The wildcat of the VicMoran litter, Rafe isn’t too convinced the newly discovered laws are for the best. Especially when they would prevent him from chasing down Anna Hunter. He’s had a taste of her and now he wants the entire meal. Anna knows better than to let any of the other jaguars know her true feelings about the documents all jaguars are honor-bound to follow. She’s not into suppression. No one is going to put a leash on her or demand she behave a certain way simply because some ancient jaguar prophesied the laws be followed in order for survival. Anna knows how to survive. And she knows what she wants—whom she wants.One night of incredible sex changes Rafe’s and Anna’s lives forever. Now the documents that put a thorn in her claw need to be saved from jaguars out for profit. Rafe and Anna have no problem fighting to save all jaguars. But they’ll be damned if they’re going to quit enjoying what they both know is right.
Having read and reviewed the first two novels in this series, I was delighted to read this third novel that further expands the story of the VicMoran litter of three panther brothers. Ran and Raul are both mated now and with their mates are living in peace in a panther-shifter colony in Costa Rica. Rafe is now and always has been sort of the “free spirit” of the three and while any one of a number of unmated females would like to catch him and tie him down as their mate, he only has eyes for Anna Hunter, a young female whose two brother-littermates traveled with her from Colony, the panther community now under the harsh rule of Natasha Kalusian, the sister to Rafe’s sister-in-law. And while all panthers are excited that the ancient laws and traditions–a code of conduct recently unearthed–are now being translated and made available online, the Colony and Natasha want to abscond with them and “re-write” them to suit Natasha’s way of doing things. The leadership of the Costa Rica community is just as determined that this code of conduct will remain open for all panthers to learn.
There’s also another problem: Anna and Rafe aren’t convinced that the ancient code is really for their time. Anna especially is unwilling to cowtow to a code of conduct that oppresses her or anyone’s right to establish their own mating relationship. She and Rafe are dealing with a powerful attraction and are unwilling to allow Anna’s older littermate to dictate how that relationship will proceed. Instead, they meet on a “run” through the jungle and spend an intense night of loving. Before they can return home and “face” Anna’s brother, they are abducted, drugged, and imprisoned by Natasha’s “soldiers” in a bid to control the VicMorans. Even though it comes out that they were the wrong couple that Natasha wanted–she wanted Raul and Angela, the female who is her littermate–they are still imprisoned because Natasha has plans for Rafe, an unmated male. Anna and Rafe are rescued by an underground splinter group who are working against Natasha and her regime, but they find out that this group is also trying to steal the laws and traditions. All through these strange happenings, Anna and Rafe are falling deeper in love and becoming more and more aware that they need to make their mating official for their own protection, now and for the future.
This is a very erotic novel that is a fascinating look at a wonderful and well-developed paranormal society that is unlike any I have encountered in paranormal fiction. According to Ms O’Clare, that is her goal–to create a society that is just different enough, to cause readers to think and be aware of those differences. In truth, there are strands of truth throughout this book–the ways a society orders itself and deals with the various ways of establishing families, permanent mating, leadership, etc. And as in all societies, the way a community establishes the rules and regulations is a cause for discussion as to how the concerns of all its citizens are processed. In wolf-shifter packs the hierarchy mirrors that of wolves in nature. However, the big cats are generally loners so the building of a community with laws and traditions is certainly different. I found this rendition of a society of loners to be quite a stimulating and entertaining read.
Ms O’Clare has an extensive publishing history and has dealt with many different themes in her books. She is a fine writer and her use of language is delightful–it is surprising how some authors manage to massacre the English language in their books. Not so here. And the consistent escalation of Rafe and Anna’s love relationship makes a compelling part of this book. Somehow they must find a way to create their future as they see fit while still dealing with their families and the leadership of their community. It is a reminder that we who prize democracy must remember that any democratic society was virtually unknown 400 years ago anywhere in the world–America was long referred to as “the Great Experiment.” As these panther-shifters struggle with their own issues as a society, there is still the issue of how each couple can come together and establish their own future. I’m not sure that it is a question that was fully answered here and perhaps that is as it should be . . . the rights of the individual over against those of the society at large will probably always be a discussion that will continue for a long time to come, not only in real life but in paranormal fiction as well.
I found that this story was also about the maturing process that these two went through. First, they had to deal with the stress of imprisonment and coming to depend emotionally on each other. Second, they had to work together to find a way back to their life and their community. Third, they had to figure out what was their future together and move toward that in spite of any opposition they might face–they really already knew the nature of that opposition–and be prepared to make a stand for their independence. In the end, Anna and Rafe had no alternative but to become mature in their responses to one another and to the outside social forces that were seeking to intrude on their relationship. The VicMoran playboy was going to have to grow up whether he wanted to or not!
I liked this novel a great deal and found the story one that really grabbed my interest. I like Ms O’Clare’s writing style, the plot and story line development, and the cast of characters, some of whom had made their initial appearance in the first two novels in this series. It is a story that takes a beautiful love story and embeds into a political struggle, complete with striving factions, underground opposition, and panther-shifters who are acting without accurate information to guide their decisions and actions. It really was a marvelous soup of story ingredients and a political pressure cooker within which these shifters must live and love. There’s lots to challenge the minds of readers and romance lovers will enjoy the erotic encounters between Rafe and Anna. This is a paranormal novel you won’t want to miss.
I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.