Sometimes a story just draws you in from the first sentence or two on the page and you are off to the (reading) races and just can’t put the book down for sleep or sustenance. If someone were to ask what is so special about it that made the book so engrossing, you would be hard pressed to put your finger on the reason. That is how I feel to a certain extent about this story even though I have formed a few thoughts about what I enjoyed so much.
First of all, yes- this is a shifter romance and yes again, there is a version of the fated mate tradition in it, but don’t check out on this one too soon because Mary Calmes did some thing different and unique with those PNR cliches. Her shifter world in the story only involved panthers and there was a whole new panther shifter world system that I haven’t seen the likes of since Patricia Briggs’ wolves. Then the fated mate thing? That is not a prevalent thing. It is a rarity that only a certain type of panther shifter could enjoy. Only the alpha of the tribe and his true mate, known as a reah, could have this coupling. Reahs are rare so most alphas never even have a chance at finding their true mate and must settle for the second best thing and just mate someone they’re compatible with.
Outside of the uniqueness of the panther shifter world with all its new terms and traditions, was the voice of this story. It is told first person from one of the main character, Jin’s point of view. Some people dislike first person, but I’m not one of those. I really enjoyed the depth this story explored because I was able to be in Jin’s head the whole time. Yes, I would have liked to have gotten Logan’s thoughts at times, but Jin was a perceptive character so even though he was dense many times about people’s motives (he is to be forgiven for this because he had a lot of demons from his past riding him), I as the reader had no difficulty finding insight into some of the other characters’ thinking.
Now about the story-
Jin (who is male and this is important because all alphas are male) who is the rarest of the rare as a male reah has recently moved to Reno with his friend, Crane. They are exiled from their former panther tribe with Jin being brutalized to near death and Crane rescuing him because Jin is considered an abomination for what he is and for coming out as gay. Crane stayed by him and now they have a fresh start. Crane is a sweetie and can’t resist a damsel in distress which is why they end up in the spotlight very fast when Jin just wants to hide in the shadows. Not only is Jin a rare reah, he has shifter abilities that others including the powerful alpha-like semels don’t have. He and Crane rescue the girl who is the sister to one of the local semels.
Jin wants to avoid being anywhere near the local packs particularly the tribal semels because he has an absolute phobia of one of them possibly being his true mate. He is also terrified that he and Crane will be subjected to more brutality if the local semels know who and what he is. Fate has a way of scotching his plans and he ends up right where he doesn’t wish to be- front and center before all three of the local semels (panther tribe leaders) one after the other in one night. And wouldn’t you know it? He does feel the mate bond pull with one of them.
This is where instead of things getting easier they just get harder and more complicated. With Jin’s inner demons who won’t let him trust and accept, the tribal reactions to his gender and orientation, and the machinations of several around them, Logan and Jin’s mating sets off a firestorm and it became an exciting read right to the end.
Jin is a beautifully written 3D figure that has a strong character that has been tempered by fire from family and tribal rejection and torment. He has knocked around with only Crane as companion and he struggles to grasp at the happiness that fate is laying before him. He is an angry and suspicious man that has a great capacity to love if he can learn to trust.
Logan is the perfect hero for Jin. He is stalwart and unshakeable in his beliefs. Others see him as the strong, capable leader and he is, but there is a lonely man underneath who has never lost the dream of finding his true mate even when he knows it is hopeless and must succumb to practicality and take an arranged political mating that will bind two tribes together. When Jin arrives on the scene, the mating of convenience is called off immediately. Some might say Logan is hasty and that it is insta-love, but in truth it is his unshakable faith that if Jin is his true mate, then they are made for each other and love each other. I loved watching Logan’s solid faith go up against Jin’s flighty skittishness when it came to their mate-hood. Things start changing as Logan discovers that he is now vulnerable when it comes to his erratic mate.
Overall, it was an outstanding read in the m/m shifter romances and it is grittier than most. I really felt like these panthers were wild and dangerous predators and not just humans who turned into cats. I look forward to the next in the series. I recommend this to those who enjoy m/m shifter romances with a grittier edge to them.