Review of Hour of the Lion by Cherise Sinclair

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 0 comments
Title: Hour of the Lion
Author: Cherise Sinclair
Publisher: VanScoy Publishing Group
Length: 115,600
Primary Relationship(s): MFM
Category or Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance
Does this Review contain spoilers?: Yes, under a spoiler block.
Did you own this already, or was a review copy provided to you? Purchased with the intent to review.
Has this review been posted before? No.

Hour of the Lion begins with Victoria Morgan, a former Marine on medical leave from her assignment in Iraq, finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kidnapped off the street, she's thrown into a cage with an emaciated teenager who, when he's provoked by their captors, turns into a mountain lion. The bad guys then torture the lion into a pained frenzy until he finally bites Vicky. She eventually manages to escape with the teenage shifter in tow. He points her in the direction of the small mountain town of Cold Creek before he expires from his injuries. Tasked with letting the boy's grandfather know how what had happened to his grandson, and fueled by the desire to make sure that this secretive population of were-people poses no threat to the American public, Vicky heads for the mountains.

Upon arriving in Cold Creek, Vicky has a run-in with hunky Sheriff Alec McGregor who checks out her ass while she shows off her black-ops skills by getting stuck in a window Pooh Bear style. There's an instant attraction between the two of them, though for Vicky it's mixed with irritation (distraction from the mission! oh noes!) and maybe a bit of embarrassment. Alec is a seriously handsome, friendly sort, with an evasiveness that could stem from being a small town sheriff, or from being a secret werecat (Spoiler: it's the latter).

As it happens, Alec's equally hunky brother is the proprietor of the local tavern, the Wild Hunt, where Vicky goes to seek a job. Despite his reluctance to hire a human, Calum owes Vicky a favor after she saves his daughter from a less-than-friendly bar patron, and hires Vicky as a part-time waitress/bouncer. Calum is more serious than his brother, possessing an air of authority as the leader of the local shifter community. As with Alec, Vicky experiences an attraction to Calum that borders on compulsory, and which grows in intensity the more time they spend together.

To make matters more complicated, while Vicky is occupied trying to make heads or tails of her attraction to two men (who are occasionally very big cats) and the town of Cold Creek in general, the evil baddies who kidnapped her in the first place are drawing ever closer to finding both Vicky, who they know has been bitten and therefore infected, and the shifter community in which she's hiding.

Vicky Morgan is a pretty great protagonist. She's tough, she's driven, and she cares deeply about other people, while simultaneously being protective of herself to the point of being prickly. The fact that she hauls herself to the middle of nowhere at the request of a dying boy gives lie to her finely-honed air of unapproachability She's an unreliable narrator when it comes to the topic of her own nature and desires. In a way this book suffers from the exact opposite problem of other heterosexual romances I've read -- where the female main character in a romance is often a cypher for the reader, Vicky feels a lot more fully realized as a character than either of her love interests.

The plot, while not particularly complex, is suspenseful and engaging. My biggest plot beef was the ease with which the central conflict is eventually resolved, and is then swapped for a Big Misunderstanding that is just mind-bogglingly stupid. The brothers furball are understandably wary of all things federal government due to the government's tendency to dissect things that they do not understand, and yet somehow both brothers completely failed to realize that Vicky was a member of the armed forces, never mind a fairly elite member, despite her ability to take down men twice her weight, and the fact that the first thing she does whenever she enters a room is take inventory of the exits. She even slips up and calls Calum "sir" when he gets bossy in bed, which was totally hot, but come on, guys, you're supposed to be smart.

Due to the fact that there tends to be more male shifters than female, it's not unusual for a female shifter to have two or more mates. Alec and Calum are comfortable with, and even prefer, sharing Vicky with each other, but it's something she takes a while to acclimate to. As far as the balance of the relationships go, even though the men insist Vicky spend equal time which each of them, and despite Alec being Vicky's first real contact in Cold Creek, and the first brother with whom she has a sexual encounter, it feels like her relationship with Calum commands more attention and holds more emotional weight. Because he's more approachable, Vicky tends to go to Alec for information, while Calum tends to end up with her when she's upset; so while Alec's time with Vicky is illuminating, her time with Calum is challenging. Control is precious to her, and the instincts she has submit to Calum distress her. The sex scenes that involve Calum all have some D/s flavoring. At one point Calum points out to Vicky that the reason her relations with Alec are so different from the times she spends with him is that she's on more equal footing with Alec. Honestly, there's a part of me weeping that this book wasn't an MMF. To me the fact that Alec and Calum are biological brothers feels a bit like narrative cockblocking; they're nothing alike, which isn't uncommon in siblings, but with Alec spending several of his formative years in Texas, and Calum being fostered in the British Isles, they don't even speak alike. Their biological relation seems arbitrary. I think that, in terms of relationship structure, if the men had been involved with each other less platonically, Alec would have felt less like an afterthought in the second half of the book.

A couple of other points:

- Could have used some further editing -- there were some typos, and nothing to delineate changes in POV, which made for occasionally choppy reading.

- I think the point of the epilogue was to drive home the HEA, but I found it to be unnecessary and not really consistent with the rest of the book's tone.

- After reading this book, I wasn't surprised to find out that Cherise Sinclair has written several BDSM novels, which I think I'm going to seek out.

Overall, Hour of the Lion is a solid paranormal romance that reflects some of the best aspects of the genre with a smart, relatable heroine and romantic relationships which are both satisfyingly complicated, and sexy as hell. If you are a fan of contemporary urban fantasy, kick-ass women, and scorchingly hot sex with D/s overtones, you would definitely enjoy this book.

- Reviewed by Andrea, avid LGBTQ romance reader and disgruntled desk clerk. (Twitter | Goodreads)


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