Rating: 3.75 stars
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Preston Hardy’s brother, Paul, went missing over a year ago and is presumed dead. But Preston hasn’t given up hope of finding his twin. Preston knew his brother’s fascination with snow leopards and has found his way to Texas, the last place Paul was seen, and a side show with two snow leopards on display. The people exhibiting them seem suspicious and the snow leopards themselves are in bad shape. As Preston investigates further into the show’s owners and his brother’s disappearance, he falls into a perilous trap and a situation that will change his life and his perception of the world forever.
Nischal and his brother Sabin are snow leopard shifters. Trapped and taken away from their mother in their leopard form, the two young men have been drugged and starved while in captivity, their poor mental and physical condition keeping them from shifting back to their human form. Years of being caged have deprived them of hope, but the appearance of Preston outside their cage changes everything. From the moment Nischal sees Preston, he knows his mate has arrived. But their captors will do everything in their power to keep the snow leopards as theirs and prevent Preston from the truth about his brother.
Nischal is the ninth book in the Leopard’s Spots series and a return finally to the story basics that made this such a fascinating series. Nischal starts at a seemingly random point with two captive snow leopards caged in a side show in Texas. A reader familiar with this series will search their memories for some prior mention of these brothers to no avail. This is the first we have heard of them. They are unaware of other snow leopards, including our foundation family, the Traveses, in Colorado, existing in a bubble created out of their mother’s isolation of them as cubs and their continued existence in captivity. Preston too has not the slightest connection to the previous books. He, like the shifter brothers, arrives outside of the previous narratives. It is not until mid-story that a character from the other books arrives and heralds the beginning of a connection to the series plotlines and universe. From there on out, this story’s twists and turns will surprise the most jaded of Bradford’s readers, especially a bombshell close to the end. I never saw it coming, and loved that surprising turn of events.
Really, Nischal exemplifies what is most frustrating and wondrous about this series. Bradford’s ideas are startlingly original, pinging off here and there but always eventually finding their way back to the pattern she is weaving in this series. Just as the reader might be getting frustrated that she has left her original premise with the leopard shifters far behind with her wolf shifters and cougar shifters and shaman, she manages to bring all these disparate elements together in a wide ranging plot that continues to exasperate and involve us deeply in the futures of the leopard shifters and their mates. I loved all the different aspects of Nischal’s story. There are several mysteries, including that of Paul’s disappearance and the origin of the shifter brothers. A wolf faction from a previous book makes a reappearance here. And always there is the mate sex. Tons and tons of mate sex.
That is always my biggest issue with Bradford’s stories, that she sacrifices almost half her story to over the top sex scenes involving various mated pairs. It usually starts right before or after the men realize they are mates. They leap into bed and spend the next five or ten pages staying there. Now I love a good sex scene and this book has many. But there are so many that the plot suffers under the weight of all that sex. When they finally stop you have to try and remember where you are in the storyline because its been that long since she has made reference to it. And that is a shame because she is giving you glimpses of a much larger picture here, one that will encompass all the story lines of the previous books. The possibilities I see within this story are intriguing and addicting. It is the reason I have stayed with this series, even when certain books in it have almost caused me to abandon it.
I came very close to giving this story a four, but the numerous sex scenes once more worked to the detriment of the story and pulled it down. I know that I must sound like a broken record with the same issues at book nine, but I keep hoping the author will surprise me with a change in writing style in much the same manner she surprised me with the plot twist at the end. Like Nischal and Sabin, there is always hope. And in this case, there is hope and a darn fine story to go along with it.
Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always. Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved. Just beautiful.