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Monday, March 28, 2011


Publisher  Berkley
Titles of Novels and Novellas in Reading Order:    
 Prequel  "Shifter Made" (e-novella prequel, 4/2011)(bundled with print version of Hard Mated)   
    1       Pride Mates (novel, re-release, 4/2011)   
    2       Primal Bonds (novel, 3/2011)     
    2.5    Body Guard  (short novel, 12/2011)   
    3       Wild Cat (novel, 1/2012)     
    3.5    Hard Mated (short novel, 8/2012)   
    4       Mate Claimed (novel, 10/2012)  
    4.25  "Perfect Mate" in Unbound (3/2013)(e-novella, 5/2014)
    4.5    "Lone Wolf" (audio and e-novella, 5/2013)
    5       Tiger Magic (novel, 6/2013)   
    5.5   "Feral Heat" (audio and e-novella, 11/2013)
    6       Wild Wolf (novel, 1/2014)
    6.5     "Bear Attraction" (audio and e-novella, 2/2015)
    7        Mate Bond (novel, 4/2015)
    7.25 "Lion Eyes" (novella in audio and e-format, also in Dark and Damaged, 6/2015)
    7.5     Bad Wolf (short novel in paperback & e-format, 7/2015)
    8       White Tiger (novel, 3/2016)

Anthology:  Shifter Mates (3/2015; contains print version of two previously published e-novellas: "Lone Wolf" and "Feral Heat")

Ashley's publisher uses the following definitions to discriminate between novels, short novels, and novellas:

          >  Full-length Novel: 300+ pages 
          >  Short Novel: 200-300 pages
          >  Novella: 100-200 pages  
This post was revised and updated on 9/13/15 to include reviews of  "Lion Eyes" (7.25) and Bad Wolf (7.5)Those reviews appear first, followed by an overview of the world-building and summaries and/or reviews of the preceding novellas and novels in the series.

                          NOVELLA 7.25:  "Lion Eyes"                          

     Bree Fayette has just decided to give up trying to be a Shifter groupie when a lion Shifter slams into her truck and tells her to drive. Seamus is on the run from hunters, other Shifters, and who knows who else. All Bree knows is that he's compelling, needs her help, and most intriguing of all, wears no Collar. 

     Seamus McGuire fears he's gone crazy—feral—and become a killer. His only hope of getting away from the hunters and police on his tail is Bree, a human woman who not only knows a lot about Shifters but has great compassion for them. 

     Things are more complicated than they seem, however. Seamus is on a mission, to protect those in his care after the destruction of Kendrick's compound of un-Collared Shifters. Seamus must keep it together and keep his charges hidden, but at the same time, he's pulled to Bree as he's never been pulled to a woman before. He needs to prove he's innocent and not crazy before it's too late for himself, Bree, and those he's vowed to protect.

     The primary focus in this book is on the overnight blossoming of the romance between Bree and Seamus. The story takes place over a two-day period during which the soul mates meet (under difficult circumstances), learn a little bit about each other, get caught up in the mating heat, and commit themselves to one another forever. Yep, it’s another insta-mate story. We learn three major facts about Bree; that she is a shifter groupie (clip-on ears, fake whiskers, and all); that she is grieving for her dead brother (killed in Iraq); and that she has recently moved with her mother from southern Louisiana to Austin, Texas. 

     Seamus’s character has more layers. He is an un-Collared lion shifter who has been with Kendrick’s group for a long time, serving as a tracker and a protector of a female bear cub and a female wolf shifter. When Kendrick’s safe house was destroyed in an earlier book, Seamus moved his two charges to one of  own safe houses where they have been hiding ever since. One night when Seamus goes out on a run, he is attacked twice, once by an unknown, probably feral, shifter and then by human hunters. That’s when he jumps into Bree’s pick-up truck and they make their escape.

     Of course the Austin Shiftertown has highly skilled trackers, particularly Tiger, so they find the couple right away. Seamus can’t remember the details of his fight with the shifter, and he is at first accused of killing two human hunters at the scene of the fight. He fears that he is going feral and that maybe he did kill the humans. As Seamus suffers pangs of conscience and tries to remember what happened, Bree is there to provide the comfort of a mate.      

     The action part of the plot, of course, involves the identity of the feral shifter and why he attacked Seamus in the first place. That conflict is resolved in a few quick scenes near the end of the book. Most of the chapters deal with relationship issues as Bree settles in as Seamus’ probable mate and he wrestles with his fears of going feral. Meanwhile, the Austin shifters have to figure out what to do with him and the two shifters he is protecting. 

     There is one very thin unexamined and unresolved story thread involving the possibility of a gate into the Fae lands on a ley line near Austin. Another slim story thread involves Bree's mother's belief that the ghost her dead son Remy is visiting her house to comfort her. I have to believe that since Ashley has placed both of these elements into the story, she plans to come back to them in a future book. 

     This is a shorter version of the typical novels in this series. It adds a small piece to the ongoing story arc—the one about trying to get rid of the Collars—but it isn’t a must-read book. If you do plan to buy it, be aware that the e-version (1.99) is MUCH cheaper than the paperback ($8.99). Although the book’s length is listed at 212 pages, the novella itself is about 197 pages long (i.e., 93% of the total length of the Kindle version), with the remaining pages providing an excerpt from the upcoming White Tiger (book 8). To read an excerpt from “Lion Eyes,” click HERE to go to this book’s page and click on the cover art. 

                          SHORT NOVEL 7.5:  "Bad Wolf"                          
     Wolf Shifter Broderick McNaughton is stuck looking after his three younger brothers and a Collar-less Shifter who is driving him crazy, but he’s putting up with it for Joanne, the human woman he, for some reason, wants to impress. Joanne Greene, while grateful to Broderick for rescuing her sister, doesn’t know what to make of him. She’s been a loner most of her life, better able to relate to computers and coding than to people, until she’s drawn into the world of the Shifters.

     Broderick is everything Joanne is not—a fighter and a tracker, from a rough-and-tumble family, better at working with his hands than understanding the netherworld of Joanne’s computer programmer life. Broderick is also extremely protective, wanting to draw her under his care as he does everyone else. 

     When Broderick is captured, mistaken for a Guardian, it’s Joanne who figures out that hackers are after the Guardian Network, the database that holds the deep secrets of Shifters past and present. Strangely, Broderick now holds the key to stopping the deadly danger of the network's breach, and Joanne with her coding skills is the only one who can help him. 


     This short novel (207 pages) has a plot filled with one surprise twist after another as the lead characters travel from the countryside to the Austin Shiftertown to Austen proper and beyond…way beyond. Broderick is one of Liam's trackers, and he has behaved like a jerk in some of the previous booksfor example, in "Lone Wolf," when he tried to mate-claim the woman who was destined to become Ellison's mate. Broderick even admits to himself that "his mouth said things before his brain could get him to shut up." Broderick believes that no woman will ever want him and that the only way he will get a mate is to claim a woman and then fight off any challengers (which is what he tried to do with Ellison's Maria).  

     Joanne got involved with the Austin shifters when she falsely accused them of kidnapping her older sister, Nancy (who is in the process of mating with a nearly feral shifter named Aleck) in "Bear Attraction." Broderick stood up for Joanne then, and the two became friends. In fact, Joanne and Aleck are staying with Broderick, his brothers, and his mother until Aleck learns to control his feral instincts. Joanne is a computer geek who used to work on the dark, hacking side of the tech world, but she is now a computer security consultant who protects people against hackers. 

     After Broderick escapes from some human kidnappers who mistook him for Sean (the Austin Guardian), the shifters figure out that someone is trying to hack into the Guardian Network, which would be catastrophic for the the entire shifter world. Joanne insists on accompanying Broderick on his search for the hacker, but they get much more than they bargain for when they learn the identity and the location of the person who is using the hacker to get into the Guardian records. I am not going to try to summarize this suspense-filled plot and its surprising resolution, but I will say that nothing is as simple as it seems and that the plot has some connections with the story line in a previous book (but I'm not telling you which one).

     Broderick and Joanne are O.K. as hero and heroine, but nothing special. Their romance is relatively low key until they finally go skin to skin, but even then they turn their lust on and off in a slightly clinical manner. It's sex and passion one minute and back to the task at hand the next minute, with no cuddling in between.

    The plot has one illogical element that I can't explain here because it would be a spoiler. I'll just say that the story behind the sudden appearance of one character (late in the book) doesn't make much sense. I realize that this is a paranormal fiction story, but still…there should be some logic as to why and how a character enters the plot. This one was captured, but why was he selected? And how was it done, given the access limitations faced by his captor? (I understand that this piece of criticism won't make sense to you until you read the book, but I had to get it off my chest.)

     Once again, the paperback version of this short novel is quite expensive ($9.99), while the e-book version (as of 9/13/15) is only 99¢. This book adds little to the series story arc, except for a brief peek into the ongoing turmoil in the Fae world. 
To read an excerpt from Bad Wolf, click HERE to go to this book’s page and click on the cover art. 

     In this world, Shifters are technically Fae-beasts, bred by the Fae into three species: Feline (aka Wildcats), Lupine (wolves), and Bear. Within each species, individuals are born with varying characteristics. For example, a wildcat might be a panther, a tiger, a lion, a jaguar, or any other type of large cat. A bear might be a Kodiak, grizzly, black bear, or polar bear. The wolves vary in size and color. 

     Eons ago, the Fae created Shifters by combining animal and human DNA. For centuries, the Shifters were slaves to the Fae, but after a series of wars, the Shifters drove the Fae back into the misty Faerie realms. Since then, Shifters have lived within, but apart from, the human world mostly on their own termsright up until recent times, when their lives changed in a drastic and demeaning manner. For the past 20 years, humans have required all Shifters to wear silver Collars that meld permanently with their bodies (through Fae magic) and to live in restricted areas called Shiftertowns. Shifters have no civil rights and are not allowed access to most electronics (e.g., no cable Internet or TV, no iPods, no smart phones, no voice mail). They can't own a business or any other property outside their own Shiftertown. Each Shiftertown serves as the residence for all types of Shifters in the area, from prides of wildcats to packs of werewolves to clans of bears. Each pack, pride, or clan chooses its own leader, and then one of those leaders is chosen to lead each Shiftertown.

     Most humans in this series are portrayed as cruel and bigoted haters of all Shifters. Here, a Shifter sums things up: "...humans...didn't know what to think when they discovered that shapeshifters were real. What do humans always do when they find a new species of animal? Capture it, study it, tag it. Or kill it and hang its head on a wall." (Mate Claimed, p. 311)

     This is a middle-of-the-road romance series with each book following a couple from first lust to HEA. At some points, I get a whiff of Lora Leigh's BREEDS, but without the sexy alpha excitement of that series. James tells good stories (except for book 3), and her characters are mostly well developed. The idea that the Shifters are totally at the mercy of the humans is a fresh touch, and it's kind of heartbreaking to see these proud, strong Shifters treated so badly by the human world. Ironically, that is also the weakness of the series because it makes them seem kind of pathetic. Although we keep getting hints that there is some serious behind-the-scenes strategizing going on to help the Shifters escape from their awful situation, so far we haven't seen any real changes in their lives.  

     The first six novels are set in either the Shiftertowns of Austin or Las Vegas. Here is a book-by-book list of the happy couples (using the author's own numbering system—from her web site): 

     > Prequel: "Shifter Made": Niall & Alana (Austin)
     > 1      Pride Mates:  Liam & Kim (Austin)
     > 2      Primal Bonds:  Sean & Andrea (Austin)
     > 2.5   Bodyguard:  Ronan & Elizabeth (Austin)
     > 3      Wild Cat:  Cassidy & Diego (Las Vegas)
     > 3.5   Hard Mated:  Spike & Myka (Austin)
     > 4       Mate Claimed:  Eric & Iona (Las Vegas)
     > 4.25 "Perfect Mate":  Nell & Cormac (Austin)
     > 4.5   "Lone Wolf":  Ellison & Maria (Austin)
     > 5       Tiger Magic:  Tiger & Carly (Austin)
     > 5.5   "Feral Heat":  Jace & Deni (Austin)
     > 6       Wild Wolf:  Graham & Misty (Las Vegas)  
     > 6.5   "Bear Attraction":  Walker & Rebecca (Austin) 
     > 7       Mate Bond:  Bowman O'Donnell & Kenzie (North Carolina) 
     > 7.5   "Bad Wolf":  Broderick & Joanne (Austin)
     > 8       White Tiger: Kendrick & Addison (Addie) Price (Texas)

     Click HERE to read "The Human's Guide to Shifters," which provides definitions for series-specific terms. Click HERE to go to a page on Ashley's web site with links to excerpts from most of the books in the series.  

     Ashley also writes the STORMWALKER urban fantasy (UF) series under the name Allyson James. Click HERE to read my review of that series, which contains a reading-order list of the titles.  

     Also, as Allyson James for Berkley, she has written the erotic DRAGON SERIESwith these titles: Dragon Heat (2007), The Black Dragon (2007), and The Dragon Master (2008).       

                          PREQUEL NOVELLA:  "Shifter Made"                         

     This very short novella (49 pages or 597 Kindle segments) tells the story of the origin of the Guardians' swords. In this world, when a Shifter dies, a Guardian pierces his or her heart with a special sword to send the soul peacefully to the Summerland (afterlife). Each Shiftertown has a Guardian: Sean in Austin and Neal in Las Vegas.  

     In this story, which is set in a village on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula in 1400, Niall O'Connell is a Lupine Shifter who works as a blacksmith. One day, he is approached by Alanna, a beautiful Fae woman who orders him to make a silver and bronze sword. Alanna is the sister of the evil Fae prince, Kieran, who wants to enslave the Shifters once again. The plot follows the couple as they immediately fall deeply in love/lust, even though she is implicit in the kidnapping of his children.    

     The obvious value of this novella is in its contribution to the series mythology. Other than that, it's a very short and highly unlikely love story with one-dimensional characters and a predictable plot. To read an excerpt, click HERE to go to the "Shifter Made" page on and click on the cover art.

                          NOVEL 1:  Pride Mates                          
     The first novel sets the scene in the Austin Shiftertown and adds some critical details to the series mythology. The heroine is Kim Fraser, an attorney who is defending a young Shifter male who is accused of murdering his human girlfriend. Liam Morrissey—a lion Shifter—is the second in command of the feline Shifters living on Austin’s East Side. 

     When Kim seeks help from Liam to build her case, the two are drawn into a nefarious plot by Fergus, the greater Austin pack leader, to get rid of the hated Collars and turn the Shifters loose on the human population. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Pride Mates.

                          NOVEL 2:  Primal Bonds                          

     In book 2, Liam's brother, Sean, is the Guardian for the Austin Shifters. When a Shifter dies, Sean must pierce the body with the Guardian Sword to send the soul into the Summerland (afterlife). The sword is infused with Fae magic that turns the body into dust. Andrea Gray is a half Fae/half werewolf refugee from a Colorado pack. She left that pack when the pack leader tried to force her to mate with his spoiled and arrogant son. In order for Andrea to receive permission from the government to move to Austin, she had to be mate-claimed by an Austin pack member, so Sean volunteers. He believes that he has no other chance for a mate because no one wants to marry A risk-taking, death-defying Guardian. Of course, it's love at first sight for both of them, and, naturally, the road to the final mate-bond is not smooth. What would be the fun in that?

     The secondary plot involves a major split among the Shifters that threatens the peace and security of everyone in Shiftertown. This story brings in the Fae, one of whom has a personal stake in seeing that Andrea is safe and happy. The get-rid-of-the-Collar plans are still in the making, but are on the back burner in this story. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Primal Bonds.

                          SHORT NOVEL 2.5:  Body Guard                          
     This book, which the author lists as 2.5 in reading order, is set in the Austin Shiftertown, and its romantic hero is Ronan, a Kodiak bear Shifter. In the opening scene, Ronan is shopping in a novelty store when a Latino gang-banger with a gun tries to rob the owner, a beautiful human woman named Elizabeth Chapman. The robber doesn't see Ronan, who sneaks up on him and knocks him out. When the police drag Ronan off to jail because he assaulted a human, Elizabeth is outraged at the injustice and goes along to speak up for Ronan during his hearing. This sets the stage for Elizabeth's involvement with the Austin Shifters. When the robber's buddies and his drug lord brother threaten Elizabeth and try to drive her out of town, the Shifters move her and her sister into Shiftertown and place her under their protection.

     The plot follows the two familiar tracks found in all paranormal romances: the romance and the action. The romance proceeds along a surprisingly smooth path, with minimum angst. The action story line is actually more prominent than the romance as Elizabeth is forced to reveal that she is living under a false identity because of some terrible mistakes she made in her previous life. As the gangs and her former lover hunt her down, Elizabeth finds safety in Shiftertownspecifically in Ronan's arms. Everything comes together in the requisite showdown and the HEA that follows.

     This novella isn't necessary to the understanding of the series' primary story arc (i.e., the development of fake Collars), except for an offhand question from Elizabeth when she watches Dylan fight and wonders why his Collar isn't sparking. The story emphasizes the stereotypes of the good-hearted Shifters and the bad humans (e.g., the police and the judge), who view all Shifters as violent and soulless animals. In this series, it seems as if the only good humans are the ones who mate with Shifters. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Body Guard.     

                          NOVEL 3:  Wild Cat                          

     In this book, the story moves to the Shiftertown of Las Vegas as it tells the love story of feline Shifter Cassidy Warden and human police detective Diego Escobar. Diego has just recovered from a serious bullet wound suffered when he and his partner were attacked by a drug gang. Diego survived, but his partner died, and Diego is determined to track down the killers, no matter how far they run. Cassidy, too, has suffered a loss. Her mate, Donovan, was killed by hunters a year ago, and she is still grieving. One night, Cassidy goes back to the scene of Donovan's murder only to be pursued by his killer, who goes after her with a tranquilizer gun. When Cassidy seeks refuge in the skeletal remains of a partially built, abandoned building, someone hears the commotion and calls the police. Diego happens on the scene, and Cassidy saves his life when the killer knocks him off a beam fifty stories in the air. Unfortunately for Cassidy, Diego is a by-the-books kind of cop, so he arrests her for trespassing and being out of Shiftertown without identification, and he hauls her in for questioning—all the while being deeply attracted to her (and she to him). The story follows the development of their romance, which proceeds relatively smoothly compared to all of the other violence that occurs around them. The killer is still after Cassie, so one story thread deals with that conflict. Diego is still after his partner's killers, so another story thread follows that adventure, which leads the couple into dangers they never suspected were there.

      In the background, Cassidy's brother, Eric (the pack leader), discovers a young, attractive, unmated and un-Collared feline Shifter (actually, she's half Shifter/half human), and their mutual attraction will be the basis for the next novel, Mate Claimed. Also in the background are two other romances, one involving Diego's brother (Xavier) and a Shifter, and one involving a Fae and a Shifter.

       For me, this was the most unsatisfying book of the series so far. On one page, Cassidy is deep in grief over the loss of her mate, and on the next page she is hot-hot-hot for Diego. Too much, too soon. Unfortunately, throughout the book, one never senses that there is anything deeper to this relationship than the unbridled sexual attraction. The story moves around all over the place, from Shiftertown to rural Mexico to Colorado River cliffs to fairyland and back. Instead of spending time delving too deeply into the romance, the author goes for the action scenes, so the couple bounces from one dangerous situation to another. Their time together is spent either in bed or in brief conversations in a car or an airplane on their way to their next adventure. Logic falls by the wayside a few times in this book. For example, as a rescue team is attempting to scale rocky cliff walls, they have the foresight to bring along specialists to build a steel bridge that is actually anchored into the rock—all of this in a matter of an hour or so. I don't think so. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Wild Cat.

                          SHORT NOVEL 3.5:  Hard Mated                          

    This book stars Spike (aka Eron), a heavily tattooed jaguar Shifter who lives with his grandmother (Ella) in the Austin Shiftertown, where he is Liam's head Tracker (i.e., bodyguard, watcher, fighter, troubleshooter). One night when Spike is defeating yet another opponent at Shifter Fight Night, a young human woman named Myka Thompson brings him a message from her friend Jillian, one of Spike's long-ago one-night stands. Myka drags Spike off to a hospital where his former lover is dying, and Jillian has some shocking news for Spike: He is the father of her four-year-old son, Jordan, who obligingly changes into his animal form to demonstrate to Spike that his mom is telling the truth. Jillian wants Spike to raise Jordan, and—in deep shock—he returns to Shiftertown with his brand new cub.  

     It turns out that young Jordan is almost impossible to control—jumping out of the car window, trashing the kitchen, and climbing trees with wild abandon. When Myka stops in to check on Jordan, Spike—in desperation—begs her to stay with Jordan and his grandmother while he takes care of a job for Liam. Myka agrees, partly because she loves Jordan and partly because she's attracted to Spike.

     Spike's task for Liam is to check out the activities of Gavan, one of the three former lieutenants of Fergus, the bad-guy Austin Shiftertown leader whom Liam deposed and killed about a year ago. We met the three back in book 1 when they were serving on the villain's side. Gavan has since moved to San Antonio, where he now assists the new pack leader there. Gavan is dissatisfied with his position and is fomenting rebellion among the Shifters. He tries to recruit Spike to help in in his efforts, offering Spike the position as his right-hand man.

     Spike believes that most Shifters—including Liam and Gavan—view him as all muscle and no brain. One of the qualities he loves about Myka is that she sees beyond his tough exterior and recognizes that he has a very good brain. The plot plays out as the situation with Gavan escalates and both Jordan and Myka are put in jeopardy. In the meantime, of course, the romance between Myka and Spike bursts quickly (way too quickly!) into flame, with little or no angst. After knowing Spike for only a few days, Myka agrees to the mating bond and settles down in Shiftertown. One of the problems with this series is the speed at which the romantic relationships move from first meeting to lifetime commitment, and this story follows that unrealistic and improbable model. Still, it's a compelling story, so if you enjoy the series, you'll probably want to read it. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Hard Mated.

                          NOVEL 4:  Mate Claimed                          
    The setting for the fourth novel returns to the Las Vegas Shiftertown, which is under the leadership of the Feline Eric Warden (snow leopard). In Wild CatEric discovered Iona, a half-human/half-panther Shifter who has been passing for human. Eric is sure that Iona is his mate, but she just wants to be left alone to live her life as a human. Iona's inner panther, though, wants Eric and will not be denied. The plot follows their not-too-bumpy trip to their HEA.

    The action part of the plot has two story lines. In one, the humans are closing down a Shiftertown of Lupines (werewolves) and are forcibly moving them into Eric's Shiftertown, which is mostly Felines, with a few Bears. That means that the Lupine alphaGraham McNeilwill lose his top-dog position, and he plans to correct that by taking Eric down. In the second story line, something suspicious is going on out in the desert where someone appears to have taken possession of some abandoned government laboratories and is using them for nefarious purposes. When a bus-load of Graham's wolves go missing and are traced to one of those facilities, Eric and Graham are forced to work together to find out what's going on. We have the beginnings of a new romance when Graham meets a sexy human woman who helps them out.

     This is a typical novel for this series, with the lust-heavy, too-fast mating process interrupted occasionally by action scenes in which the heroine is sometimes in jeopardy. The hero of the next book is introduced near the end of this novel when Iona rescues him from his long-term imprisonment by misguided human scientists. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Mate Claimed.   

                          NOVELLA 4.25:  "Perfect Mate"                         

     Nell is the top bear in the Austin Shiftertown, so she is unpleasantly surprised when Eric, Shiftertown's leader, does not consult her before assigning Cormac, a bear who has just immigrated from Wisconsin, to live in her house along with her and her two grown sons. Both Eric and Cormac are clear about why Cormac has come to Shiftertown: He is looking for a mate, and Nell is his chosen one. 

     The action part of the plot involves a a villain from a previous book who pays a bounty hunter to capture and kill Shane, one of Nell's sons. When Shane goes missing, Cormac and Nell begin to bond as they search for Shane and his abductor. The falling-in-love part of the story happens super quickly, but you kind of get accustomed to that in paranormal romances and this is, after all, a novella, not a full-length novel—so I'll give that a pass.

     This is an easy novella to read as a stand-alone. Although there are some references to the series mythology and to past events, the story line is pretty much a straightforward paranormal romance. Click HERE to read my review of the other novels in the Unbound anthology in which this novella first appeared. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Perfect Mate."

                          NOVELLA 4.5: "Lone Wolf"                         

     In a previous book, the Austin Shifters rescued Maria Ortega, a human woman, from a pack of feral wolves in Mexico. Maria has been living in Shiftertown ever since her brother kicked her out, sneering at her "ruined" state and refusing to allow his children near her. Currently, she works in Liam's bar, but dreams of studying medicine at the University of Austin. Even though Maria is human, the unmated males of the Austin Shiftertown view her as a possible mate, and as the story begins, a wolf named Broderick makes an unwelcome move on her. Just as Broderick speaks the mate-claiming words, the lone wolf, Ellison Rowe, rescues Maria from his clutches, and their romance begins.

     The two have been attracted to one another ever since Maria was rescued. At that time, Ellison was the only Shifter that Maria didn't fear, and Maria was the first female for whom Ellison felt such a high level of attraction. The primary focus of the story is on their developing romance as Ellison works hard to overcome Maria's fears of Shifters and tries to make her realize that he will always protect her from harm. 

     The action part of the story focuses on yet another bad guy who wants to capture Shifter cubs and sell them to the highest bidder. When one of their own is taken, the Austin Shifters must rescue him and take down the villain once and for all. This story line has been done to death in paranormal Shifter romance series over the years, and Ashley adds nothing new to the stereotype. Basically what we have is a wealthy sociopath with his high-security mansion and well-armed mercenaries versus a group of angry Shifters fighting to get back their pack mate. Nothing really new here.

     Although this novella puts together another Shifter couple, it also serves as an introduction to Tiger, the hero of the next novel, Tiger Magic. We get a lot of information about Tiger and watch him as he gets big and bloodthirsty in the climactic rescue scene. We also get the back story on Ellison's emotionally damaged sister, Deni, who will be the heroine of the novella, "Feral Heat" (11/2013). Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Lone Wolf."

                          NOVEL 5: Tiger Magic                          
     In Mate Claimed, the Shifters rescued a tiger Shifter from a cage at an abandoned research facility. They gave him the name Rory, but he didn't like it so now they just call him Tiger. Tiger was created in the lab and was subjected to decades of torture and abuse by the so-called scientists who ran the facility. They forced him to mate and then allowed his mate and cub to die. Having lived his entire life alone in a cage, Tiger has absolutely no socialization skills and no understanding of Shifter culture and traditions, and as a result, he is having a difficult time coping with his new life. He is wearing a fake Collar because he went crazy when Liam tried to put a real Collar on him. Nobody knows exactly what species Tiger is because of his laboratory origins, but everyone knows that he can go berserk in an instant, with disastrous results. He is now living in Liam's home in the Austin Shiftertown.

     In the opening scene, Tiger helps Carly Randal get her car started on a deserted highway. He immediately recognizes Carly as his mate, but she is a human who knows nothing about Shifters. Before long, Tiger is shot multiple times by Carly's Shifter-hating ex-fiancĂ© and goes into a rage in the hospital, demanding that Carly be brought to the scene. His bestial behavior is reported to the government's Shifter Bureau, and Tiger's life gets very complicated when they decide to take a look at his DNA.

Tarzan and Jane

     In the meantime, Tiger and Carly do one of those insta-lust/love/mate-for-all-time things that are so annoying in paranormal romances. The instantaneous love is especially hard to believe because it is such a stereotypical "Beauty and the Beast" situation. Tiger is a monosyllabic, uncommunicative loner who has lived in the real world for such a short time that it's difficult to understand how he could even get to the not-very-high level of communication that he has managed to reach. To believe that Cady—a well-educated, stylish human with absolutely no knowledge about Shifters—would turn her back on her beloved family (which she does at one point) and go off with Tiger is a bit mind boggling and definitely hard to swallow. It's like Tarzan and Jane all over again, but in Texas with shape Shifters. 

     Still, Ashley always tells a good story, and it's fun to see what's up with the rest of the pack, many of whom turn up in supporting roles. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Tiger Magic.

                          NOVELLA 5.5: "Feral Heat"                         

     Jace Warden (son of the Las Vegas Shiftertown leader) has come to the Austin Shiftertown at the invitation of Dylan Morrissey, former Austin pack leader. When Jace arrives at their meeting sitean illegal Shifter fighter clubhe is ambushed by one of the Austin wolves. In the middle of that fight, a female wolf jumps into the fray, coming to Jace's defense. That wolf is Deni Rowe, sister of Ellison, whom we met in "Lone Wolf." Some time ago, Deni was injuredboth physically and psychologicallywhen a human ran her down while she was driving her motorcycle. Her physical wounds have healed, but not her emotional ones. Most of the Austin Shifters think that Deni is crazy because she occasionally goes feral, striking out at anyone who comes near (even her brother and her two boys) and then having no memory of what she did.

     This romance is one of those instantaneous affairs, with Jace and Deni falling into each other's arms within moments of meeting one another for the first time just after the fight. From that moment on, they are a couple, and their mate bonding is a foregone conclusion.

     The plot has two story lines. The first involves the reason Jace has come to Austin: to have Liam and Sean experiment on him by trying to remove his Collar. The second involves a traitor who is notifying the police about various subversive Shifter activities, like the illegal fight club event and the fact that Jace is visiting Austin illegally. The spy calls in the police several times, so Jace is always hiding from them. If he is caught, he could be punished with a prison sentence or even death because it is illegal for Shifters to travel out of state without a permit.

     The Collar situation is part of the over-arching series story line in which the Shifters are determined to rid themselves of the Fae-made Collars that are melded to their bodies. The Collars cannot be removed easily because they are somehow connected to the Shifters' adrenal glands, and removal generally causes the Shifter to go permanently feral. Sean, Dylan, and Liam have been analyzing the Collars and believe that they have figured out how to remove them safely, a link at a time. Jace has volunteered to be the guinea pig for their first experiments. As this story line plays out, Jace inadvertently discovers the secret ingredient that will lead to the success of the Collar removal process.

     In a minor story thread, a character from a previous book turns up in this novella: Broderick, who tried to claim Maria in "Lone Wolf" and who harasses Deni in this novella. As this story moves along, though, we watch Broderick meet and befriend a woman who has a positive affect on his belligerent nature.

     If you are following this series, you'll want to read this novella simply for the new details in the Collar story line. Click HERE to go to a page with links to excerpts from "Feral Heat."

                          NOVEL 6: Wild Wolf                          
     When Lupine Graham McNeil joined the series in Mate Claimed, he was cast as a minor villain who challenged Eric Warden's authority in Las Vegas. Graham had been the pack leader of a Montana Shiftertown when the human government decided to move his wolves to the Las Vegas Shiftertown, housing them alongside Eric's pack and demanding that Eric and Graham set up some sort of shared power structure. Since Shifter culture allows only one prime alpha, Eric took that position, which meant that Graham lost face with his Lupine pack. Naturally, Graham did not take this well, and he and Eric had quite a few confrontations before they came to an uneasy peace, with Eric still in the top position, but with Graham in charge of his own pack.

     As this novel begins, Graham has had a love interest—Misty Granger—ever since he came to Las Vegas. Misty is a human who owns a flower shop in the city. They met on the night that Graham unsuccessfully challenged Eric (in Mate Claimed) and went to a bar seeking solace in a bottle. Misty is the first person Graham has ever met who is not intimidated by his gruff exterior and huge physical bulk. She says what's on her mind and never seems to fear him no matter how bad his temper gets.

     In the first chapter, a group of ex-con biker thugs kidnap Misty and lead Graham into a trap when he comes to her rescue. The gang takes her out into the desert to an abandoned mine. When Graham and Dougal (his nephew) arrive on the scene, the gang shoots Graham, destroys his motorcycle, and takes off with his water supply. Dougal heads out to get help, while Misty climbs around the rocks looking for shade and a water source. As it turns out, this is just what the bikers had in mind, because when Misty finds a cave with a bubbling spring inside, she also finds a human hiker (who is neither human nor hiker). The man hands Misty a canteen of water, but when she and Graham drink the water, Graham immediately realizes that it has been spelled by a Fae (guess who?).

     Remember…the Fae are bitter enemies of the Shifters. It was the Fae who first enslaved the Shifters, and it was the Fae who designed their hated Collars. Now a Fae has Graham under his control. The rest of the plot follows Graham as he tries to figure out what the Fae is up to and how to break out of the spell that puts him at the disposal of his hated enemy. Graham gets lots of help with his unfortunate situation, particularly from Reid, the friendly Fae who lives in the Las Vegas Shiftertown. Even with help from Reid and other allies, however, Graham is put into a number of dangerous situations and suffers some severe injuries—as does Misty.

     In general, this is a well-plotted novel, with just a few small plot bumps and implausibilities. For example, it is incredibly convenient—and impossibly coincidental—that Misty just happens to own a century-old book of anti-Fae spells…just what they need to fight off the villainous Fae who has bespelled Graham. For the most part, the plot moves along at a fast pace, with lots of drama, action, and suspense. Thankfully, the lead couple is so busy chasing after the villain that they don't indulge in very many angst-filled interior monologues. 

     The humor comes from the two young male twin cubs that Graham is fostering. The youngsters are always getting into trouble by wrecking the house or running away. Even as Graham is dealing with his love life and his Fae curse, he still has to keep the boys under control. His fruitless attempts at disciplining the twins are frustrating for Graham but entertaining for the reader (and for Graham's friends). 

     The romance is refreshing in that it is not one of those love-at-first-sight, instant love affairs. The two have shared some passionate kisses over the past few months, and Graham knows in his heart that he is in love with Misty, but he has promised his pack that he will mate with a wolf so that he can have lots of wolfy heirs. He tries to make himself believe that if he goes no further than kisses, he'll be able to leave Misty behind and mate with one of his own kind. As you can imagine, Graham's clan leaders are quite unhappy when they learn that he might mate with a human woman. Graham is an interesting character, with his blustery, rough-and-tough exterior and his soft-hearted love for Misty that he hides deep within himself, not admitting it to her until well into this book. Graham's relationship with Dougal is also filled with emotion. At first, I was afraid that Misty was going to be one of those air-headed, naive, TSTL heroines who is always going off on her own and getting into trouble, but no…she turns out to be brave and courageous in the face of some dangerous situations. This is one of the strongest books in the series so far. 

     If you are a regular reader of this series, this is an important book because of the Shifters' discovery of the nefarious plans that the Fae have secretly been putting in place for two decadesplans that will have devastating effects on both the Shifters and the human population. Click HERE to read excerpts from Wild Wolf.

                          NOVELLA 6.5: "Bear Attraction"                         

     Sparks of mutual attraction have been snapping between Walker Danielson and Rebecca ever since they first met, but so far, both have held back on beginning a relationship of any kind. Rebecca is a Kodiak bear Shifter from Alaska who lives with Ronan and his family, and Walker is the human military liaison between the human Shifter Bureau and the Austin Shiftertown. The two met in a previous book when the Shifters captured Walker and assigned Rebecca to guard him. When he escaped his bonds, the two had a major full-body tussle, which fanned the flames of lust even higher.

     As this story opens, it's Rebecca's turn to be in custody when she goes out for a midnight run on privately owned land and gets captured by a small army of Shifter Bureau agents led by Walker. In order to earn her freedom, Rebecca must remain in Walker's custody—24/7—and assist him in finding a missing human girla Shifter groupie named Nancy Greene. Walker moves into Ronan's garage/den, and he and Rebecca begin their investigation (and their courtship), aided by the wolf Shifter, Broderick, and Nancy's sister, Joanne (who appears to be on her way to becoming Broderick's human mate). 

     They decide to go undercover in a sketchy Shifter bar that caters to a rough crowd. To make this work, Walker must pose as a male Shifter groupie—feline make-up, furry pointed ears, and all—and Rebecca pretends to be his Shifter lover. The make-up application scene is quite funny as the females in Ronan's family have a great time teasing poor Walker. After getting some helpful information at the first bar, Walker's covert plan takes the team to an even rougher bar, where they make some startling discoveries, including an all-new group of Shifters. Life-threatening violence and mayhem ensue.

     The love story is great, with a minimum of angst, a lot of yearning, and a hot bedroom scene at the very end. This isn't insta-matic love; these two have been eyeing each other for a long time. Since both are finally ready for love and commitment, this is the perfect time for them to get together. Rebecca and Walker are intelligent alphas with strong warrior skills and plenty of courage, so they don't hold back, not in battle and not in the bedroom. Rebecca definitely meets her match in Walker, who holds his own in the Shifter world, carefully walking that narrow line between calm self-confidence and outright arrogance.

     Regular readers of the series won't want to miss this one because of the new information that it adds to the series story arc. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "Bear Attraction."

                         NOVEL 7:  Mate Bond                         

     For the first time, we spend some time in a Shiftertown in western North Carolina where Bowman O'Donnell and his mate, Kenzie, have been running things for the past 20 years. Unlike the previous couples who have paired up in this series, Bowman and Kenzie are not in the process of meeting for the first time and falling instantly and wildly in love. They have been mated for two decades, have a young son, and are crazy about one another. But…and this is a huge "but"…they have never felt the mate bond. That means that each one lives with the knowledge that one day someone could come along, trigger the mate bond, and take away their beloved mate. For both Bowman and Kenzie, that sad fact plays havoc with their emotions, but they have to try to push away their fears and keep the pack under control.

     The story kicks off when a smelly, monstrous creature attacks pack members and some human groupies at the local Shifter bar. "Kenzie…looked up into a horrible facelike a cross between several Shifters rolled into one, Red eyes fixed on her from above the muzzle of a gigantic wolf. The ears, if the things on top of its head were ears, were more like a cat's, its body big like a bear's. A ginormous bear…The monster stank like a feral Shifter. Plus it was as crazed as one and three times the size." Bowman is severely injured by the creature, but he eventually drives it off by running over it with a truck. The creature runs off and dies, but now the pack has to deal with the aftermath, which includes a dead rotting body and a group of local law enforcers. The plot follows Bowman and Kenzie as they and their trackers try to figure out where the creature came from, how it was created, and who sent it. 

     The romance part of the plot consists of quite a few angst-filled interior monologues and anguished dialogues featuring Bowman and Kenzie. As Bowman explains to Kenzie, "You think I can stand knowing any second you could walk away from me, and I wouldn't be able to stop you?…That if you feel the mate bond with another male, you'll go…Do you know what that does to me?" Well, yes, Kenzie does know because she feels the same way about Bowman. Along with their lack of a mate bond, they are also dealing with Kenzie's uncle, who has always wanted to take over the pack. Their son, Ryan, is delightfulsmart, funny, and extremely charming. He'll make a fine pack leader some day.

     Ashley provides a number of possible bad guys, but the true villain is pretty easy to spot. In any case, that doesn't really matter because the romantic situation is so engrossing and the action moves along at such a fast pace that you just keep turning the pages, anxious to see what happens next. In one misstep, Ashley adds a human female character who appears first as a Shifter groupie and then comes to a bad end, but we never learn exactly what part she plays in the mystery.

     This book is a fresh and inventive addition to the series with its mature lovers, interesting plot line, and interesting secondary characters, many of whom are not at all what they seem (and wait until you find out the true identity of one of them!). Several characters from Austin and Las Vegas are mentioned, and two actually turn up to help Bowman and his pack save the day. If you're a fan of the series, you'll enjoy this different approach, and if you're new to the series, you could read this as a stand-alone. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Mate Bond.

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