story everyone has been yelling for, myself included. I believe JL Langley said it will be done in a few month from now but isn’t sure when it will be published. That will depend upon Samhain Publishing’s schedule.  Be still my heart.

Without Fear (With or Without series #5) – coming from Samhain Publishing.

So that’s JL Langley’s shifters in a nutshell.  I am not sure I did them justice.  Shifters of all species hit my buttons. Native American shifters hit them twice.  I don’t care if they are wolves, big cats or even weresloths of London (thank you, Charlie Cochrane for that memorable story).  But thinking back to the beginning, it all started with JL Langley’s wolves who come to life on the pages of the With and Without series, grabbed both my attention and my heart and have never let them go.  I have these books in paperback (prior to my Kindle) and I have them now in eBooks as well.  From their killer covers to their outstanding characters and plots, I return to them often.  To reacquaint myself with old friends and find comfort in their presence.

Some find JL Langley through her cowboys and others through her sci-Regency series.  I found her through her shifters.  If you are new to JL Langley as an author, try them all.  Start from the beginning of each series and work your way down.  You will find yourself with a new  addiction just as I did.  Write me. Let me know what you think. I will be waiting.

Author Spotlight: An Interview with J.L. Langley

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Author Spotlight is on J. L. Langley.

I first wandered into JL Langley’s world with a story called With Love from the Hearts With The Ashes anthology.  Here I met her shifters Laine Anderson and his mate Dev and encountered JL’s wonderful blend of humor, vulnerablilltiy, angst and above all, heart that she  imbues in all her characters for the first time.  I read it once, and then promptly turned back and read it all over again.  I laughed and cried as much at the second reading as I did at the second and wanted so much more.  I wanted more of her shifters, more of JL Langley’s worlds.  Thank goodness there are plenty out there to  discover and journey through.

Next up came The Tin Star and JL Langley’s cowboys. Sigh.  How i loved them too.  You will hear more about them later on.  They will have their day, no worries.  My next love came with the wolf shifters.  That would be the  With and Without series.  Their fame has spread far and wide. Don’t speak too loudly or you will encounter the Sterling and Rhys bandwagon that careens around wildly, full of loud  fans screaming for Sterling and Rhys to be the next couple to get their own book.  One of them might even be me, uh hem.  And yes,  we will be talking more about all of them later in the week, so no fretting on the shifter front please!

Today is the day that My Regelence Rake is being released from Samhain Publishing so I know they are being bombarded by JL’s fan for theircopy of her latest  Sci-Regency novel.  Sci-Regency, what an unusual genre to be  sure.  Only JL would have thought to blend science fiction and the English Regency world and make it not only successful but downright addictive.  It all started with My Fair Captain and that delicious droll worthy cover.  This novel has remained a steadfast favorite of mine as it’s worn, dog-eared pages can attest to.

So this week, it’s all about the worlds of JL Langley and I will be giving away one copy of My Regelence Rake to one lucky commenter during the week.  The winner will be announced on Friday.  So to start off our week, let’s begin with a chat I had about how the term Sci-Regency came about.

MM:

Thank you, JL, for coming here today and participating in my first author interview. I have always been fascinated by the term Sci Regency.  Did you coin that  phrase?

JL:

“I did come up with the term and series name Sci-Regency. I’ve always loved Regency romance but wanted something different, unique. With the laws in the 1800’s being gay was punishable by law therefore it would’ve been very difficult to live openly as a gay couple. That seems so bittersweet to me. I wanted to be able to have my cake and eat it to, so to speak, so I combined Regency with Sci-Fi and wa la a truly happy ending was possible. Not to mention some cool technology and a way to bend the rules of society ever so slightly.”

MM:

I have a hard time picking out favorite characters of yours, I just love them all.  Do you have favorite characters?

JL:

“I love all the characters in this series but I have to say Steven and Raleigh, the King and King-Consort, are my favorites. I plan on doing a sort of prequel for the two of them eventually.”

MM:

My start with Regency fiction was Georgette Heyer and The Grand Sophy, a fondness that continues to this day. Do you have favorite Regency authors?

JL:

“I have several favorite Regency authors, but if I had to name one it would be Julia Quinn.”

MM:

I have to admit Georgette Heyer was my first introduction and I still love her. I love the way you blend such Regency mainstays such as horse racing, fencing, Tattersalls, and Regency dress with a science fiction setting. I love the way Regency social niceties and rules are given a m/m twist to them in your series. Here young unattached men are not allowed out without suitable escorts or chaperones. Do you ever find yourself just laughing out loud as you turn old ways on their heads in your stories? It’s such a great blend that you have achieved.

JL replies:
“I don’t know about laughing but I do love it. I really enjoy writing this series, it’s hands down my fave. I joke that I could gladly write this series and in this word for the rest of my life and be a happy woman, I really do love it.”

MM

I know you have told us but I can’t remember. Of course quite a few of us are shouting Trouble and Rexley at you! But I have to say I agree with you about Steven and Raleigh. I love their relationship and look forward to every scene with them in it. And you introduce a Cousin in this series, hmmm. Lord Demon? I know you had a recent excerpt with his name in it. Who is next in line for a book in this series?

JL:
“Blaise and Raleigh’s nephew, Dalton, (He’s the cousin “Lord Demon”), is next. After them will be Blaise’s little brother Bannon and then Rexley and Trouble. There are several guest appearances in this book by not only Steven and Raleigh, but Aiden and Nate and Rexley, Trouble and Muffin.”

Do you outline your books or have a story arc in mind when you start a new one? You are balancing so many elements in your Sci-Regency series from marriage proposals, intergalactic intrigue, and perhaps even genetic manipulation yet you still give us scenes full of passion, humor, mystery and love. What gives you the inspiration for each book?

JL:

“I do outline,but I loosely outline and leave room to change. In fact the last half of Colton’s book does not resemble the original outline at all. So it’s more of a guide than an actual outline because things are subject to change. Each book is a little difference. This one for example has less of the series plot with the IN than the others. It sort of depends on what the characters give me. For example in Dalton’s book, there is a pretty good look into Regelence government as well as Raleigh’s background. In Bannon’s book it’s very much back into the series plot. I do have an outline of sorts for each book in the series, but I am very character motivated in my writing, so things can and do change on occasion.”

Thank you, JL. I can’t wait to hear from you. I really appreciate your participation in my contest and Author Spotlight.

From the author’s website:

JL has been talking since she was about seven months old. To those who know her it comes as no surprise, in fact, most will tell you she hasn’t shut up since. At eighteen months, she was speaking in full sentences. Imagine if you will the surprise of her admirers when they complimented her mother on “what a cute little boy” she had and received a fierce glare from said little boy and a very loud correction of “I’m a girl!” Oddly enough, JL still finds herself saying that exact phrase thirty-some-odd years later.

Along with the motormouth, JL also displayed a very vivid imagination and artistic ability. The artist first surfaced in way of drawing and painting, then became more apparent with dance. JL was a member of the National Art Honor Society in high school and has won several regional and national titles in dance, specifically tap and jazz. In college she majored in Graphic Art, but chose to make dance her profession. She taught tap, jazz and ballet for fifteen years before settling into her career as a writer.

Today JL is a full-time writer, with over ten novels to her credit. Among her hobbies she includes reading, practicing her marksmanship (she happens to be a great shot), gardening, working out (although she despises cardio), searching for the perfect chocolate dessert (so far as she can tell ALL chocolate is perfect, but it requires more research) and arguing with her husband over who the air compressor and nail gun really belongs to (they belong to JL, although she might be willing to trade him for his new chainsaw).

This author also writes (m/f) under the name Jeigh Lynn.

JL Langley’s website is under construction but you can follow her through her  yahoo group, The Yellow Rose.

And her free short stories can be found at Fiction with Friction.