Penguin / October 2, 2012 / $7.99 print & digital
As a wildcat Shifter and leader of his Shiftertown, Eric Warden knows his own kind. When he sees Iona Duncan, he realizes that although she appears human, she is a half-Shifter wildcat living without a Collar—and that if she doesn’t acknowledge her true nature and her mating hunger, it may kill her. Iona finds the mysterious and powerful Eric alluring, even though she has vowed never to reveal her Shifter side. But her mating hunger is rising, and with Eric so close, she may not be able to resist…
Having read a few of Jennifer Ashley’s historical romances, I decided to give her paranormal romance series a try. Mate Claimed is fourth in the “Shifters” series, which also includes some shorter tie-in works. As you might imagine from the series title, the books feature humans who can take on the forms of various giant animals, felines in this particular novel. Except for that fact, their world is much like contemporary America, with the addition of laws and cultural practices related to the shifters themselves. For that reason, it’s easy to start with any book in the series without confusion.
I liked that the story has a number of interlocking conflicts that affect how the romantic relationship develops. The hero, Eric, rules a local group of shifters. The heroine, Iona, is a “half-shifter” who has spent her entire life hiding that fact. (She seems able to do most things “whole” shifters can do.) Though there’s a great deal of sexual attraction between Eric and Iona from the beginning, there are also social conflicts, some that can bring them together and some that could tear them apart. Iona needs to stay away from Eric, but her physical attraction to him, part of her shifter genetics, is difficult to resist.
The fact that Iona was half Shifter was a deep, dark secret her mother and half-sister had kept for thirty- two years. Eric’s interest in her was dangerous, could expose her as Shifter, and once that happened, her happy life would be over. But Eric’s scent had triggered something in Iona from the moment he’d sat down next to her in the club’s dark corner and told her he knew what Iona was. He’d smelled of sweat and the night, and a musk that had made everything in her alert and aware.
Eric is strongly attracted to Iona as well, but aside from that he needs to bring her under his control: to protect her, the humans she lives among, and the local shifter population as well.
“I scented you fighting the shift even as you drove away. It’s getting harder, isn’t it?”
Iona tried to ignore the stab of fear his words gave her. “Why can’t you leave me alone? If anyone finds out I’m Shifter . . .” She knew exactly what they’d do. The human Shifter bureau would slap a Collar on her without listening to her protests, strip Iona of all her rights, and keep her in quarantine before releasing her to whatever Shifter they assigned to keep her under control. Three guesses as to who that Shifter would be. And who the hell knew what they’d do to Iona’s mother, who’d kept the fact that Iona was half Shifter quiet all this time.
“I can’t leave you alone. You’re in my jurisdiction, my responsibility. And you’re losing control, aren’t you?”
Iona doesn’t really believe that she can be dangerous; she worries more about the impact on her human family if her true nature is revealed.
Eric could overpower her and force her to join his shifter Pride, but doesn’t. He knows more about shifter physiology and behavior, and tries to use logic to convince her to give up the freedom of being presumed human. However, when that doesn’t work, he reveals another conflict, something that he needs and Iona can give to him.
“I was coming to see you tonight for a reason,” Eric said. “Not just to track you down. I came to ask you to have Duncan Construction bid on the housing project to expand Shiftertown.”
Iona stared at him in surprise, letting go of the hair she’d been smoothing. “Why would I want to do that?”
“Because I need someone I can trust to build these houses. Shifter houses aren’t just places for Shifters to live. I need them constructed in a way that’s best for Shifters. It’s important.”
Mate Claimed offers a heroine who knows her own mind, a powerful hero, and a lot of sexual attraction, but more than that, it offers some interesting explorations of the tensions that could arise if humans and potentially-dangerous paranormals had to live in close proximity.
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.