Mate Claimed

Jennifer Ashley
October 2012, Paranormal Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425251012
Part of a series

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Hot

Though I like Historical romance, generally paranormal is my preference. Since I liked what I saw Jennifer Ashley do with historical romance in the Highland Pleasures series, I figured I would see what she could do with paranormal. What I discovered is that sometimes an author’s voice really works with one genre and doesn’t quite work with another.

As an unclaimed Feline female, Iona Duncan is very vulnerable. The best thing for her to do would be to join in the Shifter world. There, she would be able to be protected by the Shiftertown alpha, Eric Warden. But as Iona is a half shifter who has lived her life amongst humans (whom she hasn't told about her nature), joining the Shifters would leave her mother and half sister in danger of being punished for keeping her secret. So Iona is resisting as long as she can and trying to learn to control her instincts. Unfortunately, instead of controlling, she is suppressing - which could cause her to lose control, turn feral, and cause more harm than if she reveals herself.

Eric knows that Iona is struggling to keep it all under control, but as the alpha in charge of the Vegas Shiftertown, he has plans for the female. He hopes to be able to adopt her into the clan while still protecting her secret and her family. But first he needs Iona’s cooperation. The government tells him that his Shiftertown must merge with another, and both Eric and that group’s alpha, Graham McNeil, don’t want to mesh. A fight for supremacy is inevitable. But there is a lot more to the story of the merging of the Shiftertowns. As the government is involved in a shady operation that includes kidnapping cubs and women and taking blood and DNA samples, both Eric and Graham have to put aside their animosity and desire for dominance to save all the Shifters under their protection.

This book is a series fan’s dream. Ashley does not waste time acclimating the reader to things that she seems to feel they should already know. I totally respect that. Sometimes I wish some of my favorite authors would do that and not waste my time rehashing things the reader should know if they have read the other books. But in this case, I hadn’t read the other books. So it took me a long time to understand what the rules were in this world. Things that I likely should have seen as clues (such as the pull Eric felt from the very beginning and the scent sense that Iona worked to develop) didn’t give me the information that they should have, and so it was difficult to interpret it all correctly. And I am still not sure that I understand what a mate bond is or what the difference is between a regular mate and a true mate, but apparently…there is one.

This book was a little too earthy for me. I have had children and the experience is moving and wonderful, but if I want a graphic replay of childbirth, I will watch the Health Network. I don’t need to read about all the specific details in a romance novel. When Eric’s sister Cassidy gives birth, on her knees like the snow leopard that she was, and there was a description that was more than I needed, it took me completely out of the story. After a while I was waiting for Graham, a wolf shifter, to actually start licking his own… well, you get the picture. Reading about humans with animal instincts that give the characters strength, loyalty, or determination can be fun. But when the character’s habits start to remind me of the family pet, it just doesn’t work for me. I guess I am just not that much of an animal lover.

I think fans of the series will probably know a bit of backstory about Eric going into the book, and will probably enjoy this more than I did. I liked the construction project, the merging of the two Shifter groups, and the political story within the plot. But I think that I will stick to Ashley’s Highland Pleasures books. The earthy and animalistic Shifters Unbound series is just not for me.

-- Louise VanderVliet

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