MATE CLAIMED – Jennifer Ashley
A Shifters Unbound Novel
, Book 4
Berkley Sensation
ISBN-13:  978-0-425-25101-0
October 2012
Paranormal Romance

Las Vegas, Nevada – The Future

Shape shifters all over the country have let humans think that just because they have collars around their necks that electrify them when they get angry, that they are under control.  But heaven help anyone who is a shape shifter and has hidden from the collars, like Iona Duncan.  Technically Iona isn't a shifter; she's a half-shifter panther.  Lately it's been harder for Iona to control her shifter side, needing to go into the desert at night to shift and run, releasing some steam, until the leader of the local Shiftertown follows her.  Shifters are forced to live in their own separate towns, and their collars let everyone know who and what they are.  Eric Warden is the dominant shifter in Shiftertown, and after meeting Iona in a bar months ago, he went right up to her and said he knew she was half-shifter.  Iona's mother is human, but her father, whom she never knew, apparently is a shifter.  If Iona is found out to be a half-shifter, her mother could be sent to jail for harboring her all these years without a collar.  The collar would mark her as a shifter and control her wild side, but would also separate her from her normal life as a human.  But now Eric is determined to verbally mate claim Iona for his own, and take her with him to Shiftertown before her mating frenzy takes hold of her and turns her feral.

Eric Warden has been watching Iona for months, and knows she is losing more and more control of her shifter side.  Iona and her mother's construction company won the bid to build the new houses needed in Shiftertown for the wolf shifters who have been forced to move there and need their company to build their homes with special additions that humans don't need to know about.  Eric finally verbally mate claims Iona, and then he is forced into a fight to the death by the Alpha of the wolves, Graham, who challenges him for Iona.  Graham thinks cats are beneath wolves, and doesn't even want her; he just wants to become leader of Shiftertown, and what better way to do it than a fight?  But Eric's collar is sending intense pain throughout his body, and the fight has to end.  The next morning, Graham comes to Eric's house in a fury; many of his female wolves and cubs have been taken and kidnapped and found drugged in a bus by the side of the road.

Eric is in quite the pickle:  his mate has the mating frenzy and needs lots of sex, his position as Alpha is being challenged, his body is bringing intense pain that only Iona's touch can ease, and members of his Shiftertown, even though they are new, are being kidnapped.  Quite a lot to have on your plate, but Eric is able to handle it.  The situation gets more complicated, and it takes bears, a Fae who can transport people through the air, and a feral Tiger to save the day, but hey, Eric's an Alpha and can handle it all with one arm tied behind his back…right?

Following the recent craze for paranormal stories, Jennifer Ashley has placed her characters in Shiftertown and given them very real situations to work through, despite there being different kinds of shifters.  Told from Iona's and Eric's points of view, Iona only wants to relieve the pressure her body is putting her through by increasingly shifting and going running.  Eric knows the mating frenzy is taking hold of her, and his attraction has kept him watching her for months.  But when his collar is increasingly causing wracking pain throughout his body, only Iona's presence and touch can ease the pain.  And with another shifter group of wolves forced to integrate with the cats in Shiftertown, Eric has to remain strong to hold his own against their Alpha.  Danger, love, evil men and cruel medical experiments round out the story for intensity and terror in equal amounts.

Secondary characters are also fascinating and unusual.  Graham is head of the wolves that have been moved by the government to merge with the Las Vegas Shiftertown to save money while keeping them in line.  Cassidy is Eric's sister and his second, pregnant by her human husband Diego.  Kellerman is a member of the local council who keeps shifters under control, and might be in charge of experiments upon the shifter world.  There are other out-of-this-world characters, including the strongest and most compelling, number twenty-three or Tiger, whom you must read about to believe his heartbreaking story.

MATE CLAIMED is full of action, suspense, love, passion, and loyalty between people and shifters. There are three other stories in the Shifters Unbound series, PRIDE MATES, PRIMAL BONDS, and WILD CAT.  I felt very comfortable reading MATE CLAIMED without reading the others, and was quickly drawn into their society.  Coming next in 2013 is TIGER MAGIC, the story of twenty-three.  If you like cat shifters, bear shifters, tiger shifters, and wolf shifters, MATE CLAIMED with tease all your shifting dreams this month; pick it up for pure enjoyment.

CeCe Johns