Sunday, December 4, 2011


Summary: Bodyguard, a short story in the "Shifter's Unbound" universe, is a fun and sexy paranormal romance read at a great price.  

Bodyguard, by Jennifer Ashley, follows sometime between the second and third book in Shifter's Unbound.  I like the first two and recommend them, but if you want to use this short story to try out her writing cheaply, then you can start here without needing any of the plot from the previous books.

The setting is one where Fae (who mostly live in their own world) created canine, lupine, and bear shifters many centuries ago and enslaved them, but the shifters broke free and lived in hiding in our world since then.  Shifters are clannish, long-lived, and don't mix with humans as a rule.  About thirty years, they were discovered by the human world, which didn't react well to the news.  In the US, where this is set, that meant they were rounded up, put in government-created shifter towns, and are treated to prejudice and discrimination by most people, laws, and businesses.  They are also all required to where magic collars developed by the Fae that shock shifters when they get violent.

It may sound like it's a depressing premise, but the shifters clearly still have a lot of power in some ill-explained way.  They sidestep the laws when they care to, ignore the insults for the most part, and they make their shifter towns into warm havens. So it's a setting that introduces prejudice, but keeps the focus on the romance and action by mostly avoiding the emotional damage that prejudice usually engenders.  On an intellectual level I can recognize that that's not realistic, but it definitely makes it a more fun read.

The premise of this story is that one night Ronan, a grizzly bear shifter, saves Elizabeth, a human who owns the store, from a gunman and would-be thief.  He rescues her, she helps him, he takes her back to his place, and pretty soon the romance is budding.  She's got baggage to overcome, but he's a good guy who knows a good thing when he sees it, so you know it will all work out in the end.

Ashley does a good job of fitting quite a bit character into a short story.  There are well-developed secondary characters, layers and even some growth in the primary characters, and a believable evolution of their relationship.  And, as always, Ashley writes some deliciously smexy scenes.

The only real criticism I have is that toward the end there were a couple pieces that I feel were written that way because the author wanted it that way rather than because the characters would really act that way.  It meant a little extra suspension of disbelief and made the story feel like it had a slight patina of cheese at the end, but not enough to turn me off to it.  Overall, the story was a fun extra to an enjoyable series, although nothing really happened to affect the main Shifters Unbound story arc, so followers of the series don't need to worry about reading the Bodyguard out of order.

Others Books in the Shifters Unbound World
  1. Shifter Made - a prequel short story set hundreds of years before.  I've never read it, but it has bad reviews and isn't needed to enjoy the series
  2. Pride Mates - the real beginning, it's also my favorite of the series
  3. Primal Bonds - I liked it
  4. Bodyguard
  5. Wild Cat - it should come out in early 2012

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