Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Since When Does Fate Make MY Choices? "Panther's Prey" by Leah Brooke

Bailey Knox knew the good price she paid for her new bar came with consequences, but she didn’t count on nearly getting killed before she could even move into the place, which was also her new home.

Waking up to the two complete strangers who have saved her, she’s alarmed at her overwhelming response to both of them. Marcus Brand and James Archer are different from any men she’s ever met, but she didn’t realize how different. Shape-shifters don’t exist. Then they tell her something even more remarkable. She is their mate.

She fights the emotional pull, even while reveling in the passion that only seems to grow stronger, passion that just can’t be ignored. Neither can the attacks. When black panthers save her life once again, the trio must hide the truth from the rest of the world while struggling to come to grips with their own destiny—and overcoming the danger surrounding them.

Leah Brooke is known for her cowboy series set in Desire, OK as well as a number of other well-received works that are favorites among her fans. So when I realized that she had published the first novel in her new paranormal series I was delighted to read it with an eye to reviewing it. As is common with many who write paranormal romance, this is a menage relationship between a human woman and two panther shifters who are now in a pack of sorts, one that is sort of finding its way in the matter of mating and long-term relationships. In light of the fact that Marcus and James were orphaned at an early age and that only one other mating possibility has arisen in the years since the massacre of their parents and the other pack leaders years earlier, Marcus and James are finding their way through the difficulties of managing their own feelings as well as dealing with the surly and uncooperative human on whom their mating instinct has fixed itself.

Let me start by saying that I thought James was really quite a good guy. He was the kind of person who was willing to deal realistically with the difficulties Bailey had accepting them as shifters as well as mates. He seemed more willing and actually more of a personality type to simply roll with the punches, figuring out how to calm Bailey's fears and objections to their mating, calmly and patiently dealing with her resistance to the fact that shifters existed, and to try to find a way through the emotional and lifestyle barriers to their becoming mates.

Marcus, however, is a different story. He appears to have been cursed with the artist's temperament, one that seems to need to struggle with life as it is in favor of life as he would like it to be. He is hot-tempered and actually very resentful that Fate has made his mating choice for him, angry when his sexual attraction to Bailey drives him crazy, and taking out his anger on both Bailey and James. He's just one angry dude!! I can understand his feelings, but I had difficulty that his resistance to the mating and his acceptance of this change in his future went on and on and on. Enough already. What will be will be, as the song goes, and neither James or Bailey deserved to be made victims of his temper repeatedly. In fact, he is very late in admitting his attraction might be a good thing, that he might actually have developed a genuine affection and love for this difficult woman.

And then there's Bailey. Oh my, what a piece of work. To be fair, considering her background, her total shambles of a life up to this point, her absolute need driving her to be in total control of her life and everything having to do with her life is understandable. Her inability to accept the existence of shifters is another matter. How many times does she have to have full grown panthers in her bedroom, lying next to her on the bed, saving her from her enemies twice, and so forth? Come on, lady, give it a rest. It is really beyond the pale that she is so resistant to believing what is right before her eyes. Her acceptance of James and Marcus as her mates is more understandable. Here is a woman who simply doesn't DO relationships, and certainly not relationships that are not of her own determination. Everyone she has trusted in the past has let her down, and in spite of the overwhelming sexual attraction she experiences with these two, she knows that good sex may be good sex in and of itself, but that isn't necessarily any guarantee that any long-term commitment from James and Marcus is trustworthy. Also, as Marcus also is constantly denying his deeper feelings and pushing Bailey away when they are not locked in an embrace, she has no assurance that Marcus will ever accept her and if that is the case, then she wants little if anything to do with him.

Now I really like Leah Brooke's writing and I have been a fan of her writing many times over. But I have to say that this book irritated me more than I expected and I was just a little disappointed with the protracted adversarial nature of these relationships and I simply got tired of all the wrangling. Did I understand what might have been behind all the upset? Definitely. Did I understand that resolving such deep life issues is often difficult? Absolutely. But in a novel where time is often compacted anyway, I just got tired of reading about their on-again-off-again attraction/upset/acceptance with each other, especially with Marcus and Bailey, that in the end, I didn't have a very good reading experience. I also didn't ever feel that the issues behind all the attacks on Bailey over her ownership of her bar were very clear, and the antipathy of the local sheriff just added more negativity to the story. Perhaps that was the author's intent--this is, after all, a story about some individuals who are really struggling with overwhelming odds in their lives. I tried to let that fact temper my response to this book, but I really wasn't very successful.

As a fan of Ms Brooke's work, I am more than willing to wade into her other books in this series as they are released. But I am afraid that this is the first of her books to which I simply can't give a rave. Even so, I plan to go back and try to read it again. Perhaps I was so excited about having another of her books that I wasn't prepared for a story that is as dark as this one turned out to be. In any event, I give it a rating of 3 out of 5.

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