Hugh is the Premier of his lion pride. As their leader, it is his job to take care of the pride and see to the well being of all its members. He can live for years and is incredibly strong, but as with all Premiers, he is unable to contain his power on his own. As a Premier ages, he must have a Siphon to help absorb some of his power in order to survive.
When Hugh’s Siphon tries to kill himself, Hugh almost dies as well. He is furious that the Siphon would risk Hugh’s life, as well as the safety and stability of the pride, by harming himself. Hugh is determined to figure out why the Siphon would take such an action, and to keep a very close eye on the man to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Although the Siphon has literally been at Hugh’s side for years, always staying close enough to be able to absorb Hugh’s power, Hugh realizes he has never really paid attention to the man. He has just been in the background, quietly doing his job and interacting with no one. As Hugh gets to know him better, he realizes how miserable the man is, and how complicit Hugh himself has been in keeping him on the outside of the group. In fact, the Siphon doesn’t even have a name, until with Hugh’s encouragement he calls himself Johnnie.
The more time they spend getting to know one another, the more Hugh grows to like and care for Johnnie. Hugh must always project an image of strength to his pride, but with Johnnie he can be himself, since Johnnie sees both the private side of Hugh along with the public one. The men begin to fall for one another, with a growing closeness that gives Johnnie the connection he has always wanted, and Hugh finally finding someone who truly loves and understands him as more than just their leader. But there are those that saw Hugh’s vulnerability when Johnnie almost took his life, and now they are seeking an opportunity to cause further harm. Now that the men have found happiness together, they must fight to protect Hugh’s life from those that seek to hurt him and the pride.
When I read a shifter book, one of the things that I look for is creativity in the world building. There are so many shifter stories, often with many similar elements, so I really like to find books that have a new take on the genre and give us something a bit different. So I was intrigued by set up for this story and found this book quite interesting.
First off, I loved the conflict we get right from the start. We see Hugh, consumed by caring for the pride and for his own sexual needs, suddenly falter as Johnnie tries to take his own life. As tuned in as Hugh is to the rest of the pride, Johnnie is so far in the background Hugh has virtually no awareness of the man who is essentially his silent shadow. The author does a great job of showing us Johnnie’s pain at always being on the outskirts of the pride. No one ever in talks to him. He just spends his days alone in the crowd, taking care of Hugh but completely outside of everyone’s awareness. Hugh is a caring leader who spends his days tending to his pride. So although we see how oblivious he has been to Johnnie, we also see his immediate remorse and even horror at the way he has treated Johnnie as soon as he figures it out. So it is a great conflict and immediately tell us so much about each of these guys.
Most of the story is focused on the developing relationship between Johnnie and Hugh. Things are sweet and mushy and romantic and exactly what I was looking for. There isn’t a lot of tension or angst here, just a sweet (and sexy) story of two guys falling in love. I did appreciate how Johnnie is much more than just the “vessel” for Hugh’s power. He turns out to be smart and capable and a real partner to Hugh, helping him not just emotionally, but also giving advice and guidance for Hugh’s role as Premier. I found them kind of delicious together and loved watching shy, sweet Johnnie come into his own as he spends time with Hugh.
The suspense end of things is a little less exciting. The conflict is set up from the start as Johnnie’s actions threaten the way Hugh is perceived by some members of the pride, as his vulnerability is highlighted when Johnnie almost dies. So there is a slow simmer in the background of the book about lions who are seeking to take advantage and make their move now that they think Hugh has a weakness. The ending does give us a light suspense climax, but things wrap up kind of neatly (though I do get why it is made so tidy), and I think the action end of things could have been a little more intense. But again, the focus of this story is really on the relationship more than the outside conflict.
Overall I really enjoyed this one. I liked the set up and found the world building to be a lot of fun. This story looks to be a first in a new Siphon series, so I am really curious to see where the author is going to take things from here — other Siphons? other prides? I think there is a lot of potential here and I can’t wait to see where things go. In the meantime, I found this one a great start with an interesting plot, likable characters, and a very sweet and sexy romance.