Released on September 8, 2012
I chose to read this story based on the premise. I was intrigued by the idea of a shifter romance that is about snow leopards and set in Asia. The story offered up much that I enjoyed and a few things that I did not enjoy so much.
The story begins with biologist Dr. Rae Hale, who has made the study and conservation of the snow leopards her life’s work, discovering that her mentor and boss is responsible for requesting permission to capture and use four snow leopards for experimentation even up to killing for testing purposes. She is outraged and feels betrayed so she quits.
No sooner than arriving back in the States, does a mysterious handsome Asian man track her down and offer her a job to work for his institute.
Kai, who is secretly an Asian snow leopard shifter, has dedicated his life to protecting his people. He recognizes that modern science is on the brink of outing his kind so he has been seeking a scientist that he can trust to find a way to hide his people’s existence. When he is informed about the morally outraged Dr. Hale, he seeks her out and in a rare show of trust, reveals his leopard self to her.
Rae gets over her astonishment only to get pulled into Kai’s world of adventure and rescue. But then it’s not long before her expertise is put to use. Things grow a bit uncomfortable as the two feel an attraction for each other, but their own pasts along with present circumstances put a wedge between them.
The plot was a pretty good one. It moved along at a pretty good pace explaining things as it went between bouts of dangerous excitement and passion. And I have to say that the world building of this particular shifter culture was amazingly creative and the difficulties of this group of people were so heartwrenching to read. I was really cheering Rae on in her quest to help them. The Epilogue was one that ‘solved all the world’s problems’, but for all its fairy tale ‘happily ever after’ quality, it still put a smile on my face.
Now the descriptive dialogue was the part that needed a bit of work to my thinking. I really got tired of Kai being referred to as ‘the handsome shape-shifter’ and Rae ‘the beautiful scientist’ over and over and these terms were not used in the same grammar tense as the voice that was telling the story. There were also some descriptions that I won’t list which didn’t do it for me particularly when describing Kai and Rae’s passionate times together. None of it prevented me from enjoying the story line; it just irked me now and then.
The main characters were good and I really liked them. They were beautiful people with hearts to unselfishly do what is right, but they are flawed and both must grow. The secondary characters were good pieces to the storyline and even got to ‘speak’ from their perspectives too.
Overall, I found it a nice creative shifter story that someone looking for a unique take on shifters might enjoy.
Rae took an admiring look at the vista below as she dropped her heavy pack on the ground. The mountains in the distance looked purple and the desert brush spread out below them like a master oil painting. It was awe inspiring to human eyes. Rae wondered what would it look like to a snow leopard. She suddenly realized many a biologist would sell their very soul for the opportunity she had at that moment. Rae turned to Kai who had been sitting on the ground with his pack and fishing around for lunch and asked him “what is it like when you’re in your Shan form out in country like this?” Kai rewarded Rae with the most brilliant smile she had yet seen to grace the handsome shape-shifter’s face. He seemed truly delighted to discuss the subject with her. Kai stood up to answer Rae’s question. He addressed the human scientist. “It’s like nothing you can imagine Rae. Every sense is in tune with the planet. See that tree over there” he pointed a few yards away at an ancient gnarled pinyon. “Yes” Rae replied. Kai walked up behind Rae and put his hands on her shoulders and directed her to look even closer at the tree. He whispered intimately in her ear as if they were in a church or another sacred space “when you look at that tree with your limited human vision, the average person can certainly appreciate its form and color. A biologist like yourself would ask what type of tree is it and how old it is. A philosopher might ask who may have sat underneath it in the past or who might sit underneath it in the future. All of you might even wonder when will it die. That’s the limit of your human perception. When you’re in Shan form every single leaf will bid you a glorious greeting as you walk up to the tree for the first time. Every drop of sap tells you the history of the tree’s life like an intimate biography written in the utterly sensual language of scent. The tree itself will tell you if it’s healthy or sick. You can smell if the water that nourishes it is bitter or sweet. If you deeply pay attention you can smell every animal that has ever been there.” Kai looked to Rae like he was experiencing a spiritual moment and Rae suddenly realized he was. The enthralled shape-shifter continued to explain to Rae the nuances of the animal world “when you are ready to move on to another place you reach up with your powerful claws and dig deep into the bark to mark the tree with your scent. It’s added harmoniously to the scent of hundreds of other animals. You do this not just to mark your hunting territory, but to tell every animal after you have left this world that you lived and breathed here at one time in the great mystery that is life. That is your only immortality in the animal world. There are no monuments to mark a man’s ego, or family albums for a mother to remember her children by, but neither is there hate, nor fear of the future or regret of the past. You are fully alive in each and every moment. It’s a wonderfully free existence. I wish I could truly share it with you… words, words pale in comparison.” Kai looked so happy at that moment. Rae was so moved by what he had just shared with her that all she could do was reach out and touch his wrist. “Thank you!” she whispered. Kai nodded at her in acknowledgment, but he was too emotional to even speak.
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.