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(Two Feral attraction stories, released April 15th 2008 by Samhain)

Before starting, I have to apologize profusely to the amazing Angela James and the authors for it taking me six and a half months to get around to reading and reviewing these, since I got them at a giveaway hosted by the wonderful ladies at WriteMinded. I suck, and not in a good way. Sowwy. (Two down, four to go.)

Claiming Their Mate, by Paige McKellan

A paranormal romance in Samhain’s Red Hot line, the novella Claiming Their Mate is my first story by Ms McKellan.

My usual warning for minors and for people who have trouble with explicit sex and language: you are better off not reading either the review or the novella.

Or, in the publisher’s words: Contains explicit sex, graphic language, stubborn men, an independent woman and red hot romance.

The blurb:

Red-hot animal attraction.

Jules Kingston is a WereLion destined to be the next Lioness of the White Sands Pride. Her fathers, having decided to step down as Leos, have put out a call for a pair of lions to mate with their daughter. Before settling down with mates and a litter of cubs, though, Jules wants to spread her wings.

Of all the Lions in the Pride, Gabriel and Lucas Beckett are the only two who make her panties wet—and the last two she would ever take on as mates. When the brothers stake their claim, she runs, cursing her hormones for reacting to such prime specimens of her species.

Gabe and Luke have known for years that Jules is meant to be their mate. The trick will be to convince their woman she belongs to them. As expected, Jules leads them on a merry chase.

Then a mate fight and hunt is called by a rival pair. To win Jules as their own, Gabe and Luke must prove their dominance over the Pride—and their woman.

I’ve said before that I cannot know what the author was thinking while writing. No one can, but the writer. And yet, as a reader, I often get impressions, which tend to find their way into my reviews.

In this case, the laundry list of clichés in just 80 pages is… well, amazing.

We have:

  • Navy SEAL hero, check.
  • Successful rancher hero, check.
  • DNA programming for two males, one female, check—but only for the ruling triad, other cats can mate one to one. (Huh? How do the genes know the difference?)
  • All members of the pride are more attractive than regular humans, check.
  • Heroine and heroes are THE most attractive of the bunch, check.
  • Arrogant, dominant, condescending males who know what the heroine wants better than she does, check.
  • Heroine knows that her duty to the pride is to mate/marry two related males, yet balks at doing it, check.
  • Toss in an arranged mating/marriage for good measure, check.

And yet, my main issue with this work is the poor world building. A lioness with a mane? And, lionesses need to shift and run regularly, but a few pages later females cannot shift unless they are in heat or gravely injured. Which is it?

And man oh man with the info dumping. Does a twenty-three year old who has, supposedly, lived a happy family life with two fathers and one mother, need her mother to explain what it’s like to be mated to two men? Then three paragraphs later, “she knew first hand what a great relationship her parents had.” So, umm… why was she asking then?

So as I said, I can’t know, but the way it reads, the world building is nothing but an excuse for the two males, one female fantasy. Which is fine and dandy on its own, but the shoddy world building distracted me from the relationship, and Jules objections to the mating came across as nothing but excuses to prolong the story.
There was no conflict and no plot. The last minute challenge by two putzes—which everyone and their pet parrot knew the heroes would win—just provided a few more contradictions to the world building.

On the plus side, the sex scenes are hot (for those of us with that particular button, obviously 😀 ) and for the most part well written—which is not easy—but it certainly feels like there is just too much window dressing for what could (should?) have been a relationship-focused story.

Claiming Their Mate gets 5 out of 10


Rachel’s Totem, by Marie Harte

Also part of Samhain’s Red Hot line, Rachel’s Totem is my introduction to Ms Harte’s writing.

The warning for this story is very similar to that for the previous one: it contains graphic language, explicit sex, and ménage a quatre (three guys, one woman).

Here’s the blurb:

Mountain man or mountain lion? In this case, one and the same.

When Rachel arrives in Cougar Falls for a reading of her aunt’s will, she finds herself in a typical mountain town. Except that it’s not quite… typical. It’s full of the requisite, rough-hewn mountaineers, but these men seem more animal than man.

And one of the rude strangers brings out the animal in her during an embarrassingly orgasmic-and scorching-sexual encounter in an alley. The fantastic tales that the townsfolk tell about the Ac-Taw, a clan of people who can shift into animals, are nothing but folklore. Or are they?

Burke is stunned by his response to Rachel, and even more so when she innocently shows signs of possessing Ac-Taw blood. And this puts her in more danger than she knows, danger that only increases the urgency to mark her as his own.

Rachel comes to realize she’s inherited much more than just property. She has also inherited a destiny to protect her newfound home.

For the Ac-Taw aren’t just legend-they’re real.

There’s a bit of info dumping, but it’s for the most part well handled. However, it does feel as if this story were part of a series where more of the shifters’ world is explored. Not that I could find related titles through Ms Harte’s site, it’s just how it comes across while reading.

There is an established mythology and several references to other groups encroaching these shifters’ territory. Near the end of the story there is even a new character showing up and making reference to past—and potentially future—events. The world building as a whole is more complex and internally consistent, and what little external conflict there is, is tangential enough to allow the reader to concentrate on Rachel and Burke’s reactions to each other.

There are a number of secondary characters rendered with broad strokes, with a smaller number given more depth through interactions with Rachel, through whose eyes most of the story is told.

The emphasis in this novella is indeed the relationship between the protagonists, and while it’s influenced by that reliable staple of paranormal/shifter stories (the fated ‘mate’ for those not in the know), it’s still sweet. Yes, even with all the sexoring going on (and boy oh boy, but there is some of that in there), there is an underlying sweetness to it.

The ending is slightly too predictable and just a tad too sweet, but even that fits the characters and the story.

Ms Harte does something I particularly like by letting the story develop slowly in time—even if it’s only 80+ pages, it takes place in a matter of weeks, which makes it easier for this reader to buy the forever after happy ending.

Rachel’s Totem gets a 7 out of 10.


Both of these stories are available from Samhain.

1 Comment »

  • No apologies needed (especially if you’re going to call me “amazing” 😉 ). I know full well how that works, when time gets away from you. Plus, you won them and there were no strings attached with the giveaway.

    Thanks for reviewing them!


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