Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I know I’m crazy…It lets me get away with a lot of shit.”
Rae Lyall never expected to be chosen by the Goddess as the new Guardian for her Montana Shiftertown. As the first female Guardian ever, she catches quite a bit of backlash from her fellow shifters. Her foster father decides to send her away for training and Rae soon finds herself on a boat in the middle of nowhere with a crazy shifter who doesn’t want her or her sword anywhere around him.
Alexander Johansson Moncrieff (Zander) is a rare polar shifter who prefers quiet and solitude. Given the gift of healing by the Goddess as a young child, he knows what it’s like to be feared by his own people. Collarless and happy answering to no one, Zander is dismayed that Rae is slowly working her way past all his defenses. When a bounty hunter’s vendetta leads him to Rae’s home, Rae and Zander follow and discover a conspiracy brewing that could destroy them all.
Guardian’s Mate is the 9th book in Jennifer Ashley’s sexy, dark, and wickedly humorous PNR Shifter’s Unbound series. Fans have been waiting to learn more about the unpredictable Zander Moncrief since first meeting him in the novella, Wild Things. This installment is what I would call a bridge between the events in White Tiger and the next in the series. Ashley concocts a fun but relatively low conflict romance while building a new adventure filled story arc. She picks up a few loose story line threads from previous installments-starting all the way back to Mate Bond– and begins ties them all together, preparing us for the end of this series. Engaging narrative, new and old faces, and a multi-layered storyline will hook readers from page one.
Though Rae Lyall is a new character to the series, her family is not. She the foster daughter of the leader of the Montana Shiftertown. We met her father, Eoin, in Bad Wolf after their Guardian died under suspicious circumstances and Broderick (a wolf shifter from the Texas Shiftertown) returns the Guardian’s sword to them. Her town has been trying for months to get the Goddess to choose a new Guardian for them. It’s on their latest try that the Goddess finally comes through. Only she chooses Rae; making her the first female Guardian ever. This causes some serious strife in the town and among some of the surrounding shifters, many afraid of Rae and convinced her family have somehow rigged the ceremony. Rae’s father calls in a few favors and takes her to reclusive polar bear shifter so he can not only teach her how to defend herself but also keep her safe.
Raised in a household of male felines, Rae is strong, independent, witty, and quite alpha in her own right. She is understandably upset and a little afraid her father just drops her on some strange man in the middle of nowhere but she doesn’t submit nor put up with any of Zander’s outrageousness.
“Sweetheart, I promised I’d take care of you and get you home alright. I will do that. Do you trust me?” He had to raise his voice over the rush of the chaotic, crashing waves.
“No,” Rae yelled back.
“Hey, I will get you out of here whether you trust me or not. But it would be more fun if you did.” He grinned. “Would make me feel all warm and fuzzy.”“I’ll give you warm and fuzzy all right,” Rae said darkly.
Zander, Zander, Zander
We don’t know a lot about Zander beyond that he is a polar bear, a shifter healer, and he chooses to live isolated in Alaska. As Ashley reveals his backstory, we learn that he left his family years ago due to their issues with his gift. A closet sweetie who hides behind his size, sarcasem, and mysterious persona. He’s reclusive due to his empathic nature and the fact that his gift needs to be used only on those who truly need it. And those who need him, find him. Despite his whining for solitude, he has some close friends who have his back and a well-established network of “people he knows.”
“Where did you get a rocket launcher?”
“Wasn’t hard. I know a guy.”
Rae and Zander are perfect for one another. Both are orphans in a sense (Rae literally and Zander by choice) and unconsciously seek that one person who will love and accept them unconditionally. Zander respects Rae and the gift she has been given while Rae seems to instinctively understand the battle that rages inside Zander and provides a healing touch of her own. Their loneliness finds solace in one another and with the other loners they seem to pick up along the way, forming their own loosely defined clan. Playful banter and a slow burning romance flows under the main plotlines that are non stop in action, mystery, and adventure, leaving little time to fully explore this attraction they have for one another until things slow down.
Rae felt pliable and open. She wanted this man inside her with a mindlessness that would be alarming if she cared about such things right now. Rae closed her legs around Zander’s hips, urging him down. His sweatpants weren’t thick enough to hide how rigid his cock was, the beautiful length of it pressing hard on her between her legs. He wanted to be inside her as much as she needed him there.
Zander tore his mouth from hers again, his breath coming fast. “Goddess, Little Wolf, you’re gonna kill me.”
“Then we’ll die happy,” Rae said, smiling.
Zander growled, the note in it ferocious. “If I start with you, sweetheart, I won’t be able to stop myself. I’ll keep going no matter what. If the ship goes down, I’ll be too busy to care.”
“Me too.” Rae’s chest felt heavy, her nerves buzzing. “We almost died, Zander. We should celebrate.”
“No kidding. We will.” Zander’s eyes were alight with the same fire running through her. “We will, but later. ”
Ashley gives voice to a new story arc that builds off the original legend behind the creation of the shifters and fae. Bigotry, racism, and fear still play an integral role through the power of family, tolerance, and love help to offset it while Ashley uses all these to further power what’s to come. The addition of new information adds a sense of unpredictability while showing the inclusion of new characters is more than simply a means to extend the series. Everyone has a purpose though what exactly remains to be seen.
Tiger loosened his hold but spoke into Rae’s ear before he stood up. He might think he was whispering, but Zander heard every word.
“You must take care of Zander as well,” Tiger told her, then tried to drop his voice even lower. “He’s a little crazy.”
The ending resolves the main conflict in an explosive manner and more than solidifies the romance while leaving readers with questions and more then ready for book ten, Red Wolf, set to release May 2017. Fans of paranormal romance will enjoy Ashley’s latest installment that gives us an engaging hero and heroine whose gifts are the bridge that help form the connect to true love.