Hunting Love is a series of novellas offered by Samhain which feature shapeshifters of Felidae. Like all Samhain themed novellas, the books share a very similar look so that the reader can easily identify the connection. I read three of the four. * These books are related only by the topic and not the characters or settings. The stories vary quite a bit both in setting and myth. Samhain doesn’t link these books together on its site so if you want to read/buy them all, you have to look for the covers.
The Wallflower by Dana Marie Bell. Max Cannon returns to his hometown to take up the leadership of his Pride. Emma Carter, his old classmate, has always yearned for Max but believes that she is not attractive enough for a stud like Max. I like late bloomers and the old friends to lover story, but this story relied too heavily on shortcuts and stereotypes. First, Emma is supposed to be a wallflower on one hand but is referred to by Max’s second, his beta, as ‘The Little General’.
The construct of the Pride wasn’t really that different than a werewolf pack. I have little patience with this as I see it as cheat. If you are going to write about Packs and mates and whatnot, then write about werewolves. If you are going to write about Felidae then insert some of the characteristics of the catamounts so that the story doesn’t read like a wolf in cat’s clothing. Pumas or other mountain cats are known to be solitary animals. They mate for procreation but do not have packs like a werewolf. I wonder if there actually is such a thing as a ‘beta’ in the mountain lion culture as was used in the Wallflower.
Putting aside the suspect worldbuilding is the unintentionally funny stuff like the fact that Max won his Alpha position by beating out the other shapeshifters while he was still a human. There is no explanation for this. The reader is simply supposed to accept it as true. The relationship was also given short shrift. I know that the novella was short but some of the pages could be used to develop a meaningful relationship that didn’t consist of dinner, sex and post coital “I love yous.” The story relied too heavily on the fated mate concept to provide the clues as to why these two crazy cats should love each other. D
Rachel’s Totem by Marie Harte. Burke Chastell and the other inhabitants of Cougar Falls are searching for the lost totem that protects the town from exposure to the outside world. Charlotte Penny, Chastell’s neighbor, was the guardian of the totem but it disappeared after Charlotte died. Rachel Penny inherits her aunt’s home in Cougar Falls and after a nasty divorce, finding succor in Cougar Falls seems just the ticket. When Rachel shows up in Cougar Falls, Burke is immediately attracted to her, as are many other residents of Cougar Falls. Rachel is in heat, but doesn’t know it. Neither does she know that she is the next guardian of the totem.
I read this one straight after The Wallflower and it was pretty interesting because Rachel’s Totem uses many of the same encounters or incidences that The Wallflower employs but with different results. For example, the instant attraction in Rachel’s Totem is biologically based instead of mystically based (i.e., the fated mate). Chastell lives with his brothers and they have a small clan of sorts. Chastell acknowledges that it is rare for catamounts to bond together but they did so in spite of their natural instincts. Just having the acknowledgment that the setup was outside the norm was enough to make it palatable for me.
I was surprised by the “marking” scene that takes place toward the end of the book which features Rachel being lustfully taken by all the Chastell brothers and I also though that the mysticism part of the story was a little weak (although I tend not to like the woo woo type stories anyway), but compared to The Wallflower, Rachel’s Totem worked better for me on every level. C+
Treasure Hunting by JB McDonald. This story probably was the truest to actual Puma biology and while the story was interesting, one aspect bothered me the entire time. Meg is a college professor whose hobby takes her to the jungle of South America. On one of her expeditions hunting ruins, she finds a wounded jaguar. She tranqs him and drags him back to her camp. The next morning, her guides abandon her because of her ‘cat’. She soon finds out that the jaguar is actually a man. Meg accepts this with some amazement but having watched him turn, she can’t deny the truth.
Santiago is the wounded shapeshifter and he needs helps getting to his family. While the two maneuver through the jungle, Santiago and Meg fall in love with one another but are kept apart due to misunderstanding. Santiago thinks that Meg is disgusted by a ‘cat-man’ and Meg can’t believe that a ‘cat-god’ would be interested. This is a sweet love story with a very fun twist at the end. The big nagging problem is that when Meg and Santiago speak to each other in Spanish (although it reads in English but the understanding is that the two are speaking Spanish) and the sentence patterns are distinctly English. I guess I feel like if an author is going to use another language as the mode of communication, the translated English should be in the rhythm and using the idioms of that other language. B-
*The book I did not read/review is "Claiming Their Mate" by Paige McKellan and not for any reason.