I would like to point out that I do not give out perfect ratings for books. Reading around 700 books last year, I gave ONE book a five star rating (Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – too bad the sequel was only a three). When I give a book four stars, it means I’m elated with it – it’s fantastic and I’d recommend it and the author to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen to me rave about it. A five star book means the book is so perfect I would not change one word. It also means that I love it so much, I would turn back to the first page and start it all over again.
Tiger Magic is a five star book.
Deep down, I’m not surprised. I adore Jennifer Ashley as a writer, have waxed ecstatic regarding her Shifters Unbound series (which I think are the best written shifter series out there, along with Nalini Singh‘s Psy-Changeling series), and recently read and adored Lone Wolf, the latest interim novella. I predicted that I would fall head over heels for Tiger, the mysterious shifter rescued from the horrible lab where he lived for decades in the book, Mate Claimed. Seeing him in Lone Wolf, protecting the “cubs” in Austin’s Shiftertown made me root that much harder for Tiger to find an amazing woman and his own happily every after.
It’s that feeling that had me waiting up for Amazon to deliver my pre-ordered copy of Tiger Magic to my Kindle app (and it didn’t come until 12:21 am Amazon – NOT COOL), finishing it a little after 3 am.
Tiger is wilder than all other shifters, who recognize his “otherness.” Male shifters are wary of him, with even Liam, the alpha of Austin Shiftertown, recognizing that Tiger obeys him because he feels like it, not because he is compelled to bow down to his alpha like other shifters. Females and children love Tiger, trusting him implicitly. His gentleness in handling them and his vigilance regarding their protection is obvious to everyone, even the people not his biggest fans. But Tiger is still damaged and hollow inside from the violent experimentation he suffered in the secret government lab where he was created.
Until he sees a gorgeous woman in a skintight white dress kicking the tires of the Corvette she’s driving, or rather, not driving. Carly Randal is late to the Austin art gallery in which she works and she’s annoyed that her fiancee didn’t bother to maintain his fancy car. Just when she’s thoroughly frustrated at not getting cell phone signal so she could call for assistance, a gorgeous man with golden eyes and black and orange striped hair appears out of the brush by the side of the deserted road. Rather than reliving all the horror movie flicks in her mind, she instantly trusts him. He fixes her car and she offers him a ride back to Austin, as long as he doesn’t mind stopping on the way at her fiancee’s house so she can switch cars to something more reliable.
Tiger doesn’t mind at all. One look and whiff of her and he knows Carly is his mate. While the other shifters keep telling him that mating doesn’t work that way, Tiger’s abilities go beyond his strength and ramped up healing ability. He can see the bond between Carly and him and literally scent her every emotion and feeling. She takes him to her fiancee’s mansion – and Tiger’s acute sense of smell tells him she doesn’t love this man when she speaks of him on the car ride – only to walk in on the man having sex with another woman on his kitchen counter. Ouch. The smell of Carly’s betrayal is superceded only by the pain Tiger feels inside him which he realizes is her pain. He goes ballistic destroying Ethan’s house and gets shot seven times for his efforts.
Carly, having run away upon viewing the now indelible image burned into her retinas, is alarmed when she realizes she left Tiger at the house and downright horrified when she discovers that he was hurt. Rushing to the hospital, she comes across a Tiger driven to almost madness by all the medical equipment and the armed guards surrounding him. She throws herself into the fray to try and get him to calm down and, to everyone’s astonishment, it totally works. An unorthodox courtship begins and no one is more surprised than Carly, who finds herself painlessly letting go of what she thought her life would be only to discover that the life Tiger offers her is one she wants to live. But danger faces them because of his origins and Tiger might have to go away from the one person who brings him peace in order to guarantee her safety.
My favorite hero is one who is so certain of the woman who grabs his attention that he relentlessly pursues her, that his affection isn’t ever questioned by him it just is. This ideal hero pursues his woman in a way that isn’t about being a stalker, but rather the fact that he knows himself so deeply he can recognize and accept that his life has changed in a moment. That’s what happens to Tiger, and seeing all the ways in which Carly – an independent but loving, gorgeous Texas girl with a sugared drawl coating her inner steel – heals him and brings him an inner sense of peace…Well, let’s just say that it’s a good thing my couch is microfiber because I melted into a puddle on top of it.
Lest you think this is just a great shifter romance, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Because Jennifer Ashley’s strength with this series is her crafting of a world of prejudice, some subtle some not, in which shifters are not only second class citizens but also targeted by those who would hate or exploit them. In Tiger Magic, we get introduced to the fact that government has a military branch devoted to shifters, and it’s not because they think they are awesome. Both good guys and bad guys come from this organization, and I have a feeling one of the good guys is going to have his own novella some day soon, based on his reaction to a certain bear. 🙂 Ashley also shows us the tensions Liam has to endure as alpha in trying to deal with other shiftertowns, and I was interested to see the addition of a North Carolina shiftertown to the mental list of locations. Maybe we will see more of these characters in future books? *fingers crossed*
Because it’s impossible to finish a Jennifer Ashley book and not desperately want the next in the series, I should mention that we have two books in the series to look forward to. First a novella focusing on the Las Vegas shiftertown, specifically Eric’s hot son and third in command, Jace (Love Jace!), Feral Heat, which is due out later this year in November. The next full novel, a brief excerpt of which is included at the end of Tiger Magic, will tell the story of Eric’s Lupine co-alpha, the often irritating yet really quite sexy, Graham, and his human interest, Misty. Graham’s got a boatload of problems settling his wolves in the Las Vegas shiftertown and some personal prejudices to boot which are going to make that mating nothing short of fascinating. His book, Wild Wolf, won’t be out until January 2014 however, so I’m just going to have to content myself with rereading the whole series (which I do anyway) until that day.
It’s after 4 in the morning and while I’m tired, all I feel is immense gratitude that I live in a world in which Jennifer Ashley is writing terrific five-star books like this one. Thanks, Jennifer!