Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantra
2008, Shapeshifter Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425220354

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Varies

There are two reviews of this book

Shifter is that rare anthology that features no disasters; each of the four short stories involving shapeshifters are above average. Unfortunately, none really rise all that far above average. One is more memorable, but the remaining three don’t linger in the mind much past the book’s final page.

Science Fiction Romance
Sensuality: Burning
In Angela Knight’s Mad Dog Love, somewhere in the universe, it is the year 2450. Rance Conlan was betrayed; the once free man who can shift into wolf form is now enslaved and for sale. His nanobots, which give him super strength and healing ability, are now used against him via a collar locked around his neck. He will do anything to get that collar off, including sleeping with his new master, a beautiful woman whose spaceship has so many safeguards built in that she’s clearly on the run…and just as clearly not telling the truth as to who she is. When Rance discovers she is Zarifa Lorezo, he is enraged. He believes that she is nothing but a spoiled, vapid, and vain woman when in truth, she is on the run. Though a princess and supposedly a ruler who cares nothing for her people, in reality her own nanobots have long been controlled by her nation’s evil regent, who has nefarious plans for her future.

This short story is actually quite romantic and sweet, although the romance hinges on something I found tough to swallow. When viewing video clips of Zarifa over the years doing her best Paris Hilton as Marie Antoinette impersonation, Rance can tell simply by looking at her eyes that she’s not in control of her bad behavior. He may have nanobots that give him super-human abilities, but he’s not Super Psychoanalyst. Grade: C+

Shapeshifter Romance
Sensuality: Burning
A Jaguar’s Kiss is part of Lora Leigh’s Breeds series, begun for Ellora’s Cave and continued with Berkley. In this installment, Natalie Ricci is to be the first human charged with teaching Breed children, and Saban Broussard, a Cajun (yes, Cajun!) jaguar breed, has been appointed her bodyguard to assure her safety. Saban knows Natalie is his mate, but she’s incredibly skittish of men in general, and dominating men in particular, given her ex-husband’s controlling, disturbing behavior. Convincing Natalie to accept him as mate is a tall order in and of itself; keeping her safe when her ex-husband is determined to protect Natalie from a Breed is something else.

This was my favorite story in the anthology, but I’ve been a fan of this series ever since I got over the fact that male Breeds have barbs in their penises that “lock” into place during sex. While Saban remains as alpha dominant and arrogant as other Breed males, Leigh made him a bit more evolved; he actually read up on dating and courtship before approaching Natalie, and he feels tremendous guilt about their first kiss, which started her Mating Heat, without giving her some time to accept the whole mating concept. Grade: B-

Shapeshifter Romance
Sensuality: Hot
Alyssa Day’s Shifter’s Lady is part of her successful Atlantis series. In this installment, Marie, First Maiden of the Nereids, pays a visit to her brother, who lives with his shapeshifter wife in a Florida wildlife preserve. That wife is sister to Ethan, the Alpha of a pride of panthers, who realizes that Marie is his mate shortly after she materializes. Marie has certain magic, but mate recognition is not among her abilities. Ethan has his hands full with more than his intense reaction, though; panthers are being killed, and when the killer makes himself known, he challenges Ethan to a fight to the death. If Ethan loses, not only will he die, his pride will likely be decimated; the other shifter definitely does not play by the rules.

Day’s story intrigued me, but I would have liked this story more had it been about Atlanteans or shifters; in the limited word count of a short story, both worlds were given short shrift. Even worse, the ending is not definitive; a HEA is promised, but not seen through to fruition. All that said, though, I’d like to read more of this series, which I rarely say after a C level grade. Grade: C+

Fantasy Romance (Victorian Off the coast of England)
Sensuality: Warm
Earlier this summer I reviewed Virginia Kantra’s Sea Witch, a full-length contemporary selkie story. It had strong and weak points, as does Sea Crossing, her Victorian set (I’m guessing) contribution to this anthology. After Emma March was compromised by the governor of the school at which she taught, she boarded a ship to start life anew as a teacher in Canada. Part-way through the difficult voyage, the ship started to sink, and Emma didn’t make it onto a life raft. Instead she fell into the ocean wearing her skirts and petticoats and thought she would drown, only to be saved by…a seal? When Emma awakens, she is naked, in a strange bed, with a half-naked man staring down at her. He informs her that she is at Sanctuary, then bespells her to sleep. He is Griffith, and he caused the shipwreck in order to bring Emma to his hidden island to teach the island's children on orders of the prince of Selkies.

What I liked best about this story is that, if you set aside his causing the ship to sink – everyone is saved, btw – Griffith is quietly heroic in his dealings with Emma, up until and particularly including, the denouement. But there’s a distance in the writing that, while probably necessary to the story being told, nonetheless keeps the reader at arm’s length from the characters. Grade: C+

I can probably count on one hand the number of anthologies I’ve read that didn’t include any clinkers, which is a feat by itself. But problems in each of the stories added up to a book that is only slightly better than average, and no more.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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