I am consistently fascinated by shifters, of all types, and when their mates are just as strong as they are (and I don’t mean physically) then I am more intrigued than ever. Thus the blurb for this anthology caught my attention and had me diving in. Tortured Heat by L.J. Longo In a world of witches – some good, some bad, some strong, some weak – and shifters who attend to them in one way or another, Azatio is a crow and the steward of Madame Lamrow, the oldest, kindest, and most powerful witch in the area. Aza runs her household and watches over her grimoire which has a power all its own. Thariff is an alpha wolf enslaved to Madame Keldrith, a witch who longs for Madame Lamrow’s power, and who hasn’t got a kind bone in her body. Aza has built a lot of walls around his heart and his soul in order to never feel pain and hurt again, while Thariff is equally determined to make him his mate. What fascinated me about this story is the complexity of one of its main characters. Aza feels a great deal of shame and insecurity about being a crow and, in fact, has nothing to do with any other crows in the area. Since Madame Lamrow saved him when he was seven years old and trying to steal her grimoire, he feels as if the only way to repay her for her kindness is to be the best steward and, to be honest, the very best crow he can be including not being distracted by the foibles of his kind. Aza takes everything literally that Madame Lamrow says to him and doesn’t see her genuine affection for him as an individual. It is this so-called cold reserve of Aza’s that has Thariff enthralled from the beginning. I honestly believe that if Aza had more confidence in himself he would’ve been able to see the reality of what Thariff was doing instead of jumping to the wrong conclusion immediately. “Like what you see?” I nodded. “Well, you have me. Why do you look so depressed?” “Because…” I wasn’t worthy. I wasn’t going to say that. Because I loved him. I had no right to say that. So, I answered too sharply. “My reasons are my own.” Wow. This first story is a doozy and had me completely captivated. It’s filled with magic, both light and dark, and two men who seem so disparate but in the end they both want the same thing – to be safe, to be free, and to be loved. This was a fascinating story of fantasy and love, and I was hooked. If You Can’t Stand the Heat by Pelaam Quinn is a chef in a restaurant that has been slowly going under until one of the owners finally sees what’s happening, gets rid of the problem, and has his friend, Barin, an excellent head chef come onboard. Quinn and Barin have sparks right from the start much of it due to Quinn recognizing the other man as an alpha but having no clue exactly what species other than some type of predator. This sets Quinn’s hackles ruffling especially when Barin makes it plain that he wants Quinn. However, Quinn knows better than to get involved with an alpha and a boss! It takes Quinn a while (and a slap to the head from his cousin) to realize that Barin is courting him. Quinn had a bad experience with an alpha and he has to put aside his preconceived notions and learn who Barin is outside of being an alpha. When a little danger comes their way it only cements the love they share and it was a delight to see them fall in love and mate. This is a great addition to the anthology and I would love to see more in this world. Five Dollar Mate by Angelique Voisen I felt for Cal the moment I began this story and realized he was having a sale of almost everything in his apartment – everything he’d acquired over the ten years he spent with his cheating ex. The same man who purchased all of the ridiculously high-priced items that they couldn’t afford and which kept Cal constantly working trying to make ends meet. Cal tugged at my heartstrings right from the start, but when Diesel entered the picture he tugged on something else entirely. Diesel just moved into the apartment building and smelling his mate’s scent he follows the delicious aroma until he meets Cal, a human who seems very vulnerable and fragile, but Diesel is surprised when he realizes that Cal is standing up to him even knowing he’s an alpha shifter. I really wish this story had been longer as the insta-romance, especially from Cal after just having gotten out of a ten-year relationship, was a little too… well, insta, if you want to know the truth. Cal and Diesel are really good together and I would have liked to see more of them and more of the world the author created. At the Edge by Nell Rockhill An interesting world filled with magic and shifters, this story of Sorrel and Ari was different than I expected. Sorrel is a mountain lion shifter but in this world there can be huge difficulties with keeping the human half at the forefront and not turning feral. Ari has an herb shop where he makes charms and tends to one little plant of allum – an illegal herb of which a tiny dose can bind the human threads to a shifter and prevent them from going feral. Sorrel has been gone a while, lost to his animal in a place where his instincts are pure and easy, but his human side has struggled to come forward to remind them that home is Ari. Sorrel returns to Ari but it isn’t that easy as Sorrel has to own up to his feelings and Ari must learn to let Sorrel in even if he ends up breaking Ari’s heart. “That instinct, he finally realized, the animal instinct, had gone quiet. His memories of the time gone were fuzzy, just far away glimpses. He felt immediately present, aware of everything, fully feeling those hands against him, feeling no tremble or haunting in his soul. He was finally completely human.” I would’ve loved more backstory on Sorrel and Ari as I think, for me at least, it might have provided insight into areas of the tale that left me wondering. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable addition to this anthology. Hunted by his Alpha by Marie Medina This final story in the book returned to a more stereotypical version of an alpha male shifter and finding his mate. The time has come in this world where humans are encroaching and the discovery of shifters could occur which leads Gregor, alpha wolf, to meet with the fae king to reach an alliance between the two groups. The fae don’t live in the human world but are magically shrouded in a kingdom in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As soon as Gregor reaches the palace he scents his mate, Jared, a young half wolf and half fae who is meant to be Gregor’s. Unfortunately, Gregor goes about it as if Jared understands all the shifter norms and customs which makes Jared very angry and he stands up to Gregor and refuses him unless Gregor can woo him. Well, that puts Gregor in his place! A very cute and hot ending that tied all these stories together in one fashion or another.
Some happily-ever-afters take more effort than others...
The strong alpha heroes in our anthology are determined to claim their mates—but their men are anything but submissive. They'll have to work twice as hard to get what they want. It'll be a power struggle as the alphas and their men learn that the volatile energy between them is the beginning of something wonderful.
These five hand-picked stories are hot enough to curl your toes. Get ready to fall in love with an alpha.
Be Warned: m/m sex
Tortured Heart by L.J. Longo
If You Can't Stand the Heat by Pelaam
Five Dollar Mate by Angelique Voisen
At the Edge by Nell Rockhill
Hunted by His Alpha by Marie Medina