Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Softpaw (Smilodon Pride Book One) by Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus

Title: Softpaw (Smilodon
Author: Beryll and Osiris Brackhaus
Purchase at Amazon 
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
(Preorder, available July 14, 2016)
Cover Artist: Natalia Nesterova
Genre: paranormal, shifter
Length: 78,000 words
Formats Mobi, epub, PDF, print

Connor’s life used to be the dream of any cultured werecat. He spent his days in Paris’ gay quarter with comfortably little real work, playing the piano, surrounded by art, fine food and good friends. Now, a feral vampire preys on the prostitutes of ‘his’ quarter, killing the boys of the Marais one by one.

When Connor invites a newly arrived hooker to stay on his houseboat, the last thing he expects is Michel to be a member of the Brigade Criminelle - a troubled, hunky rookie cop sent undercover to explore Connor’s connection to the murders, picked mostly because he had been a boy of the Marais himself, not so long ago.

Hiding their true natures becomes a problem for both when their initial attraction becomes much more than they ever thought possible. But in order to bring down the serial killer and maybe have a chance at making their relationship work out, one of them will have to take the first, critical leap...

This book had me at the title - how could I resist a smilodon shifter? Connor was everything I hoped he would be and more, a man of culture and a saber-toothed panther. Michel, the hooker turned cop, was equally amazing, with his history, his climb to a better life, and his doubts about himself, his mission, and his new companion.

The prose was beautifully evocative, putting us right into the heart of Paris, from elegant offices to dank alleys, zinc rooftops, and the smoke filled clubs where aging torch singers put on their drag and mesmerize the audience. I felt transported, every bit as much as in the Maigret detective novels. Certain turns of phrase added to the effect, perfectly understandable but just a little strange to the ear, a "foreign language translated" effect. The few words of French make sense in context even if you don't know them as I did not.

There is a murder mystery here too, perfectly mysterious to those who don’t believe in vampires, and chilling to those who do. Connor believes, and his midnight patrols to protect the streetwalkers put him front and center as a suspect. His shifting form is just as unimaginable to the police as the undead.

Connor is a lovely character, with his very mixed heritage (he spent his extreme childhood as a kitten), his dark skin and thin dreads, and beautiful erudition. His music and understanding of art transfix Michel as much as his sensuality. Particularly excellent is that Michel sees him as a complete person, not as a fetishized collection of physical traits. He lives on a houseboat on the Seine, which can't possibly get more romantic.

Michel knows less of the City of Light than does this American transplant: for all that he grew up in Paris, his experiences were of the seamier side rather than high culture. He’s been through the streets, paying for his addictions with his body, and only the intervention of Captain Thierry Plouescat gave him the chance to redirect his life. Now, in his first case, he’s faced with going undercover in the very life he escaped.

The story itself pits the two men against each other in every way—Connor wishes to protect this crazy prostitute from the evil force Michel courts so blatantly, while Michel still cannot rule out the man who’s stealing his heart as a murder suspect. The heat between them is enough to scorch the ereader, while the trust between them is chilly enough to crack the screen. They must come together in spite of their shock at each other's true roles in this dangerous game.

I tried very hard to read this book in one sitting, and I think I’ve found my newest auto-buy authors. Connor's litter has 3 siblings, and I hope they all get stories! 5 marbles

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