by Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantra

This is a collection of short stories by four of the hottest current paranormal authors. It includes four stories, all with a theme of shape-shifting:

– Mad Dog Love byAngela Knight
– A Jaguar’s Kiss by Lora Leigh
– Shifter’s Lady by Alyssa Day
– Sea Crossing by Virginia Kantra

As with all such collections, I liked some stories more than others, but I’m happy to report that in this particular collection all four stories were very strong and while I may have my favorite, I really  enjoyed them all. One aspect I found unique about this collection is that most of the stories were told more from the hero’s point of view than from the heroine’s, where most romance books are the opposite, which I found refreshing and absorbing. Here are my reviews of each, for your enjoyment.

Mad Dog Love by Angela Knight

This story is full-on science fiction, set in a distant futuristic alternate world. Pretty much everybody uses “nanobots” to help them out, and of course, the richer you are, the better your nanobots. Although the author never really delves into a technical description of the nanobots, my perception was that they are microscopic little computer systems that are injected into people to enhance their abilities, skills and sometimes, physical attributes.

Mad Dog is a Werewolf – or would that be “nano-Wolf”? His nano system allows him to transform into a much larger, werewolf-like creature with enhanced senses, strength and fighting abilities. A quick reference is made to the origin of this system – he comes from a very challenging planet where such abilities are needed to survive. Alas, Mad Dog was captured by slavers and his nano system is being controlled by someone else. Despite constant torture, Mad Dog remains defiant and determined to escape.

Enter our heroine – an Empress in disguise with a souped up military nanosystem who wants to buy a bodyguard. Adventure – and a steamy romance – ensues.

This author does a very good job of giving the basics needed to visualize and grasp the setting and situation she has created, without bogging down in the technical details as is the downfall of many science fiction stories. Instead, you are caught up by the story and intrigued by the well developed characters. Both the hero and heroine are distinctive and interesting and one can certainly understand why they would be attracted to each other. The story is engaging, and wraps up admirably in the short space provided by this venue.

I don’t know if this was a one-time use setting or if we’ll be seeing more of this environment in future books – but I hope so. I thought it was a fresh and creative take on the use of nano technology and shape shifting. The story itself was in turns intriguing, adventurous and steamy – all contributing to a solid, satisfying read.

A Jaguar’s Kiss by Lora Leigh

This is one of the many Breed stories by this author. I’ve read a few others so far – a couple of novels and at least one other short story – and I thought this was one of the best ones yet! Lora Leigh is a master at creating sensual tension and heat and this story doesn’t disappoint.

The hero, Saban, is a Breed. Genetically engineered with the enhanced senses, and some other traits, of a jaguar. On top of that he’s a Cajun with a sexy name – he is sizzlin’!

His prey – er, heroine – is Natalie, the first non-Breed approved to be a teacher to the Breed children. Saban has been assigned to escort her to her new position and ensure her security. One whiff is all it takes for Saban to know she’s his destined mate.

Saban is a perfect Alpha male hero – gorgeous, studly, and dominant, yet he struggles to control his desires in order to win his mate’s love. He suffers in torment for months while he tries to win her over with traditional wooing. Natalie is resistant, due to her recent divorce from an overly controlling man. Poor Saban, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Ms. Leigh did an excellent job combining her trademark white-hot sexual scenes with a sweet and tender love story. And let’s not forget the intrigue. All within a short story! Wow. If you’ve enjoyed previous Breed stories – or if you haven’t gotten to them yet – I highly recommend this one. It’s one of the best in the series and a great stand alone story, to boot.

Shifter’s Lady by Alyssa Day

This is another short story connected to a larger series – The Warriors of Poseidon series. The author doesn’t take a lot of time to explain the main premise of the series, but I don’t think this would detract from this story, even if you haven’t read the other books.

Marie is the First Lady of Nereids in Atlantis. As such, she’s pretty well tied to her job. But with her brother having finally found his lady love, she’s decided it’s time to get away. She’s going to go visit her new sister in law (who happens to be a shifter) and get a little vacation at the same time. Little does she know what awaits her in the Land Above!

Ethan is the Alpha of the pack that Marie’s new sister belongs to. Marie has had lovers before, but they’d always been the gentle, scholarly type. She’s not quite sure how to deal with this strong, sexy Alpha male who’s not shy about letting her know he’s interested.

Our lovers barely get to say hello before danger threatens and Ethan is forced to deal with it in order to protect his panthers as well as his new love interest.

This story is told from a different direction than most of the Warriors of Poseidon stories. We’ve met Marie before as a minor character, but suddenly she’s front and center and we are reminded that everyone has their own story. The author packs a lot of story into a short few pages, but still manages to keep it cohesive, interesting and sexy. She wraps things up satisfactorily, while leaving options for more stories and even hinting at some developments in the main series. I would venture to say we will be seeing Ethan and Marie again.

Although I think the reader will enjoy this story more if they’ve read the others in the series first, it’s not absolutely required. Shifter’s Lady is a welcome addition to this collection.

Sea Crossing by Virginia Kantra

I believe this is the first story I’ve read by this author and it was enough to make me go out and look for more. Sea Crossing is a little different than the other three stories in this collection because it has an historical setting instead of contemporary or futuristic.

Emma is a school teacher – or rather, she was, until she was “ruined” by an unscrupulous man who played her for a fool. Now she’s got nothing to look forward to but an unknown future in another country, as she indentures herself for a year of labor in exchange for passage to Canada.

Fortunately for her (although she doesn’t realize it), her ship sinks during a storm at sea! Miraculously, Emma wakes up warm and dry (and naked) in a strange man’s bed. Understandably wary, Emma quickly discovers that Griff is a simple, but honorable, man who does his best to make her feel comfortable. It turns out that the island where she awoke is in need of a teacher – how convenient! She just doesn’t know yet that the students – and the other residents – are mythical shape changing Selkies.

At first I wasn’t sure if this story was going to work for me; the tone and pacing are so very different from the other stories in the book. But as I read on, the story, the characters, the setting, all began to grow on me. Griff is warm and caring despite his reserved and sometimes gruff manner and the author skillfully portrays him as a strong, virile and attractive man without the usual descriptions. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be wishing you could find a Griff of your own.

This may have been the first Virginia Kantra story I’ve read, but I think it won’t be the last. Sea Crossing was a surprising and pleasurable finale to a very good book.

Overall, this was a very good anthology that introduced me to some new characters and authors and reacquainted me with some familiar ones. I enjoyed every story, but I think my favorite was A Jaguar’s Kiss (or maybe Sea Crossing…) – it’s hard to pick! Which one did you like best?

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