Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter

Jessica Sims
October 2012, Paranormal Romance
Pocket, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 1451661819
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

The second book in the Midnight Liaisions series revolving around a dating service for shapeshifters charmed me. And in a shocking turn of events, made me long for a were-bear of my very own.

In this world, nearly all shifters belong to a pack consisting of creatures of their own kind. Sara Ward is an exception though. Turned by a brutal ex-boyfriend, she is now a werewolf who has caught the unwelcome attention of the local wolf pack. Female wolves are rare and they long for Sara to join them so that they may breed. The Anderson wolf pack is an unsavory lot consisting mostly of lewd and crass rednecks with the exception of Gracie, the lone female, and Connor, a wolf who carries a torch for Savannah, a member of the cougar pack.

Sara has been content to remain with the cougar pack led by her sister’s fiancé. She knows very little about being a werewolf though and the Andersons insist that she join their pack and learn how to shift properly while serving as their mate. Terrified of what will happen to her if the Andersons get their way and desperate for protection, she betroths herself to Ramsey Bjorn, a quiet, mysterious bear shifter with ties to the cougar pack. As Ramsey patiently shows her the ins and outs of changing from human to wolf form and back, Sara begins to believe their union may have a solid future and that love and intimacy do not require pain and humiliation.

It is refreshing to read a paranormal romance that does not involve the old “fated mates” device in which the main characters call dibs and then spend 300-some pages panting, drooling, and lusting. The concept of a matchmaking service for supernatural beings is innovative and it was fun to see the other characters sort through online profiles and endure awkward first dates. Sara and Ramsey basically enter into a modern, paranormal equivalent of a marriage of convenience. Their romance is about discovering one another and developing the relationship slowly. Sarah has a lot of trust issues she must overcome, but Ramsey is patient with her and she learns to trust the gentle giant. It was delightful to experience how the couple navigated the new territory and roles into which they were thrust.

Exiled from his bear clan, Ramsey is accustomed to being a loner. While he has admired Sara from afar for quite some time, having a mate and the necessity of considering another person’s feelings and needs is a novelty for him. I loved watching his character develop from being sort of awkward around Sara to a much more confident mate. While he is a man of few words, the depth of his feelings for Sara is evident in his desire to protect her from harm and the way he nurtures her shifting skills.

Told in first person from her point of view, the reader sees Sara’s character as an interesting mixture of toughness and timidity, displaying bravado even though her ex has left her frightened of the slightest touch. I found the development of her courage satisfying and when she finally is able to stand up for herself, I literally cheered for her.

My only criticism is that the villains of the novel are completely one-dimensional. Sara’s ex-boyfriend Roy is an abusive monster with no redeeming qualities. The Anderson wolves were pulled straight from the Redneck Stock Characters file, complete with poor dentistry, grammar, and manners. We also know they are the bad guys because they have names like Maynard and Buck. Such as it was, there was little suspense regarding Sara’s decision to remain mated to Ramsey or join the wolf pack.

Regardless, the journey of both main characters and their burgeoning relationship is immensely enjoyable. I loved this warm and humorous tale of two misfits who fit together perfectly. Desperately Seeking Shapeshifter is book two in the series, but the featured romance is contained within the novel. There is an interesting relationship developing between a couple of secondary characters as well. I will certainly be checking out book three once it becomes available.

-- Heather Stanton

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