Amanda Ching (ed) – Forgotten Menagerie

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Author: Kate Lowell, Alex Whitehall, Avery Vanderlyle, Angelia Sparrow, Cari Z.
Reviewed by: Lucy
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Genre: M/M Paranormal, Anthology
ISBN 13:   9781627570640

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Summary:  A shifter leads two lives: one as a human, and one as an animal. Sometimes these lives are intertwined, and sometimes they are not, but always the shifter has to find a way to reconcile one with the other.Forgotten Menagerie reminds us that not all shifters are werewolves or werecats, despite the preponderance of them in fiction. The stories in this anthology focus on shifters with animal forms other than canine and feline, building their own mythos for these non-traditional species.

In Nuts About You, Nathan’s been crushing on one of his regular Bulk Mart customers for a while now. In squirrel form, he sits on Vince’s bird feeders, munching on seeds and enjoying the eye candy. Until the day Vince notices him raiding the feeder… Then, in The Greatest of These, Daniel struggles to deal with his new-found sexuality and his Catholic faith. He’s already overcome the question of how otter shifters fit into God’s plans, but the next step is so much harder. After all, people don’t picket about otters burning in Hell. Eber’s shifting in Mirrors, the Moon, and the Boy is a curse carried by his family for nearly 500 years, but he’s found a sexy side to it that makes him popular at the elite club “Conquistador” in Madrid. His legendary prowess inevitably leads to questions about why he’s never there on the full moon. And when he begins to explore a budding connection with young American Miguel, the stakes get even higher if Eber’s secret is ever revealed.

Dobson needs his Burdens Lightened, as he has a farm that’s too big for one man and has to work construction to keep it paid for. The boss’s nephew, Jim, is on the crew this summer—his father’s idea to sweat the gay out of him. But Jim wants Dobson, and the feeling is mutual. To the point that Dobson is about to show a part of himself to Jim that no one has ever seen and that only the right person can see. Finally, Carter is eager to sever ties with the ignorant lout who married his sister and thereby owns half of the family ranch, but the only way to do that is to beat his brother-in-law to the cattle auction. That means a trip through Dangerous Territory full of hard terrain, venomous snakes, and flash floods. Fortunately, a deal with the local shifter tribe earns Carter a guide, the stern and humorless Rani, who has his own reasons for coming along.

Review: Reading anthologies is so difficult sometimes because of the differing quality, subject matter,  author style and even length of each story.

Nuts About You rated 5 hearts.  It is no secret that I am a fan of cute, fluffy and funny and all I can say about this is thank you Kate Lowell because this was the best of all three.  Nathan is a shifter and he’s adorable.  He has the hots for Vince, who comes into the feed store where Nathan works.  The story is told in third person from Nathan’s POV and he is just funny!  “Oh my walnuts!”, he glimpses Vince in the shower and wishes to be a were-sponge.  Vince, for his part, unknowingly sees Nathan in his shifted form and later tells Nathan about the “fat” animal he sees.  Poor Nathan spends the rest of the time sucking in his belly.  I also really liked the description of how the shift happens, I thought it was creative.  This story made me laugh, made me smile, made me happy.

The Greatest of These Rated 4.  This one is more serious, as the religious Daniel is having some serious soul issues trying to reconcile being gay, in addition to now being a shifter.  At the point of dying a man, Liam, saved him by transforming him and four years later Liam is “terrified he made the wrong choice in saving Daniel by changing him.”  It’s all so confusing for Daniel and sad for Liam.  It’s a difficult concept, particularly when Liam thinks Daniel had tried to kill himself, but I appreciated that Daniel was grappling with these issues and no easy road was taken.

Mirrors, The Moon and the Boy Rated 4.  Eber is a shifter and he keeps his secret and his heart thoroughly guarded.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t use some of the moon’s power to his advantage and at this time he hits the club and lives up to his reputation.  This time, however, Miguel (or Micheal) is encroaching on the walls he has around him.  There is a complication, however, in the form of Nigel, an actor Eber has slept with who has become a little obsessed about discovering Eber’s secret.  Miguel gets to step up at this point and he’s awesome.  “I’m not allowed to like you?…You, a human being with just one peculiar twist?”   How can you withstand someone like that?

Burdens Lightened Rated 3.5  I liked Dobson, who really doesn’t seem to realize he deserves more than what he has, he deserves someone special.  Dobson is a farmer and also works construction.  Bob, the owner, brings on his nephew, Jim, who’s father wants him to “sweat the gay out of him”.  Jerk.  Luckily, Bob isn’t like that, making sure Dobson knows he can’t break the boy’s heart.   They work well together and Dobson’s revelation of his secret is taken matter of factly.  This story definitely ends on not even a HFN, more like a Happily-Maybe-In-The-Future. I will have to have faith in Jim.

Dangerous Territory Rated 4. Carter, oh that man.  He’s trying so hard and I really, really wanted his brother-in-law, Percy,  (and his sister, Millie, for that matter) to end up penniless or something.  Because of dear brother-in-law, Carter is about to be homeless and lose his portion of the family ranch.  He has no money to pay out the sever.  Not only that but Percy wants to evict Keena and Gertrude, faithful friends who have been on the ranch for decades.   I’d have had more sympathy for Millie until she opened her mouth and spouted hatred.  Then not any more. Keena believes they have one small chance to get the money.  Carter has to try – Percy is moving people into Carter’s bedroom, even, and abusing Carter’s horses.  This involves the help of Rani, the son of a shifter chief, who comes across as arrogant and rude. Appearances are deceiving.   The trip is extremely dangerous and Rani proves himself a good man and a great shifter.

 

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