*I received a free ARC of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Recipient of the B.R.A.G. Medallion
Blurb: Handsome, alluring, and a little dangerous, Melissa Hewitt’s boss can barely manage to acknowledge her. But there is something about Leander Garrett that makes him impossible to ignore. He is not the only thing plaguing Melissa’s thoughts, however; a huge panther, as black as night, pursues her relentlessly through her dreams.
As winter turns into spring, Leander’s chilly demeanor begins to thaw, but danger prowls through the mountains, and Lee has a secret that lurks beneath his elegant clothes and rippling physique. Something that compels him to reject what he desires the most.
Can he learn to see the good in himself and finally allow his heart to love, and be loved in return?
This is the first ‘Shifter Romance’ I have ever read, and I am glad I started with this one!
I will just caveat up front that there is what could be described as bestiality in the plot, as the main characters make love whilst one is shapeshifted into their animal form, however the author makes it very clear that the ‘animal’ in question is in fact ALWAYS a person, just in a different shape. In fact it is the classic Beauty and the Beast morality of loving the interior no matter what format it happens to be presented in.
Also, perhaps to counterbalance this aspect, the relationship follows a more conservative and traditional route than would generally be expected in modern times.
That all said, and fair warning given, I found this to be a sweet and sensual romance, with likeable characters and well-paced development of their relationship. I felt that the minor characters reacted realistically to events and were fully developed in their own rights, even those with walk-on roles.
I particularly liked that there was definite external conflict during the unrolling of the plot. Too many romances that I have read rely on the internal conflict of characters torn by their troubling histories (also featured here), but without any other source of tension than the character’s feelings it can make them seem fickle and immature, blowing hot ‘n’ cold (™ Katy Perry!) continually.
Here there is plenty of focus on plot as well; from animal attacks and hunting trips gone wrong, to animal-napping; to family feuds; which all keep the reader intrigued and create some genuine tension about the possibility of the relationship surviving.
There were some little hints here that the author may return to these characters for further stories: a good-hearted but recklessly flirtatious brother; a sister with a surprising fixation on physical abuse; unresolved parental conflict. I hope so, because whilst the sexual aspects were not my personal preference, I always appreciate a well-written, immersive story, and this was certainly that!
The stirring of a cool breeze finally brought Melissa to her feet. Only a faint smudge of light still hung on the horizon, whilst a single street lamp at the end of the pathway cast a dim glow on the surrounding buildings. Melissa picked up her glass, but before she headed inside a dark shape against the wall made her pause. She peered into the shadows, her eyes intent, and when a pair of green eyes turned to her, she stumbled backwards.
– Linda K. Hopkins, Moondance
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