Zader’s Menagerie by J. Hali Steele
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (42 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Ménage, Anal Play, Voyeurism
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Xeranthemum
Zader Montana is Sovereign Kind, a mountain lion infected with vampyre blood. He refuses to embrace his undead half, the part of him that prowls the night looking for the she-wolf he desires. His problem -- she's mated to the alpha of the wolf pack sharing his mountaintop.
Skye wants a taste of the cat who trails her every night. Convincing her mate to let her have a bite won't be a big deal. The wolves are infected with the blood curse too, and they're not finicky. Skye's willing to be shared by both leaders as long as she gets what she wants.
The book has a pretty intense relationship dynamic that was great to see unravel as the main characters discover what they’re willing to accept in the name of love while forging a new connections and bonds.
I believe this book is part of a series and yet I had a fun time reading it and didn’t feel all that lost. I credit that to the author using her characters to explain the rules of their world at the same time they are butting heads against it. The only thing that made me scratch my head is the differences between the Reign and the Sovereign Kind and the plain old Kind, and what the big deal was. I didn’t dwell on that too much because although the characters mention it in passing, the focus really is on the exploding relationship between Skye and Zader.
Skye has been in love with her wolf mate for a long time. Leaf is an alpha and he loves her back. The interesting thing is, as much as she loves him, the heroine shares with a reader that something isn’t quite perfect about their relationship. She has no clue as to what that is. And for the life of me, I never would have suspected or imagined the truth. Zader sure stirs not only Skye’s passions, but the plot conflict too.
Speaking of conflicts, there are quite a few to choose from. There is the dog/cat mating issue, the trust dilemma, and the healing that has to happen after the revealing of the big secret. There’s also guilt to wade through and olive branches to extend. A lot of emotional angst and self searching gets explored in this short tale. In the midst of all of it, there is a sense of community, camaraderie and humorous interactions between Zader and some secondary characters that readers of the series probably have gotten to know and adore in the past. They sure were colorful and interesting
Leaf, the wolf alpha and Skye’s first mate, isn’t all that he appears. He’s demanding, forceful and secretive although the author left me in no doubt that he loves Skye. For all his tough-wolf stance, there is a vulnerability inside him that a reader can tell has been burning like acid within him. This book is cathartic for his character and eventually, I foresee a healthier future for him. And he won’t be facing it alone. I found that sweet and romantic in itself.
When Skye, Zader and Leaf do work out their biggest kinks so they could explore the physical connection, it’s not without its share of dark humor and passion. Zader and Leaf have to work out their sexual compatibility and I believe the phrase is, “Don’t cross the swords.” There is certainly an erotic element when both men are with Skye that leads me to believe that they might eventually seduce each other into a bit of light ‘sword’ play in the future. It’s up to reader interpretation and I guess I’ll have to keep reading the series to find out. Sure is a tantalizing thought.
Whether a reader is a first timer to this series like me, or one who’s been following all along, Zader’s Menagerie will satisfy the romantic inside. The pace is brisk with a lot going on to keep a reader’s attention engaged and interested. What’s not to like about alpha shifters in an emotional pickle? It certainly was a fast read for me because I found it fascinating and stimulating. Zader is one yummy guy/cat.