14 August 2016

Wild (Amber Eyes, Book 1 and Book 2)


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Golden Eyes
When Duncan finds an injured cheetah, questions about how she wound up in his mountains—and going after the poachers pursuing her—can wait. First he brings her home. Then he checks in on his patient, and finds not a cat, but a gorgeous, very naked woman.

Aliyah Carter spent the past six months trapped in cheetah form, a prisoner of the poachers who took her to use in an illegal exotic-game hunt. Finally she’s escaped, but now she faces another problem. A devastatingly sexy sheriff who knows her secret.

Amber Eyes
The beautiful, timid cougar that appears at Hunter and Jericho’s remote cabin breaks their quiet routine, warms their hearts—and rouses their curiosity. Why would this wild creature want to form a friendship with humans?

Kaya has survived a lifetime of isolation in her shifted form. Yet there’s something about these two men that draws her to embrace her human side. In the shelter of their love, she blooms. Then they are called away on a mission that goes terribly wrong. Now pregnant and alone, Kaya’s only hope is that the men who love her will find their way home.

Warning: This title contains explicit sex, adult language, sweet lovin’, multiple partners and ménage a trois.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010.

How acquired: Borrowed from a friend.

My thoughts:  Maya Banks is one of those authors I see all the time, but have never actually read until WILD. I really enjoyed her take on shapeshifters, which has always been one of my least favorite tropes in the paranormal genre.

The first story, “Golden Eyes”, is about Aliyah, who is a cheetah when she's not a woman. While in cheetah form in Africa, Aliyah is captured by poachers, who are bringing wild animals to the Rockies and then releasing them to be hunted. Duncan, the local sheriff, is out investigating sightings of a tiger and a lion when he comes across the injured cheetah, and rescues her from the poachers. I enjoyed the story, and the characters, especially Duncan. Their relationship built up pretty fast, and almost bordered on the fated mates trope, which I'm not crazy about. As per the warning on the synopsis, there was quite a bit of explicit sex, and I loved seeing how Duncan reacted to Aliyah, surprising himself with his own fierceness. In between the beddings, they track down and shut down the poaching ring and it all ends on a nice HEA.

Amber Eyes” was very different. The heroine is Kaya, who is a cougar. She was mentioned in “Golden Eyes”, as she's Aliyah's sister, who disappeared when they were young children. Unknown to her family, she'd been captured, and eventually managed to escape, but by the time she found her way home her family had moved away, and she thought she'd been abandoned and was unwanted. She's been living on her own in the mountains, spending most of her time in animal form, since then. Hunter and Jericho live in a remote cabin, and are a bit of a mystery. They've loved and lost a woman together, but to honor her memory they carry on with their work, which they don't ever talk about, and all we know is they could be called away for an assignment at a moment's notice.

Amber Eyes” had so much more actual story to it – there is no sex until at least the halfway point if I remember correctly. While Aliyah was cautious and wary lest her secret get out, Kaya is much more so. Having not lived among humans since she was a child, she's much more terrified of being discovered and put in a cage. She's drawn to the cabin, drawn to the two men, and has been watching them from a safe distance for a long time, unbeknownst to them. It isn't until she has an injured paw that she finally becomes brave enough to actually approach them.

With Kaya we get a lot of internal dialogue as she worries about being discovered, worries about surviving, worries about Hunter and Jericho knowing her secret, worries about whether or not they want her, especially Hunter who is more standoffish. In the beginning the two men were almost interchangeable for me, in that I had trouble keeping up with which one was which. I liked them both well enough, but not as much as I liked Duncan.

My heart broke for Kaya over and over, as her tragic past and angtsy feelings were revealed. I became much more vested in her story than I had with Aliyah. The pacing of the relationship between Kaya and the men was much slower than the one between Aliyah and Duncan. Hunter and Jericho have loved the same woman before, and while they shared her, it was never a smooth and comfortable relationship because she never truly trusted the relationship. They both want Kaya, but they're reluctant to go through that heartbreak again.

Lots of feels here. Eventually the men must leave for an assignment, and are gone much longer than anticipated. When they are all finally reunited, I teared up. Then Kaya and Aliyah are reunited, and I cried a bit. And then Kaya is finally reunited with her parents, and I blubbered like a baby. So much emotion packed into the last thirty pages or so!

Golden Eyes” is an enjoyable, sexy story. “Amber Eyes” is a wonderful and touching and sweet character study. And Maya Banks has a new fan. 

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