Spike, a wildcat Shifter and the champion fighter of Shiftertown, is stunned when Myka, the best friend of a dying human woman, announces that Spike has fathered a cub. What’s more, the mother is giving the boy to Spike to protect and raise.
Myka, who’d been raised by an abusive stepfather, is not sure that a wild fighter named Spike is the best man to bring up the cute little jaguar cub. She goes to Shiftertown to check out Spike, and finds that the man behind the name is a lonely Shifter who’s lost most of his family and is a fierce caretaker to those he has left.
Spike is torn between the cub and his duties as tracker to the Shiftertown leader, and begs Myka, the only person who understands, to help him. He starts to like the sassy Myka, a horse trainer who’s not afraid of working with animals, even if they’re wildcats who turn into humans.
When Spike’s job puts his cub and Myka in danger, Spike is forced to choose between those to whom he’s pledged his loyalty and his need to protect the woman and cub he’s come to love.
Book 3.5 of Shifters Unbound (Austin Shifters) This is a short novel: 43,000 words, seventeen chapters.
by Jennifer Ashley
Shifters Unbound #3.5
JA / AG Publishing
August 19, 2012
Another in Jennifer Ashley’s Shifter Unbound series, Hard Mated falls after book 3, and before book 4. At 266 pages, it’s not a novella, so I just consider it as part of the Shifters Unbound world, as it should be. The action has moved back to the Austin shiftertown this time around.
Spike is one of Liam’s(leader of the Austin Shiftertown)enforcers and is at his beck and call at all times. Everyone believes that he doesn’t have much of a brain, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. His after hours recreational fun involves fighting at an illegal shifter fight club. Although he wears the collar that all shifters have to wear to keep them from becoming aggressive, it doesn’t stop him or any of the others from fighting. One night after a fight, he is approached by a young woman and told that he should come with her. After hearing the reason, he goes. Myka’s best friend Jillian is dying and it’s imminent. Five years before this, Spike and Jillian had a one night stand and now they have a four year old son, Jordan. A son that is a jaguar shifter, one that must be brought up as a shifter, and not in the human world where his mother lived. Spike had been in the dark about this but couldn’t be happier.
Spike is a lonely man, with only his grandmother still alive from his family. He lives with her in shiftertown. Finding Jordan is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Meeting Myka is looking to be the next best thing. Myka is human and a horse trainer who wants nothing to do with shifters. She could never understand why Jillian was a shifter groupie. Why would any human want to sleep with a man that’s half animal? She’s scared for Jordan and doesn’t want to leave him with Spike. She is, of course, in for a huge awakening concerning shifters and their world.
As with all the books in this series, it’s a romance and also is full of action and even some life and death moments. Ms. Ashley’s intricate world building is still in evidence as she adds in more about the shifters and their hierarchy, and the shifters that want to fight for dominance and what they will go through just to move up the chain to be higher up in the clan. Spike wasn’t always an enforcer for Liam, and once worked for another alpha, one that is now dead. The villain in this case is a former fellow enforcer, one that is intent on becoming the leader.
Along with plenty of suspense and romance, Jordan added much needed levity to this read. At four years old, he has no buffer between his need to be free to run when he want to, and he keeps Spike running all over shiftertown trying to catch him at times. He is definitely the heartwarming part of this read-and a handful to manage! Spike has his work cut out for him undoing all the human things that living in the human world has taught Jordan. Another plus for this book, is the inclusion of many of the characters from previous books. It’s always fun to catch up with characters that you’ve grown to love.
This was a good romance and I recommend it to adult paranormal romance readers, especially ones that enjoy action and danger in their reads.
The review copy of this book was purchased by the reviewer.
About Jennifer Ashley
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley writes historical and paranormal romance as Jennifer Ashley; paranormal romance and urban fantasy as Allyson James; and mysteries as Ashley Gardner. Jennifer’s novels have won RWA’s RITA and RT Reviewer’s Choice awards among others.