Leap of the Lion

Cherise Sinclair

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I know it’s almost blasphemous, but I like this series even better that the Shadowlands series. There’s something about shapeshifters that is so much more fun than the BDSM setting of the Shadowlands.

This is the most recent of the series. The focus is on Darcy, a prisoner of the Scythe, a large, powerful organization trying to learn the secrets of shifters. They control the male shifters by holding the females captive. Darcy is forced into shifting for the first time under extreme pressure. Discovered eavesdropping on the Director, she shifts into her mountain lion form and escapes only to find herself trapped in a form she cannot change back from.

Rescued by the guardian of the territory, she is given shelter and put under the protection of two experienced shifters. The two brothers couldn’t be more unlike. Gawain is a blade-mage, with extraordinary Goddess-give gifts of metal work. Easy going and cordial, Darcy is drawn to his gentleness and goodness. Owen, on the other hand, dislikes all women in general and Darcy in particular. He is grumpy and rude.

In spite of Darcy’s growing love for both the brothers, she is determined to leave Cold Creek and find her brothers, held captive by the Scythe. Her journey makes up the bulk of this satisfying and sexy story from a master storyteller.

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Eventide of the Bear

Cherise Sinclair

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Emma is banished from her territory unjustly and is forced to live as an outcast. She stays mostly in her bear form, scrounging for food and hibernating. When a family is attacked by a hellhound, Emma risks her life to save the child. Badly injured, she is forced to raid human campsites for food. When the guardian of the territory and his enforcer set a trap for her, she is caught in the act of breaking the law. Expecting to be punished, instead she is taken to the healer, and placed with the enforcer, a grizzly shifter named Ben, for protection.

Ben is lonely, too. His littermate and he split several years ago, and he has lived alone ever since. He is drawn to Emma, and shelters her gladly.

Ryder, Ben’s littermate, learns the woman he and Ben split over, has a cub—his daughter. Angered by his mate’s selfishness, he left her and vowed no woman would ever have power over him again. He hadn’t known about the cub. and when he goes to check it out, he finds an abused child, mute from the trauma. He takes his child and reunites with his brother. Together the four of them try to make a home.

And then the mother comes to reclaim her child.

Adulthood Rites

Octavia E. Butler

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This is book two of the Xenogenesis trilogy. A few humans have been rescued from a nuclear holocaust, and now have an opportunity to thrive—if they are willing to merge their DNA with their rescuers. The main character is Akin, a ‘human’ boy, who is much more than he appears. Kidnapped in infancy, he is taken by ‘pure’ human resisters who refuse to believe their rescuers. Rendered sterile by the Oankali, they are barely surviving and can have no children of their own.

The Oankali choose to leave Akin with the humans, even though they have the power to return him to his parents. They have decided to leave the choice of whether to return fertility to the resisters, or let them die out. If they regain their fertility, they will destroy themselves again.

How Akin deals with the burden of the decision forms the bulk of this story.

Martha in Paris

Margery Sharp

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Martha is a most unlikely heroine, rather lumpish and stolid. She is a serious artist, who has the good fortune to be a beneficiary of financial support to study in Paris. She attracts the attention of a young Englishman who is assigned to the Paris branch of an English bank. Aside from her nationality, it is difficult to understand what the attraction is, but that is enough to satisfy his rather formidable mother. On Martha’s side, it is the hot bath in his apartment that is the draw.

Margery Sharp as at her best in this unlikely tale of a relationship between a love-struck young man and a single-minded, serious artist in the romantic city of Paris.

Land of the Beautiful Dead

R. Lee Smith

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Any time I start an R. Lee Smith book, I can kiss my bedtime good-bye. I know I’m going to be up reading at four in the morning because I just can’t put the book down and turn off the Kindle. This one was no exception.

Au fond this is a beauty and the beast story, only the beauty is nothing to write home about and the beast is so beastly that he bears the scars of the people who tried to kill him. Unfortunately for them, he’s already dead.

Lan, a worker in the peach orchards of Norwich, has traveled to Haven (formerly London) the capital of Azrael, the new ruler, to plead with him to stop the Eaters. These monsters turn the newly dead into more Eaters unless their bodies are burned. They are mindless, zombie-like horrors. and Lan wants them stopped. Lan doesn’t have any real hope of stopping them, but she has to do something.

Azrael is bored beyond comprehension. He is all-powerful, safe within the walls of Haven and feared as well as served by all. Even his children hate him. He is intrigued by Lan at first because she treats him as a man. A scarred, powerful, frightening man, but not a monster. Something begins to grow between them that surprises them both.

I think it is Smith’s world-building that sucks me in every time. I have read this book three times, and I’ll probably read it again. Each time there’s something new. And I cry at the end, every time.

Winter of the Wolf

Cherise Sinclair

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Happy at last after years in the foster care system, Breeanne is settled with a job she loves and a roommate who is the closest thing to family she has ever had. Then her world is shattered by an attack by a monster. He kills her roommate, attacks her, and leaves her bleeding and broken. Determined to bring her life back together, she takes the only clue to family she has—an old photograph of her and her parents in front of the Wild Hunt Tavern.

Taking the photograph, she rents a cabin in Cold Creek and sets out to find anyone who remembers her family. In the end, she finds much more that she was looking for. The managers of the Wildwood Lodge, Zeb and Shay, are more than willing to help her in any way they can.

This second book in the Wild Hunt series is as good as the first.

 

Philida

Andre Brink

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This wasn’t an easy book to read. Slavery in South Africa isn’t any more pleasant than slavery in the American south. What makes this book bearable is the indomitable spirit of the title character. Catching the eye of the son of the family that owns her, Philida bears him four children. Beaten, enslaved, she refuses to give in to despair, even when sold to the harsh north to pay the debts of the family that owns her. Wherever she finds herself, she make friends and is always her own person.

This book is far from the torture porn that many slave accounts degenerate into. Philida is a remarkable person, self-contained and opinionated. When liberation comes, she is ready for it because she has always been free in her spirit.

Hour of the Wolf

Cherise Sinclair

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The first of a fantasy series, this is a remarkably satisfying read. Victoria is a Marine sidelined by an injury, now working as a special ops agent. When she discovers a gang of kidnappers, she rescues a young man who is so abused he cannot survive. Before he dies in her arms, he gives her a dying gift and begs her to tell he grandfather of his death. As she attempts to keep her promise, she discovers that his dying gift has more to it that she thought.

Calum and his brother are the leaders of a small pack of shapeshifters living in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Their vigilance keeps their people safe. Now there is something threatening about this new woman in their midst. She is far more attractive than a mere human should be, and there is a mystery about what she is doing in their town. She presents a threat to their way of life, and yet there is something about her is very appealing to the leader of the pack.

As the brothers work out the details of Victoria’s story, their attraction morphs into something more.