Shifter Sunday Funday: A Walk on the Wild Side Anthology | 2016 Dreamspinner Daily Dose Week 3

The unicorns are reading Dreamspinner Press' 2016 Daily Dose | A Walk on the Wild Side Anthology

5 reviewers: Ann, Fantasy Living, Optimist King's Wench Reflection & SheReadsALot
30 short shifter stories... 30 various authors
6 consecutive's going to be a blast and a half!

Bring on the animal shifters of all types!

Missed a week?  Week 1 | Week 2 |

This week, we'll be reviewing stories by: C.B. Lewis, Felicitas Ivey, Bell Ellis, Rob Rosen and Meghan Maslow!

Interested in purchasing any of these titles? Click the titles above their covers.

Man's Best Friend by C.B. Lewis

Sam Eastman lives a lonely existence in the mountains of Colorado, working as a ranger and taking care of holiday cabins during the winter. He gets a new dog from the animal shelter and is shocked to find out he has accidentally adopted a shape-shifter.

Philip, a young Englishman, was on holiday and got a bit carried away on a night out. Sam agrees to help him get back to his friends, but a landslide cuts them off, stranding them in Sam’s cabin together. They end up getting closer than either of them expected.

When they go their separate ways, Sam gives Philip his number to stay in touch, but Philip loses it. He’ll have to resort to desperate measure to find Sam again.

Ann - 4 Hearts

The banter made this story so great. There were a few things at the beginning that threw me a little. For instance, Sam adopted a rescue dog and when he got back to his cabin he opened the “trunk of his car” to let him out. I was all, “oh, hell no, you did not put that dog in the trunk”. I’m hoping it was meant to be the rear compartment of an SUV and that’s what I told myself was meant because it really bugged.

As the story progresses I was able to convince myself the SUV thing was a real thing and just basked in the sweetness that was Sam and Philip as they got to know one another. I always love the setup of “trapped in a cabin” and this one was well done. Sam and Philip were obviously attracted to one another and the shifter secret was blown right at the beginning. They gave one another good natured crap about it all and the flirting and snark were spot on perfect to make me believe that the two of them were into each other. There were just enough little “moments” between the two of them to buy into their being a possibility for more in the future. The trip to the waterfall and the time they spent together with Philip as his Spaniel self were my favorite bits. You don’t read that enough in shifter books and if it’s done well (like here) it is. SO. CUTE. Dammit. So. Cute.

The tension is delicious and they get down to biz-ness repeatedly which cemented their connection in my mind easily. It ended well with minimal angst for the bit of time spent apart. I’m glad that didn’t get dragged out. The reunion fit well with the rest of the story and left me all warm and fuzzy.

Reflection - 3 Hearts

'There was a naked guy with a leather collar in the trunk of Sam's SUV.'
Isn't that just about the coolest start to a story? I was intrigued and delighted. Yes, I know. I have my mind in the gutter.

I really liked the end of this short story too, but it just sagged in the middle for me.

The banter between the guys Sam and Philip, was kind of fun too, however they didn't really capture my imagination. Thinking back, I was wondering if it is because I found 6 foot 5 Sam and his man of the wilderness vibe just a little on the dull side. Philip on the other hand Is a charming and excitable English medical student. After a night of drunken revelry, Philip finds himself locked in the dog pound for four days until 'adopted' by Sam and taken to live in his cabin in the woods.

After a live demonstration of Philip's shifting technique, Sam has no option but to believe him (although itl seems to take Sam forever to get his head wrapped around this; and I think this may have been where my irritation piqued. It makes me question just a bit why Philip considers Sam a 'Prime Specimen' of maleness.

Anyway, thanks to a snowdrift the boys find themselves with time on their hands. Philip allows his inner canine to run free as they explore a local beauty spot, and then later the guys get down and dirty with several rounds of hot sex.

This didn't feel like instalove, or a mated for life trope. It felt more like two guys brought together by circumstance who find they like each other's company, and get to know each other better without strings or melodrama.It's great, but I wasn't particularly invested in them or their potential relationship. Midway through I put the story aside to read a different one that was capturing my imagination more this weekend before returning to conclude this story.

It could of course be that old chestnut, it's not you it's me, because I'm the kinda girl who likes a wee bit of angst or dramatic tension to really enjoy my reads, and this has none of that. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Instead it is quite heavy on the cuteness factor. Philip in dog form is utterly adorable, so this story gets three hearts awarded for big doggy eyes and a waggily tail. Recommended for dog lovers and those who like their men to rock the big burly lumberjack vibe.

Add "Man's Best Friend" on Goodreads!

Werewolf PTA by Felicitas Ivey

Dr. Malak Shahzed moved to the small town of Goodfields for a quiet practice and a chance to leave his other life behind. Finding kind and handsome Sheriff Shiloh Payne is a bonus. Their relationship is mostly stolen glances and innocent meetings, but Malak wants to play doctor with Shiloh—if the sheriff feels the same.

All is not well in Goodfields. After each PTA meeting, the body of a single man is found torn apart by a wild animal, and the town is getting nervous.

Murder is complicating Malak’s seduction of Shiloh, especially since he knows more than he is willing to admit. Because sane people don’t believe in werewolves…. Do they?

SheReadsALot - 2 Hearts

Me when a decent premise misses the mark:

It's not uncommon to have a story or two in anthology that is a miss.

Whelp, "Werewolf PTA" definitely is one to skip.

I'll be honest, I jumped to read this based on the title - I thought it would have maybe a cute older werewolf dad and teacher vibe going. Or something cute with werewolves. Because though I am a shifter lover, I can't forsake my #1 shifter love: werewolves.

Instead, this was a romantic (?) suspense where a serial killer is on the loose in the small town of Goodfields. The new vegetarian doctor, Dr. Malak Shahzed helps the sheriff, Shiloh, try to figure out the motive behind the murders while crushing on each other. Malak also hides a mysterious secret.

The story starts on the third murder with the doctor bending over a mauled corpse wondering about if the sheriff was watching his ass. This was my first warning niggle. But I read on. And the ingredients, a new doctor from a big city, who is a different ethnicity and religion from the majority of the town was very interesting. I don't usually see much gay romances starring a Muslim gay protagonist. Reading Malak adjusting to his new home, trying to flirt in the small town without openly adding fuel to the gossipy fire - that was great.

But the story started to come off the rails when sex happens and Malak's buddy, Faysal, comes to town. Instead of explaining things, Malak kept brushing things off with an 'I'll tell you later' excuse. And when later finally comes, it's worthless and a waste of time.

Faysal was added for comedic relief and tension between the MC. But it read forced. How does Shiloh go from shy and bumbling to overtly possessive?

And this quote:

"What Malak means is that I hunt things," Faysal explained. "I am a Hunter.""Hunting season isn't for months," Shiloh said perplexedly, not hearing the subtle capitalization. I the only one who doesn't hear capitalization, no matter how subtle or overt it can be? Who hears capitalization? Wouldn't it have made more sense to just say emphasis? No? Just me?

This anthology had a shifter requirement for each story and it never read more like a requirement than Werewolf PTA. Every other story I've read so far from this anthology cared to at least describe the type of shifter if it was an animal, or at least give some background if it was fantasy based. This story just dumps 'oh yeah, he's a snake shifter' and moves on to the weak suspense. Like an afterthought.

The serial killer? Way easy to figure out and the motive behind it could have been cool if this story was written differently. But it was jumbled. As was the "Hunter" part - a supernatural society of killers and it gets jumbled along the rest of the plot.

A heart for the interesting parts, a heart for the villain - wasted opportunity, but I liked his motive. Not a good first impression of this author's work.

Add "Werewolf PTA" on Goodreads!

More Beautiful Than a Unicorn by Bell Ellis

Tobias is a twenty-five-year-old virgin, bored with his life, and unsatisfied with how average and unremarkable he is—until he sees a silver unicorn. When the beautiful creature begins appearing to him regularly, Tobias doesn’t know if it’s a cruel joke or some form of mental illness. What interest could the unicorn have in someone like him? Searching for it in a park at night leads to an attack on Tobias, but he’s rescued by a handsome and mysterious man called Amar. Something about the man calls to Tobias, and suddenly his life feels a lot less ordinary and a lot less lonely. But fate can be harsh, and the biggest challenge to Tobias and Amar’s relationship has yet to reveal itself.

Ann - 3 Hearts

There were parts of More Beautiful Than a Unicorn I really liked, for instance, the whole Unicorn backstory and what effect love, sex and light had on Amar. The mythology was fascinating and the author wove that part of the fairytale so well. It was interesting and fantastical while at the same time logical, making me believe in Unicorns even harder than I do now.

Then there were parts that were just, odd. Some of the conversations and the relationship between Amar and Tobias in general didn’t flow well and made them hard to buy into as a couple. Tobias wasn’t the most sympathetic character, but Amar was. Tobias was an introvert with little experience in the ways of romance, but he was all over the idea of falling in love with Amar. I wasn’t sure if he was more in love with the idea of being in love or with Amar himself. Anyone else who got the mysterious runaround that Amar gave Tobias would have been much less accepting, but Tobias was good with it all and he needed to question a little more and feel a little more conflict about there “relationship” to make it believable for me. There were moments that I thought would mean something, like, what was up with the sandalwood? It seemed relevant and then, nothing.

The resolution of their relationship, the connecting between a mortal and a supernatural being was done well, it was all part of the beautiful folklore the author had already teed up. But the conversations that led up to that moment, after Tobias rescued Amar, were pretty melodramatic and kinda violent. Tobias had some unexpected anger issues there. And then the prose that followed was really flowery. And then, there would be a glimpse of a real conversation and I was all, “Yes, that’s what I need to read!”

Overall, I just wanted a little more from the relationship so I could balance it with the great mythology.

SheReadsALot - 3 Hearts
"I approve. Go out and fuck all the unicorns you want."

I read the blurb and I won't mind went straight to uniporn.

Virgin...unicorn...somebody was going to be defiling that virgin...

Not this story.

I know, I know uniporn enthusiasts...better luck next time.

Bell Ellis tried a thing, a unicorn shifter romance between a 3000+ year old shifter and a 25 year old virgin someplace set in present day East Coast in "More Beautiful Than a Unicorn". And while the unicorn mythology used is 4 Hearts quality just for being interesting. (seriously this is one of the coolest unicorn history ever), the story is a tepid 2 Hearts. I'll average, because I girl-nerded and looked up Indian unicorns (I'll get to that later) So 3 Hearts for me (but it's a tentative 3).

Essentially, this is a loner meets his dream man romance. But the interesting characteristics couldn't save the kind of hum drum tone. Tobias meets Amar, a mysterious Indian man, one night after being saved by him from a pack of teens. Tobias also sees a unicorn staring at him at night...coincidence? You'll have to read to find out. The unicorn vision was more prevalent than Amar who can only see him once a month, at night.

The romance? *sigh* Tobias was depressing and he got even more depressed during the story Then he had a turnabout for instalove? I worry about his mental stability if it goes all to shit for a man. What in the world was holding his sanity in for the previous twenty five years that he just throws all away for an equivalent of half a day together?

Let's get into his only friend's name is Marzipan and NO ONE MENTIONED...why she was named after the sweet treat. Granted, Marzipan had the best line in the story. But she was weird. You know what else is weird, the kidnapping angle. *tilts head* Too rushed, too easy, too odd.

The Indian unicorn angle was the saving grace for this short. I loved the virgin and unicorn angle. And the way Tobias sacrificed himself for that angle was a decent touch, a little martyrish but nice. There was hints of magic: Amar's history, the unicorn culture as a whole, there was even a brief mention of magic with the first kiss.

But the tone pounds the moments of fun down to the ground.

Do I wish it was longer? No. What I do wish is that the story got to have Amar's POV to help balance the boring with Tobias.

Different type of unicorn romance with a few memorable moments.

Add "More Beautiful Than a Unicorn" on Goodreads!

A Werewolf in Sheep's Clothing by Rob Rosen

Jackson is a member of a wolf pack, though he feels alone and not at all like the others. A chance meeting with a bear named Woodly shows him he isn’t the only vegetarian in the forest; it also unites him with Frank, a wolf who happens to share the same deep, dark secret. Together, the pair of outcasts might be the only hope for the other woodland creatures who are different.

Reflection - 2 Hearts

Nope. There is very little about this story that I liked. Perhaps I went in with hopes held too high, or maybe I am not in the mood but I found it unpleasant from start to finish. Essentially it felt like a children's story with gratuitous sex thrown in. I wouldn't recommend reading it to an eight year old anytime soon.
Granted, this is a very short story, and my guess is that it is supposed to read like an Aesop's fable (we have animals talking to each other, bear to wolf and vice versa). Their dialogue was a little too cheesy for me in all honesty.

Having been a veggie for decades I was thrilled at the prospect of reading about 'herbivore' werewolves in the forest. Jackson lives with his adoptive pack of wild wolves, not feeling as if he truly belongs, and nor fully enjoying the thrill of the hunt either.

Unexpectedly, he meets another wolf shifter with similar sensibilities. Needless to say these guys get down and dirty, which of course is fine but it was hardly sensuous. I guess it was fitting in with the 'red in tooth and claw', vision of wildlife.
'Wolves are excellent at fucking - werewolves even more so'


There's an unexpected twist in the tale. but as a whole this story with cheesy banter and rough sex just didn't work for me. I hadn't realised I was quite so prim!

Fantasy Living - 2.5 Hearts

Jackson is different to the other wolves in his Pack, but they still accept him, except for his dislike for meat. It’s weird, and Jackson feels ashamed. Along comes Woodly, a bear, who is also vegetarian, and introduces him to other woodland creatures who are not a fan of meat, including another wolf, Frank, who shares a secret with Jackson.

This story was meh. It started off pretty good. I was enjoying the lightness of it, and where I thought it was going. Jackson was the odd wolf out, barely fitting into his Pack, and refuses to eat meat. Meat is murder, and all that.

But then it sort of swung in an entirely different direction. The language changed, and I felt like I’d stepped into a historical fantasy world. It pulled me out of the story and it was difficult to get back in.

The porn.. Ehem I mean, sex, was intense and raw. It too was a little out of place. I liked it, but it felt like it belonged in a different book.

I think the concept of a vegetarian werewolf is hilarious, and something that could really work. Unfortunately this story was a little too all over the place for me, and the plot seemed to scatter off into different directions.

Add "A Werewolf in Sheep's Clothing" on Goodreads!

A Cobra's Charm by Meghan Maslow

Jiri’s life has been one misery after the next. A cobra shifter, he’s held captive by a collector who keeps him—and other shifters—in a private harem-style “zoo” in the Libyan desert. Considered a dangerous predator by the other shifters, and little more than a boy toy to the collector, Jiri is friendless, timid, and despondent.

Miksa is the collector’s latest find. But honey badgers are known for their bad attitude, fearlessness, and fighting spirit. Miksa has no doubt he’ll escape, even if it means taking the whole zoo down with him.

When honey badger and cobra meet, there should be instant enmity—after all, honey badgers eat cobras—yet both men find themselves oddly drawn to the other. Romance blossoms, but can it survive captivity and beyond? In order to do so, Jiri will have to find a strength he doesn’t know he possesses and Miksa will have to open a heart long closed to anyone except his immediate family.

Reflection - 5 Hearts

Pssssst! Come on over if you would like some deliciously dark fantasy to stir your interest. How does a story about shifters s held in captivity in the Libyan desert by a nefarious human collector sound? I have to tell you this worked for me, it had all the ingredients I love, sexy guys, a fighting spirit, humour, sensuality and an Arabian nights slash Roman gladiator feel. Fans self gently.

Demetrius keeps shifters under lock and key for his own entertainment. His harem-style zoo is somewhere in the Libyan desert. Jiri has been his conquest for far too long, not much more than a pampered pet he was sold to Demetrius as a child.

Demetrius' latest acquisition is Miksa a honey badger determined against all odds to escape captivity. Their jailers are hyenas who bully and throw their weight around, but unlike Jiri, Miksa is not afraid of them. This story brims with integrity as a friendship is forged in adversity and since in the wild honey badgers might enjoy the odd cobra morsel, they are more immune to their venom than most.

Watching Miksa fight back sparks something long forgotten in Jiri and although he knows there is no hope for their future, once they share a kiss the passion flares taking them both by surprise.

I love how sensuous Jiri is and that he is a belly dancing artiste.

'Now watching the snake's lithe form move - hips rotating, arms gracefully in their controlled movements, stomach rippling in time to the drums - reminded him it had been a while since he had sex.'

I love Miska's bravery and that his independence shines through although he tones down his more brusque nature when Jiri is around.
'Honey badgers were not known for their sparkling personalities. Brutes, aggressive by nature, ill-tempered - and those were their better qualities...Who knew honey badgers were so gorgeous?'

Let's face it I love this whole story. The only thing that could improve it for me is if it was longer, just over an hour living in these guys' world wasn't quite enough. Highly recommended and although it has dark themes these were touched on lightly whilst the bulk of the story focused on the burgeoning friendship and growing respect between Miska and Jiri. Utterly delightful, I'm stacking A Cobra's Charm in my favourites shelf.

Fantasy Living - 4 Hearts

True story: This is the first time I have heard of a honey badger, and I actually had to stop reading to research, because huh?!

So anyway, after finding out that yes, honey badgers are real, I really enjoyed this story.

Jiri, a Cobra shifter, has been part of Demetrius’ collection since he was a child. Sold by a traveling caravan when he was a child, broken, and de-fanged, Jiri has never known anything else, except servitude to the Collector.

Demetrius made an error in judgement when his greed pushed him to own a honey badger. Miksa is not to be messed with, and his aggressive fearlessness puts everyone on edge.

Jiri is drawn to Miksa after he saves him from being raped in the hallway by one of the hyena guards. And after a few nights of sneaking into his cage while no one is looking, the couple build a shaky friendship.

The subject matter was dark, but all the actual dark stuff happens off-page, so this story focuses on Miksa and Jiri connecting as prisoners, and complete opposites.

I was almost convinced with this couple’s chemistry, and I think, with a longer story, I could have imagined them building a life together.

As it was, I enjoyed this story, and enjoyed the couple’s connection. The sexy stuff worked well for the time frame, and I liked both characters very much.

Each of the MC’s personalities were clear, and there was some growth for both of them. For a short story it was very thorough.

And belly dancing snake shifter?! Yes please.

I’m glad that Jiri ultimately came into his own, and that he made some choices for himself. This couple would be great in ‘where are they now’ story because they have so much to do to get to that point where it would be forever.

One thing that was missing from this story, was Jiri in shifted form. I would have liked to know what he looked like as a snake, through Miksa’s eyes. But we can’t have everything right?!

If you’re into non-typical shifter stories then this is definitely a winner.

Cupcake - 4.5 Hearts

I wasn’t going to read this one. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t going to touch it with elbow length heavy duty gloves OR a 10’ pole.

But Baby was all, “it’s MAGNIFICENT! You must read it.”

And I was all, “b-b-but snakes.” *cries*

And she was all, “he doesn’t shift. Get on it!”

My very dignified response was, “Eep”.

So I tip toed in peeking through covered eyes and was so impressed within the first couple of pages. Baby knows of what she speaks.

‘A Cobra’s Charm’ hits many of my buttons-size difference, sweet slave who’s got a backbone when it counts and is a hellcat in the sack, unexpected pairing and MCs who are horned up for each other.

My curiosity was immediately piqued once I realized the pairing was a cobra and a honey badger because…

You’ve seen that video. If you haven’t, get on it. It’s sick!

Miksa, our resident honey badger, has been captured by Demetrius to add to his ever expanding menagerie of shifters. Jiri is the little cobra (p.s. I loved that Miksa kept referring to him this way) who has been enslaved since he was a child. He’s timid and cautious after having been hooded and defanged and forced to serve his vile master for years.

Even though he’s intimidated by Miksa he can’t help but try to help him by bringing him food when the hyena guards try to starve him or they gang up on him. Miksa finds himself more and more enthralled by the beautiful little snake.

Miksa is determined to find a way to free himself and along the way finds love and a mate that he doesn’t think he can survive leaving behind.

Maslow incorporated the characteristics of both of these animals deftly and left me wanting more. The ending came far too soon and I would’ve liked an epilogue or maybe another 50-100 pages. Obviously, I’m all kinds of impressed by Maslow’s debut and look forward to whatever she’s got forthcoming.

SheReadsALot - 5 Hearts

Where are my honey badger lovers at?

This story by new author Megan Maslow shows why honey badgers are DA SHIT. (I heard of a honey badger but didn't know of their ferociousness - seriously, if you don't know - Google it)

This story was damaged hero catnip aka my type of story. Triggers: off page rape, implied child abuse

Set in Libya, Jiri is an abused cobra shifter held captive in a human collector's shifter prison. Various shifters, predator and prey are kept for the greedy human collector, Demetrius's amusement. And Jiri is his coveted prize. Captured at eleven years old and now in his early twenties, orphan Jiri doesn't remember what it's like to be free and doesn't dream. He's been beaten down, made to wear a hood to cover his mesmerizing eyes and doesn't realize he's a predator too.

Miksa, is a vicious honey badge and Demetrius's latest acquisition. But the collector gets more than he bargains for in Miksa. Honey badgers aren't called tenacious for a reason. Miksa is made to fight but he catches Jiri's eyes. And more importantly, Jiri catches Miksa's.

Belly dancing Jiri can get in my pocket and stay there forever and ever.

The writing? Consider me impressed. The writing was great, the setup even great and the way it's written? Didn't seem like a first timer. The setting read authentic and more importantly the little details made the difference. You can tell the author made the effort. An example, Miksa is an American who is fluent in Arabic. But his Arabic was different to local Jiri. And...he SAID so.

Miksa is adamant in not caring for or about Jiri, but he can't help his protective instincts. And a protective, fierce warrior who cares for a damaged hero is awesome. But when the damaged hero proves he can take care of his own just as fiercely? Why that makes it the best. You can't keep predators locked up for long. Trust. ;)

Loved the ending and the revenge. It just read sweeter to me. My lusty self was satisfied.

"A Cobra's Charm" didn't even feel short, it's a complete story. Doesn't mean I wouldn't love to revisit this world, maybe starring Miksa's feline opponents? There are options for more in the future. *bats lashes*  #hopeful

This is definitely in my top three of the anthology. I'll be rereading this shortly (a testament as to how much I enjoyed this story)

Highly recommended to unusual shifter lovers - this is the ultimate treasure trove: natural animal enemies who find a HEA. Ms. Maslow, can't wait to read what you write next.

Honey Badgers FTW!!!

Add "A Cobra's Charm" on Goodreads!

All copies provided for an honest review.

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