Rating: 4.5 stars
For years, vampires and shifters had remained hidden from human societies, an uneasy truce keeping the peace between them. Then a blood-crazed vampire killed two shifter cubs and the war was on. Years later, the war has reduced the numbers of all involved and the few humans left have been forced to take sides in order to survive. Valerian, a wolf shifter, is one of three Alphas in a combined pack of shifters of all species. He is their top hunter and he is relentless in his duties. The constant fighting and killing have taken an emotional toll and Valerian keeps himself isolated in all ways from those around him, his world narrowed down to fucking and fighting.
Teddy, a cougar shifter, has been wandering alone since he was kicked out of his pride by his father, a follower of the old ways of pride leadership. Hungry and weary from constant fighting, Teddy lets his guard down to sleep and is captured by vampires looking for new sources of blood. When he awakens, he is hanging upside down being drained of his blood. The vampires have a new system, keeping shifters and humans in cages and just alive enough to drain them daily until they die. Weakened, Teddy prepares to die until a shifter pack led by Valerian enters the lair and rescues them all.
Valerian is unpleasantly surprised to find his mate among those shifters he has rescued, and a cougar no less. While Valerian’s wolf howls for his mate, Valerian the man has no time for Teddy and tells him in no uncertain and gruff terms. Teddy too is less than pleased with Valerian as a mate and the battle of wills is on. Can two strong willed and angry shifters let their guards down and accept each other as mates? Or will the Battle of Hearts be lost?
I loved Valentina Heart’s take on shifters and vampires. From the very first page, Heart paints a picture of a world so deteriorated that the buildings have turned to rubble, humans are in hiding, shifters of all types control the forests, and both vampires and shifters live in caves underground. All are constantly at war for supremacy and survival, the prevailing sense of desperation so real the reader can almost taste it. The characters here have been stripped down to basics and Valerian is a prime example of that. He is all snarls and aggression, attributes needed in a professional killer and alpha. Heart makes it clear that all the deaths and loss have inured him to affection and the possibility of love. Even his cubs by various nameless females are relegated to the very outskirts of his memory, necessary to Valerian only as replacements for those lost in battle.
Teddy is a shifter you will take immediately into your heart. He so desperately wants to find a home and a pack/pride that will accept him that when his original joy at finding a mate turns into dismay and anger over finding that Valerian is, in his words, a “dumbass,” you are right there with him in total agreement. Time and again, Teddy has to do battle with the cougar inside him who wants his mate no matter how many times he is rejected. The name Teddy is a perfect choice for this character as it tells you so much about him. He’s vulnerable, great of heart, brave, and bristly. My heart was in my throat as Teddy goes from hurt inflicted by vampires to hurts meted out by his mate and back again. But as Teddy uncovers the redeeming features of Valerian’s personality, so does the reader, and you start to pull for both of them to find the path to each other.
Lets not forget the secondary characters here as Heart certainly does not. They are as beautifully drawn as the main ones of Teddy and Valerian. In fact this entire book is populated by shifters that I would love to visit again and again, so easy it is to wrap your arms around them. How can you not love the idea of two domino playing alphas who never seem to shift away from their game yet still take care of pack business? The story is so well done right down to the smallest detail. My only quibble here is that the fight at the end between our heros and main vampire was over far too quickly considering the buildup. I would have thought it would have been drawn out a little longer with more complications than it occurred in the book. Still, a very satisfying ending. Heart was a new author for me and I look forward to reading her other books. I hope that I will find that they are as well done as this one. Great job all around.
Cover: What a sexy, gorgeous cover. OK, yes, that is Valerian absolutely! Love the graphics, love the fonts, and the addition of the sword is the topping!