My review includes a slight spoiler.
Adrian is outraged when he learns that his brother and pack alpha, Kade, has arranged for him to live with a lion-shifter pride in order to protect him from Olson, a wolf who hates him and plans to challenge him. For the next six months, Adrian's supposed to at least consider the possibility of mate bonding with one of the lions. If he doesn't find anyone suitable and isn't happy living with the pride, he can go home. He's sure that will be the final outcome, but then he meets Talan, the pride alpha, and is instantly attracted to him. He and Talan get along well, but then Olson arrives. Talan's over-protectiveness causes Adrian to question whether a mate bond with Talan would be a good idea.
This was better than Jaynell's Wolf, the other story by this author that I've read, but it still wasn't very good. I do think it could have been decent...if the author had been consistent with her world and character details and considered the ramifications of all of them. And if the editing had been better.
Okay, so readers were told that wolves were the more primal shifters, living simply and having sex with anyone they might potentially want to mate bond with. Lions, on the other hand, loved luxury and tended to take things more slowly where mating was concerned, because going too quickly could result in bloodshed if their inner lions accidentally started viewing their potential mates as prey.
That's all well and good, except that's not how Kell wrote Adrian and Talan's relationship. Talan's idea of taking things slow was kissing but no groping (sort of), for all of a couple days. Then he decided that his lion was fine with Adrian, and they should just go ahead and have sex. And here I thought they'd go on dates, talk about each other's lives, that sort of thing. At best, Talan asked Adrian a little about his job, and that was it. I have no clue what, if anything, Talan did when he wasn't roaring at the male members of his pride for looking at Adrian too long. While I liked the part at the end where Adrian told Talan that the two of them could only work out as a couple if Talan could learn to trust him and believe that he could take care of himself, it would have had much more power if he and Talan had actually known each other better.
Then there was the biting. Talan's pride freaked out when Adrian bit Talan to mark him (and made absolutely no effort to warn Talan before doing it, which seems like a supremely dumb thing for someone to do to a potentially volatile shifter). One of the pride members called it a “wolf sex thing,” so I figured that lions didn't do that sort of thing. But then Talan and Adrian had sex and Talan bit hard enough to draw a lot of blood (again, without giving any warning beforehand), leaving me really confused. Why had Adrian's bite been such a big deal? And, considering the whole “lions have to take things slowly so they don't accidentally eat their potential mates” thing, shouldn't Adrian have freaked out when Talan suddenly bit him that hard?
The story's entire setup was paper thin. Adrian's insistence that he couldn't live with lions and couldn't imagine mating with one of them didn't last longer than it took for him to drive to Talan's home. The next bit of “conflict” that Kell introduced was Adrian's fear that he'd never get to run with his pack again, but even I could have told him that probably wasn't the case. Sure enough, that problem evaporated after he mentioned his fear to Talan. Then there was Olson.
Now we're entering spoiler territory: I have to wonder how someone could be a “world leader in shifter self-defence” (47) with so few shifters knowing it. You'd think the guy planning to challenge Adrian would have researched him a little, and Talan had clearly never heard that info before. Kell explained Kade sending Adrian away, even knowing that he could probably take Olson on, by saying that it was brotherly worry, because even someone with Adrian's skills could end up losing a fight.
I'll wrap this up by talking about the editing. There wasn't much in the way of misspellings - I noticed one instance of Talan's name being spelled “Talon” - but there were issues with repetitiveness. A character would walk in and say something, and a moment later another character would come and say basically the same thing. Kell's naming decisions were also unfortunate, unless the plan was to make all the lions indistinguishable from each other (which may have been the case, since even Adrian found himself thinking that he couldn't tell them apart). Talan and all six of his sisters had names starting with T.
There were instances of incorrect punctuation (“'Yeah, but how does teaching little girls karate translate into ripping a man’s throat out.'” (47) – needs a question mark), and Kell's usage of commas bugged me. One example: “The thought that the man was hedging his bets about leaving, rubbed Talan wrong.” (21) As far as I know, that didn't need a comma. Also, after such a big deal was made about lions being in prides, not packs, it was a little odd when Talan thought about the lions' mansion being the “pride of the pack” (14).
I could go on, but I'll stop there. All in all, this wasn't great, but I've read worse, and it helped that I went into it not expecting much more than some fluff with a bit of sex in it. I don't plan on reading more in this series, however, and I'm happy that I'm now finished with everything by Kell that I own.
- The Mane Event (anthology) by Shelly Laurenston - Readers who don't mind m/f romance should check this out. Kell's humor frequently reminded me of this book. Also, one story, "Shaw's Tail," deals with two different kinds of shifters, a wolf shifter and a lion shifter. Although this book didn't work for me at all, plenty of other people love it and Laurenston's works in general. I've written about this book.
- Change of Heart (book) by Mary Calmes - Those who'd like another m/m romance featuring cat shifters (in this case, panthers) might want to give this book a try. I've written about it.