What is an alpha? An alpha is a man strong enough to dominate the beast within… and those without. He is the undisputed lord and master of shifter-kind, ruling with tooth and claw and mind and will. You know him by the way he walks into a room, taking charge with effortless ease, be he king of the lions or leader of the pack. An alpha will never give in, never back down, and never lose a fight.
It’s lonely at the top of the mountain, and even alphas need someone to stand at their side. Someone they can trust with their all-too human sides, their vulnerability… their hearts. But even an alpha can’t simply wave their hand and command someone to love them. To win the love of their destined mate, these alphas will have to plot and plan, woo and charm, and do anything and everything it takes to win the hearts of the men they love.
For those lucky men who somehow mange to catch the attention of an alpha shifter there are only two choices: fight, or flight. But whichever choice they make, there is no force in the world that will stop an alpha from getting what he wants. Alphas don’t give up, they don’t give in, and they certainly don’t intend to lose.
A Tiger’s Luck by Maia Dylan
Xander McInnes is a cop — and a good one — caught between a rock and a hard place. During a bank robbery, Xander notices a large, blue-eyed man staring at him. A man who not only saves his life, he also manages to make Xander’s breath catch in his throat. For Yuri Amur, ruling shifter of Chicago, a chance encounter at the bank changed everything. Not only did he get a bit of excitement in helping to foil a robbery, he also found his destined mate. Now he simply has to deal with a smart-aleck cop, a rival shifter who wants to destroy him and his family, and somehow convince Xander that they’re destined to be together.
Xander and Yuri had an easy, uncomplicated chemistry. The standard (and sometimes tedious) “I don’t believe in shifters” scene was handled with comedic lightness. Xander couldn’t doubt what Yuri was, certainly not after Yuri shifted right in front of his eyes! While the story had decent chemistry, it was very light on plot. The rival shifter was… there, and had a token motive, but he was there and gone so quickly he didn’t make much of an impression.
Fortunately Yuri did. A cute little story, and one I enjoyed.
Last Alpha Standing by James Cox
George, king of all American wolf-shifters, had a single son who was not, unfortunately, an alpha. However, to keep the crown in the family, he decides to look for a new alpha to wed his son and take over as King of the Wolves. And so the call went out to every alpha, American and not, to come and fight for the hand of Prince Christopher. One of those alphas is Marcus, whose pack is one of the smallest. He’s fighting for his pack rather than the title. His brother killed their father — an unforgivable crime in the shifter world — and married a human. For those crimes, he was sent to prison with no hope for freedom. Unless, that is, Marcus can become king and grant his brother a pardon.
What he didn’t count on was falling for the prince. Now there’s no choice. He’s fighting not just for his pack and his brother, but for his mate — and his heart. Gods help the alphas who stand in his way.
I didn’t care for this story as much as some of the others. Marcus seems like an okay guy with good intentions and a decent head on his shoulders, but he didn’t feel very alpha to me. He was laid back, indifferent to almost everything. Even in the combat scenes, it didn’t seem as though he was too bothered by anything. When he saw Christopher, he felt a moment of insta-lust, but I didn’t get much of an emotional investment from him, and the lack of emotional depth hurt this story. When every alpha invited has to fight to the death, I would expect some reaction, some reflection of the fact that dozens of packs are losing their alphas. There was no reality to this story, no weight.
Mooncrest by Jules Dixon
Saber Creed is the new alpha of his pack, a pack currently at odds with their neighbors ever since Saber’s mother was found dead on the Gunn property. For Kace Gunn, who has known that he was destined for Saber ever since high school, this unresolved and unhappy situation has caused him nothing but heartache. Fortunately for Saber and Kace, Mother Wolf — the great guardian spirit who guides and protects her shifter children — has chosen the two of them to bring peace between the packs. She has bound them together, alpha and mate, in an effort to make two packs one. One way or another, the healing will begin.
I liked this couple. Saber and Kace had the easy rapport of people who’ve known each other since childhood. They lived in the same town and had a shared history, and so were able to exist entirely in the present of this story.
Saber wasn’t going to let something as small as his mate’s gender — or the unhappy past between their packs — stand between himself and his mate. Kace, too, was willing to fight for his own happiness and would do anything he needed to stand at Saber’s side.
The mythology was interesting though vague, and the mystery of who killed Pearl Creed was dealt with a little too quickly. But there was plenty of time to deal with side characters, parents, and pack issues and I was left wanting more from this author. Always a good sign of a good story!
His Guardian Panther by Elena Kincaid
Tom is a doctor who stopped to help a young man being attacked by three men, only to have those three men turn into giant panthers and attack him, instead. Left for dead, the only thing that saved Tom was Luke Benson, sheriff and alpha, who discovered the body of his mate. He claimed Tom then and there to save his life… and to bind the young man to him.
For Tom, waking up was unexpected. Waking up and finding himself bound to the handsome sheriff and granted the ability to turn into a panther was even more unexpected!
This story fell flat for me. Tom had no personality and Luke came across as domineering, and not in the fun way. He had his reasons — good ones — for forcing Tom to be a shifter, but it was never really dealt with. Tom took everything in stride, even the brutal killing of the panthers who’d attacked him without even blinking. All in all — especially coming on the heels of a stronger story with a more confident alpha — this story didn’t work for me.
The Scarf by L.J. Longo
Truman Wolf is a lone wolf who has escaped the witches who cursed him with sentience and the ability to change from wolf to human. He found safety and refuge in the service of the oger Uzegar, working with the police force to keep his new city safe. A lioness shifter challenges him to do something about the alpha wolf taking over Down-City, a challenge Truman has no interest in accepting until he catches a whif of something… special. A scarf that smells delicious. A scarf that smells like something — someone — Truman can’t ignore. Someone he has to have. A scarf that brings Truman to Down-City, to the streets, and to Nightingale. His Nightingale, his fox, his mate. Now all he has to do is take down an alpha wolf, his pack, and stay alive.
Not too much to ask, is it?
I loved this story. The world Longo showed us was fascinating, with the idea of shifting being a spell cast on animals rather than humans. The subtle references to movements, body types, and eye-shapes to hint at what animal a person might turn into. The almost 1920s feel with protection rackets and organized crime. It’s fun, quick, well-written, and a pleasure to read.
Truman and Nightingale were just as enjoyable. There was the charming, hopelessly clumsy flirtation — Truman isn’t good at flirting — and Nightingale’s elegant command of the situation. Truman may be an alpha, but Nightingale isn’t just going to roll over and give in. After all, isn’t it more fun to make an alpha work for his mate? I loved them as a couple. I believed Truman as an alpha, and what can I say? I’ve always had a fondness for fox shifters. I almost felt sorry for Truman…
A Matter of Trust by Pelaam
Rylan’s brother has a habit of not paying attention and sometimes the small mistakes add up. Like when Joshua left a door open, killing rare and expensive orchids. In order to appease the alpha Tudor, Rylan offers up his services — as a landscaper, thank you very much — for as long as needed in order to keep the alpha from taking his vengeance upon his family. Little does he know it’s not his family Tudor is interested in. The lion shifter has something else in mind for Rylan, something that involves a little house in the country, a garden, and some time alone with his mate.
Tudor certainly has alpha-ness down in spades! Confident, domineering, and clever, he’s laid a trap around his human mate and Rylan has no clue at all what’s about to befall him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but feel that Tudor deserved better than Rylan.
Rylan was bland and overly emotional. Even knowing Tudor and his friend go out in the mornings to exercise, he still feels abandoned — the second time it happens — and chooses to run away. I wish Tudor had let him go and hung out with Eirian instead.
Conflict of Interest by L.D. Blakely
Isaak “Izzy” Booker is a small-time crook, who just happens to be Eamonn’s mate. Eamonn, who just happens to be a cop. A cop investigating a car-jacking where Izzy has been fingered as the prime suspect. He knows he should back away, give the case to someone else, but he can’t. He just can’t.
Since he knows Izzy is innocent — he has to be, there’s no other answer for Eamonn — it’s up to him to find out who’s trying to frame his mate. Is it Izzy’s brothers, upset because Izzy is trying to go clean? Is it another member of the Booker family? A dirty cop? Eamonn has to find out, and soon, because he can’t stop himself from claiming his mate. No matter the consequences.
It’s interesting to see shifter and human society from a truly shifter point of view. Even though Eamonn is working within human laws, he’s a shifter in his bones — and an alpha, at that. He has only the smallest difficulties bending, breaking, and avoiding the rules as necessary to bond with Izzy. While we never see Izzy’s point of view, we get to know him through his reactions to Eamonn, a difficult challenge for a writer, but one Blakely manages to do deftly and easily. Once he becomes comfortable with who and what he is to Eamonn, Izzy goes from sullen and resentful to smug and confident, and you get the feeling he might soon be walking all over Eamonn if the alpha isn’t careful!
I would love to see a longer story with these two. To be honest, I would like to see longer stories with most of the characters in these books. Five of the seven stories were ones I’d read again — and two of them were good enough to make me look up their authors to look at their other books — and I think there’s enough variety in this collection to please everyone.