"Undenied" (e-short story, 10/2012)
Dominic Trejada, a pure-blood Amoveo tiger shifter, is nearing the age of thirty, and he hasn't yet found his mate. He has had some dream-walks during which he senses her presence, but she hides in the shadows and refuses to let him see her. Dominic would prefer to skip the whole mating process, but if he doesn't find his mate soon, he will lose his Amoveo powers and become a mere human. That means that he will no longer be able to shape shift or visualize, and his strength will drop to minimal levels. Dominic is the Guardian of the ranch—the head of security—and if he loses his powers, he's not sure that he will be able to continue in his job, which is the center of his life.
Needless to say, when Tatiana and Dominic meet for the first time at the ranch, sparks fly and romantic heat begins to simmer. The story line follows the development of the romance as both of these stubborn, independent people attempt to overcome their fears and distrust and come together as mates.
The action part of the plot involves two separate threats to the people at the ranch. Recently, there was an attack by the Caedo fanatics (humans who want to kill all Amoveo), which ended with the death of one attacker and the escape of the other. Dominic fears another Caedo attack, so he has increased security at the ranch. Then, there is an unexpected threat from the Purists (pure-blood Amoveo who want to kill all half-breeds), a group that the good-guy Amoveo thought that they had vanquished (in the previous book). I was able to figure out the identity of the traitorous bad guy early in the story, but I have to say that it was mostly based on intuition, because there are no obvious hints. The book ends with two major show-down scenes and one plot twist involving a pure-blood Amoveo couple and their baby.
This novel is typical for the series with its alpha male, feisty heroine, and attacks by various hate groups. It is also typical of other paranormal series in that as soon as each couple completes their mating process, the heroine gets pregnant almost immediately. At this point, most of the couples from the previous books either have a child or are in the process. Tatiana isn't pregnant yet, but I can almost guarantee you that when she shows up in a supporting role in a future novel, there will be a baby on the way.
If you enjoyed the previous books, you'll probably like this one as well. Click HERE to go to the amazon.com page for Unclaimed where you can read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art at top left. "Unbound," the e-novella due in December 2014, will tell Zachary's story. He plays a supporting role as a wise-cracking guard in Unclaimed.
In this world, the Amoveo are a species of shape shifters divided into ten animal clans (e.g., eagle, bear, fox, coyote, lion, tiger) who live in the mortal world, but are mostly unknown to humans. Only two groups of humans are aware of their existence: the Caedo, fanatic bigots who want to kill all Amoveo, and members of the Vasullus family, who have protected the Amoveo from harm and discovery for centuries. The Caedo are all descendants of Victor Caedo, a human man who was in love with an Amoveo woman. When that woman spurned him for her Amoveo mate, Caedo followed them and saw them shift into their animal forms. His love turned to hate, and the Caedo have been hunting down the Amoveo ever since.
The Amoveo believed that each one of them has a predestined mate. Generally, the mates find one another in the dream realm first and then get together physically after that. An Amoveo who doesn't complete the mating destiny by his or her thirtieth birthday begins to lose his or her powers, including the ability to shift. Eventually, all powers fade away and the Amoveo becomes human—a fate worse than death.
Humphreys is also writing a spin-off series to this one: DEAD IN THE CITY. Click HERE to go to my review of the books in that series, which is set in New York City. The lead characters in that series are vampires instead of shape shifters, and they live in Manhattan, where they are members of a coven led by Olivia Hollingsworth, best friend of Marianna Coltari, the bear-shifter who married the half demon Pete Castro in Undone (the fourth AMOVEO novel). In that book, Pete was turned into a vampire by Olivia just as he was on the verge of death.
NOVEL 1: Unleashed
As the story begins, Samantha Logan is leaving New York City and heading back to her childhood home on the oceanfront in small-town Rhode Island. Samantha tried to to make it as an artist in NYC, but she hasn't had much success, and now she has started to have dreams of home—dreams that include a sexy man whose face she cannot see. So...off she goes, leaving an angry ex-boyfriend in her wake. Waiting for her in Rhode Island is Malcolm Drew, who knows that Samantha is his one true mate. He also knows that Samantha has never heard of the Amoveo and that she has absolutely no idea that she herself has latent shape-shifting abilities. Here is yet another paranormal fiction heroine who was orphaned early in life and is totally unaware that both of her parents had supernatural powers. In this case, Samantha's father was an Amoveo wolf, and her mother was a powerful human psychic, so Samantha is a hybrid who has not yet manifested her considerable powers—always a prime target for the villains of paranormal fiction.
NOVEL 2: Untouched
PROTOCOL FOR VILLAINS: In order to prevent spoilers, every time I mention the villain, I will use the gender-neutral pronoun "it" or "that" rather than "he" or "she" in order to keep the identity a complete secret. If you know the gender of the villain you can easily guess the identity. (I hate spoilers!)
The heroine of this book is Kerry Smithson, childhood BFF of Samantha (from book 1). Kerry is a gorgeous super-model who can't bear to touch anyone because her raw psychic abilities would force her to read their emotions. As the story opens, the only person she can touch without pain is Samantha, and when they touch, Kerry visualizes a gray wolf—but she doesn't tell Samantha about that and she doesn't have any idea what it means. When Kerry heads to New Orleans on a modeling assignment, Malcolm and Samantha hire a bodyguard to accompany her because Kerry's crazy cousin (from book 1) is still lurking around somewhere. That bodyguard is Malcolm's sexy cousin, Dante Coltari, a fox shifter who has been giving Kerry hot shivers ever since she first laid eyes on him. When Kerry discovers that she can touch Dante painlessly and that his touch actually feels good, she can hardly believe it.
The story follows the quick development of their romance and mating, along with Kerry's introduction to her Amoveo heritage. The secondary story line involves a mysterious villain calling itself "the Punisher." Humphreys uses an old horror story device here as the Punisher always refers to itself by that term—never by name—so we don't know who it is until the big climactic reveal scene. I have to say that I was surprised by the Punisher's identity, but I was disappointed at the stereotypical creep that Humphreys created. Just as in book 1, the culprit had the cardboard quality of a cartoon villain.
E-SHORT STORY: "Undenied"
As of the date of this posting (8/20/13), you can click HERE for a free Kindle download of this story. This is the mating story of Boris Zankoff, an Amoveo Bengal tiger and Lillian Cordero, a psychic human palm reader. When Lillian arrives in New Orleans without a place to stay, someone recommends Boris, who rents her a room behind his bar. (Boris is the brother of the female tiger shifter who was killed in book 2.) Lillian has dreamed about tigers all her life (she even has a tiger tattoo on her back), and when she sees the snarling tiger picture over the door of Boris's bar, she feels like she has come home.
When Lillian meets Boris, his voice sounds like the voice of her dream tiger. Then, she reads Boris's palm and sees visions of shape-shifting tigers, and when she touches him, they both are overcome by the usual waves of lust felt by Amoveo mates. To top things off, she hears his voice in her mind. This is all a big shock to Lillian, since she doesn't yet know anything about the Amoveo or the mating destiny. But it doesn't take her long to sort things out, and before they have known each other for 24 hours, the two have officially mated. (I believe that this is the fastest true-mating I've come across so far in all my reading of paranormal romances.)
Of course, there is a villain in the story to make sure that the road to love isn't totally smooth. This villain is a Purist who wants Boris to join their side in the coming civil war within the Amoveo, and that villain is not happy to discover that Boris's mate is a human. This is a very short story with an HEA for the happy couple, but no resolution to the conflict with the Purist. If you want to get a taste for the series, this is a good—and free—way to do it.
The third book tells the love story of the peevish and pretentious gyrfalcon shifter, William Fleury, who is a friend of Malcolm and Dante. In the first two books, the buttoned-down William was a constant thorn in the sides of the soul-mate couples as he disdainfully looked down on his friends for behaving so foolishly around their mates. Now it's time for William to be humbled by a mate of his own—a sassy and independent hybrid (human mother, Amoveo father) who takes one look at what she calls William's "bossy pants" ways and runs as fast as she can in the other direction.
The bulk of the book follows William and his destined mate, Layla Nickelsen, along the extremely rocky road to their eventual HEA. Layla was the photographer on Kerry's photo-shoot in New Orleans in the previous book, and as soon as she and William met, that old familiar soul-mate electricity began to simmer between them. Since then, William has been pursuing Layla in the dream realm, but she has been hiding from him, refusing to face him. As the story opens, William has had enough of Layla's blocking him in her dreams, and he decides to face her down in person at her childhood home, where she believes she is safe from discovery.
Layla was raised on a rural farm by Rosie, a human, who also raised two other Amoveo hybrids, twins Raife and Tatiana. Layla is a cheetah, and Raife and Tatiana are timber wolves. The twins have been able to shift since they hit puberty, but Layla has not yet been able to shift, so she feels inferior. All three were abandoned by their parents and have been told little about Amoveo history and culture. One thing they have been warned about, though, is that they will each probably succumb to the Amoveos' predestined-mate tradition, and that scares Layla. She wants to be in complete control of her own life, and she doesn't need any snooty pure-blood grabbing her up and trying to control her. Layla holds on to this attitude almost to the very end of the story, even though William does his best to get her to understand that's not what mating is all about. I have to say that even though I could understand Layla's initial reticence, I got sick of her anguished interior monologues (all very self-centered) and her constant whining that "I have to be me." William is actually a pretty nice guy in this story, without all the sneering attitude we saw in the first two books. He is very patient and understanding with Layla, trying not to push her into anything and keeping her protected in the least alpha-ish way that he can manage.
The villain doesn't show up until well into the story, and its identity is fairly obvious. Needless to say, the Amoveo boys leap into action to protect Layla and her family, so all's well there. The real conflict in this book goes back to the series story arc with the good-guy Amoveos squaring off against the intensely bigoted Purists. The situation gets tense and then explodes in this book, changing everything for all of the clans and forcing each clan member to take a side in the dispute, which is turning into a civil war.
This plot runs its course in much the same way that as the first two books, with the building of the angst-filled romance and the interference by various villains who try to make life difficult for the starring couple. At least in this book the heroine already knows that she is a hybrid Amoveo, so we don't have to deal with the shock and awe that we had with heroines 1 and 2 when they found out that they were shifters. This heroine, though, is so obnoxious in her self-centeredness, that her bad attitude gives all her scenes an uncomfortable, caustic edge. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Untamed. Scroll down the page a bit to find it.
Book 4 will tell the love story of pure-blooded Amoveo bear-shifter Marianna Coltari (Dante's sister) and Pete Castor, a human retired police officer who works for Dante's security firm.
NOVEL 4: Undone
The fourth novel does a gender switch, with the female of the lead couple being the Amoveo and the male being seemingly human. Marianna Coltari is the pure-blood, Kodiak bear-shifter sister of Dante, the hero of novel 2. At this point, the Amoveo are in the middle of a civil war, with the Purists fighting dirty under the leadership of the evil Artimus against the good-guys, who are led by Dante and his friends (the heroes of the first three books). The Purists want to put an end to all inter-species marriages. They want only pure-blood Amoveo in the world and have no qualms about destroying any hybrids they find. Now they have come up with a plan to engineer pregnancies between non-mated pure-bloods with the help of a misguided scientist. They don't want to experiment on their own pure-blood women, though, so they kidnap unmated Amoveo pure-blood women from the other side. Unfortunately for Marianna, she is at the top of their wish list, and they want to force her to mate with Artimus' spoiled and arrogant son, Hayden, who has been leering after Marianna for years.
As the book begins, Marianna is acting like a spoiled, stubborn adolescent, even though she is 30 years old. She has not committed herself to either side in the civil war, although in truth, she sides with Dante and his belief that species diversity will strengthen the Amoveo. Her mantra is that no one can tell her how to live her life and that she'll do anything she wants because she can take care of herself against any danger. Dante knows that Marianna is in danger from the Purists, so he assigns Pete Castro, a 30-something former human policeman, to be her bodyguard. Pete knows all about the Amoveo, but Marianna doesn't know that he knows. She believes that he is just her human chauffeur. The two are attracted to one another, but both believe that because Pete is human, they cannot have a future together. That all changes when they share a dream walk.
The story focuses primarily on the romance, of course, as Marianna and Pete are forced to hide away in a snowbound, isolated cabin. There, they come to grips with the fact that they are truly mates and begin to act on the lust-filled attraction between them. When Artimus puts Marianna in danger, Pete comes to the rescue, but only after he learns some shocking, life-changing news about his genetic heritage.
This is a stereotypical paranormal romance, right down to the snowy cabin in the woods. At first, Marianna's character is annoyingly naive and petulant, but when she realizes the danger posed by Artimus, she straightens up and deals with reality. She does have one TSTL moment, though, and it gets her into big trouble.
If you are following the series, this book is quite similar in nature to the first three. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you should be able to read this as a stand-alone and understand what is going on because the author summarizes key points in the first chapter. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Undone. Scroll down the page a bit to find it.
One of the pivotal characters in this book (although his appearance is brief) is the demon, Asmodeus. Humphreys has written a self-published, serial novel entitled Asmodeus: The Demon of Lust. Click HERE for more information about that novel. The next novel in this series will feature Tatiana, the timber wolf shifter we met in book 3.