Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantra
March 2008, Shapeshifter Romance
Berkley Sensation, $7.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425220354

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

There are two reviews of this book

Shifter is an anthology of stories featuring shape-shifting heroes. All of the stories are on the hot side and one of them is the best short story I’ve read for quite a while.

Science Fiction Romance
Angela Knight starts things off with Mad Dog Love, a futuristic tale featuring a man who can shift into wolf form. Under the rule of a corrupt empire in a galaxy far, far away, the Freeworlders do their best to stay away from the intrigues of the court and the aristos. Freeworld dweller Rance Conlon, a shape shifter and werewolf, fell afoul of an empire slaver and now is collared and unable to shift to his wolf form. One day a woman comes by to buy a bodyguard - werewolves are expensive but for her, money is no object. She buys Rance and takes him on as her guard. Since this is a short story, it doesn’t take too long for them to have wild and passionate sex, which they do.

The woman turns out to be the Empress Zarifa, who is fleeing her fiancé Gerik, the regent’s son. Rance is enraged at her deception and as a Freeworlder, he holds her in contempt since all he knows about her is what he has seen on the news where she has been portrayed as a sort of interstellar Paris Hilton only more vacuous. But Zarifa is nothing like her media image and she needs Rance’s protection from Gerik’s goons.

I would love to see this story expanded into a full length novel. The background is intriguing, the characters are likable and the sex is hot (especially one scene in zero gravity). Grade: B+

Shapeshifter Romance
A Jaguar’s Kiss is part of Lora Leigh’s Breeds series and is the longest story in the book. Too bad there’s only enough plot for a couple of pages.

Natalie Ricci is a teacher. After divorcing her controlling husband Mike, she needs a total change of pace and applies to teach at the Breed Sanctuary. To her delight, she gets the job. The Breeds send a guard for her, a jaguar/Cajun named Saban Broussard and it doesn’t take too long for him to try and seduce her.

Saban knows that Natalie is his mate (his Breed senses tell him so), and at first he tries to woo her with human techniques he learned from books. That doesn’t work. So he kisses her and gives her a dose of breed hormones that make her hot for him. Natalie is not happy with this – she has been under the thumb of a controlling husband and now she’s been forced to fall in love.

Most of the story can be summed up like this: Argue, argue, argue. Boink, boink, boink. Argue, argue, argue. Boink, boink, boink. (Repeat this several times). BIG argument, shootout, BIG boink. I love you, The End.

Usually in short stories, I want more. This is one I wanted to be shorter, or at least have more story and less boinking. Also, there was one very annoying word in the story. Saban is a Cajun and often calls Natalie by the endearment "boo". Yes, that is a term of affection in Cajun French, but I kept thinking of the little girl from the movie Monsters Inc.. Grade: C-

Science Fiction Romance
Alyssa Day takes us to Florida and the Big Cypress National Preserve where the endangered Florida panthers are being stalked by an unknown killer. Alpha male and shape shifter Ethan vows to find the killer who is stalking his pack.

Meanwhile, in Atlantis(!), we get a huge infodump that left me totally lost. As near as I can figure it out, Marie, an Atlantian princess, wants to visit her brother Bastien, who married Kat, a member of Ethan’s pride. So using her handy dandy Atlantean portal, she does and encounters Ethan who comes on to her more like a hound than a cat.

Well, soon enough we find out who is behind the murders of Ethan’s pride and it ends up in a spectacular cat fight. Then ocean girl ends up as a Shifter’s Lady.

I was really lost during large parts of this story. I think I needed to read Day’s earlier book to figure out who was who and what happened before. The premise is interesting, but I was at sea. Grade: C

Fantasy Romance (Late 19th Century)
Virginia Kantra gives us selkies in Sea Crossing. Emma March taught at a girl's school. One day she was raped by a trustee who blamed her for leading her on, leaving her disgraced. Since she must start all over again, Emma takes passage on a ship to Canada where she will work as an indentured servant to pay off her crossing and hopefully start afresh. One night, the ship is caught in a violent storm and Emma is knocked out. She wakes in a warm comfortable bed attended by a man who tells her he is Griffith ap Powell ap Morgan ap Dafydd and she is in a school. As she recovers, Emma can't help but fall in love with the children who are there, but when one of them transforms to a seal in her arms, she realizes she is nowhere she’s ever experienced before.

I liked this story, but I couldn't help but cringe at how Griffin manipulated Emma to come to the selkie's island. He caused the ship she was on to wreck. Yes, there was a convenient rescue ship right near by and none of the passengers were killed, but still this was a very drastic way to get Emma to the school. At first he is high-handed in his treatment of her, Griffin learns how to control himself when he realizes Emma's terrible past...and the ending is so sweet. Grade: C+

Angela Knight's contribution to Shifters is nearly worth the price of admission, and Virginia Kantra's almost earns a recommendation. The other two short stories didn't really do it for me, but neither is bad, a useful tidbit of information for readers of Leigh or Day's series. If you like shape shifters and hotness, this might be the perfect book for you.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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