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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Unicorn Valley (A Collection) by Lena Austin

Unicorn Valley (Collection) by Lena Austin
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/M, Ménage, Bisexual, F/F, Multisexual
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Review by Holly

Lionel, one of the last Unicorn Valley Gryphons, is forced to choose his mate from among other shifters. What he doesn't count on is falling in love with the Werebitch Teema, who has a few needs and demands of her own. Lionel's foster brother Brolly falls for a shape -- and gender -- shifting Immortal, and Shadow, the future Unicorn herd stallion, loves an Elf. As if things couldn't get any stranger, their mercenary Unicorn uncle Jamir is falling in love with both Moontyger and the Dragon Li Chin -- at the same time.

Not everyone loves everybody in Unicorn Valley, but they try.

This collection includes the previously released novellas Gryphon's Heart, Stallion's Heart, Healer's Heart, and Moontyger's Quest.

Unicorn Valley is a mystical, magical, and sensual place. Its residents are supernatural creatures of all sorts, and they peacefully co-exist in their land. Each of the residents in Unicorn Valley has the ability to shift from human to animal, but they can also shift to other animals as well. This book tells the story of four of the multi-natured residents of the Valley, and their searches for the mates destined to complete their lives. Lena Austin imbues the stories with beauty and sensuous emotion. The stories of Lionel, Shadow, Brolly and Moontyger charm and enchant the reader, and provide a wonderful sense of fantasy and delight, along with some absolutely scorching romance.

Gryphon’s Heart is the story of Lionel, the last of the gryphons in the Valley. He needs to find a mate in order to continue his line, but there are no female gryphons left. He must choose someone outside of his species to mate with, and in typical male arrogance, announces his choice to all interested parties. He chooses Teema, a wolf shifter, and one of his best friends. This story becomes a relationship story, with all the mistakes and misunderstandings we all experience. It is a wonderful depiction of what we've all been through, both good and bad when we enter into a relationship with another. Teema has loved Lionel most of her life, but she is hurt by the way he just assumes she will be what he needs without any discussion. Their adventures, and misadventures, are an enjoyable look at what can go wrong on the way to “happily ever after”. But they do get there eventually, and with great passion and love along the way.

Stallion’s Heart is the story of Shadow, a Unicorn designated to be the next Herd Stallion, or leader of the Valley. This story starts sadly, with Shadow’s mother suffering a “brain storm” and being near death. Everyone knows that when she dies, her husband will follow her. A faction of the herd, led by Shadow’s brother Durham, don’t believe in peaceful co-existence, and feel there should be a fight to the death to determine the next Herd Stallion. There has been peace in the Unicorn Valley for over three hundred years under the leadership of Tanne Brae, Shadow’s adoptive father, but Durham would see that peace shattered and Unicorn’s as the supreme species as it was in older days. In order to avert any disaster, it is decided that someone will seek out a history of the Valley in order to find a precedent for a peaceful change in leadership. Because of his love of books and knowledge, Shadow is that one. The historian in charge of the archives is Chantrea, half Elf and Half Fairy, daughter of the Elf King. She is also quite beautiful, and Shadow falls deeply in love with her. This could pose a problem, as mixed mating is one of the things Durham so heavily protests. The more time they spend together, the deeper their love grows. When Shadow’s adoptive mother dies, her husband does indeed follow her, and Shadow must take the steps of leadership necessary. Again, Ms. Austin shows us a relationship that could go either way, depending on the choices made. The scenes in the archives, and at the bathing pool are especially hot, and just when you are sure what choices Shadow will make, she spins it off a bit. The happily ever after in this one is hard won, but again well worth the travel.

Healer’s Heart is the story of Brolly, a wolf shifter, and the foremost healer in the Valley. He is also a man who is asked to battle Aahz, the current Alpha of the pack, because Aahz will not limit breeding, and it is endangering the lands. They choose Brolly, not because he is a great and powerful shifter (although he is) but because it appears that he prefers the love of other males. Since the pack lands are over crowded, they want a leader who will not seek to cover all of the unmated werebitches in order to perpetuate the species. To be Alpha, Brolly would have to give up being a healer, and he does not want to do that. The only other shifter considered safe is Brolly’s brother Kenalf, who prefers to love men as well. Unknown to any but himself, Brolly will accept either sex, but he finds that he is in love with a very old family friend, Le-An, a unique shifter that can not only change animal forms, but can also be either male or female at will. After rescuing Le-An from a trip into the human world, and fixing the wounds he got there, Brolly and Le-An have a passionate encounter in the room where Le-An is recovering. Afterwards, Brolly feels like he took advantage, and leaves the valley to go to the human realm to look for his brother. He ends up in France during the plague, and works at a monastery helping the sick. Le-An follows when he is well enough, and they are reunited there at the monastery. That is where things go bad quickly, because unlike in the Valley, two men together is wrong in this human world. They are caught and barely escape. Ms. Austin shows us the doubts both Brolly and Le-An experience in the beginning, and how they are able to solve the problems that arise. The question “what is Le-An” is answered and I will say that Ms Austin has a wicked sense of the absurd with this revelation. This one takes a bit to get to its conclusion, with many hitches along the road, but happily ever after once again wins out.

Moontyger’s Quest is the story of Moontyger and her quest to find the descendants of the original Kirinn clan. Moontyger is a white tiger shifter, and does not live in the Valley of the Unicorns, although she has many friends there and does visit occasionally. Along with Jamir, the mercenary from Unicorn Valley and Li chin, the dying Imperial Dragon, she sets out on a journey from her home in the Imperial Palace of the Enchanted Forest, determined to find these descendents in order to find males of the line to preserve the race left in her land. Li Chin is dying of old age and unhappy about it, and has his own reasons to accompany her on this quest. Jamir goes because he to is aging and has lost interest in his life since the death of his mate. This is a story of mature romance, as all of the main characters are older, and of discovering that you are never too old for some things. Moontyger has been in love with LI Chin for much of her existence, but believes she is not worthy of his notice, She doesn’t know that he has been in love with her for just as long, and his reason for going is more complicated than either Moontyger or Jamir realize. For Li Chin has a plan, and if it is successful, he will not become a Storm Bringer, which is what happens to his race instead of dying. They become spirits, with no memory or feeling, and live on to bring storms to the land. This story is different, in that there are no other characters other than the three main characters through most of the tale. There are several big surprises and one seriously hot three-way scene. The biggest surprise comes near the end of the quest, and I almost laughed out loud at the conclusion.

I enjoyed these four stories and loved my visit to Unicorn Valley. Ms Austin made me laugh, and cry and feel the fun with her creations. I would love to visit Unicorn Valley again to meet more of her fantastic, multi-natured friends. I would recommend this to anyone who loves romance, because at the heart of all four tales is a deep and sincere sense of love, along with some extremely hot romance.

1 comment:

Lee Plumb said...

Thank you very much for your wonderful review! This is the first I've heard of it, so I apologize for not thanking you sooner.

I dearly love writing my Valley series, and I hope to return to this world often.