Summary: A Premier lion shifter, Hugh Landry dedicates his life to leading the Berk pride with strength and confidence. Hundreds of people depend on Hugh for safety, success, and happiness. And at over a century old, with more power than can be contained in one body, Hugh relies on a Siphon lion shifter to carry his excess force.
When the Siphon endangers himself and therefore the pride, Hugh must pay attention to the man who has been his silent shadow for a decade. What he learns surprises him, but what he feels astounds him even more.
Two lions, each born to serve, rely on one another to survive. After years by each other’s side, they’ll finally realize the depth of their potential, the joy in their passion, and a connection their kind has never known.
Review: Hugh Landry is a lion shifter, but not just any lion shifter—he’s a Premier lion shifter—a black lion who has immense power and size, in both his lion and human forms. He has so much power, in fact, that he needs a Siphon to siphon off some of that force. If that doesn’t happen, Hugh’s system will shut down from the overflow. As the story opens, Hugh is in the midst of an orgy with members of his pride when he suddenly begins to have an overly full feeling, a feeling he hasn’t had in over ten years. The pressure in his head and chest make it difficult to breathe or even think, but he knows he needs his Siphon immediately to take the pressure off.
Unfortunately, his Siphon has tried to commit suicide, and if it wasn’t for Hugh’s physical reaction, the Siphon wouldn’t have been discovered in time to revive. At first furious, thinking that the Siphon did this on purpose to kill him and thus weaken the Berk Pride, Hugh is shocked to realize that he doesn’t know a thing about his Siphon, even after having been with him constantly for ten years.
A Premier lion uses his massive power and energy to keep peace among his pride members and help them feel strong and confident. Seeing Hugh so weak scares the members who are there and shakes their confidence in their leader. The Siphon isn’t strong like the Premier but he does provide storage for the excess power while still keeping it available in case the Premier needs it. In addition, he and the Premier can’t be separated by any great distance or they lose their connection. Siphons are so rare that only one in one hundred Premiers have one, and those that do have one live a longer life, growing bigger and stronger every year. Hugh is a prime example of this at over a century old, seven feet tall, and three hundred pounds. But if left without a Siphon, the Premier would be overrun with power and implode—exactly what is happening to Hugh as the story opens.
Hugh is shocked that the Siphon would commit suicide, and in the midst of berating the Siphon for putting the pride in danger by his actions, he’s surprised to learn that the Siphon has no name. Separated from his mother at birth and kept isolated by his original pride until he was considered strong enough to be offered to a Premier when he turned sixteen, he’s never known family or friendship. Thinking the handsome, powerful Premier lion would change all that, the Siphon was disappointed to be treated as if he was a part of the décor, and he drifted further into depression as the years went on. Looking at everything he wanted right in front of him—a Premier, a pride full of healthy lion shifters who were friends and had fun with each other—but continuing to go unnoticed by both his fellow shifters and the Premier led him to the suicide attempt.
As Hugh finally manages to have a conversation with the Siphon he learns that he desperately wants to have a name and to be recognized as a member of the pride. After thinking it over and trying out several names, Hugh decides to call the Siphon Johnnie. Johnnie immediately attaches Langley to the name and is ecstatic to finally feel like he belongs to Hugh and the pride.
Hugh sets out to learn more about Johnnie and to make a conscious effort to treat him with respect. What he finds is that Johnnie is very bright, well-read, and makes a wonderful friend and companion. After ten years of relying on Johnnie as his Siphon, he starts to feel a different kind of bond with him, something he’s never experienced before. He also realizes he no longer wants to engage in the mindless sex considered routine by his pride. He had thought of sex as something to release his hormones when they got to be too much, not something pleasurable, until one day he masturbates in front of Johnnie and he realizes that staring at the rare blue-eyed lion made the experience much more than just releasing hormones.
Johnnie, of course, is a virgin, having lived an isolated life and gone unrecognized by Hugh and members of the pride for the past decade. It isn’t long before Hugh and Johnnie become lovers, and in the inimitable way Cardeno C works her magic, the sex scenes in this exploratory period are desert hot (Get the personal fans ready!).
The two find that their connection is strengthened, allowing them to be further apart than usual, though they don’t really desire that there be any distance once they become lovers. There’s a subplot involving kidnapping and intrigue which allows for more pride behavior background development, giving readers a foundation for this shifter world as additional stories in this series are developed. Naturally, Johnnie and Hugh survive the attempts to separate them—we wouldn’t have their HEA otherwise.
I really liked this story, though the kidnapping subplot was weak and somewhat clichéd. But the development of the relationship between Hugh and Johnnie was strong, with multiple opportunities to provide information to readers about the differences between these shifters and their human or animal counterparts. Johnnie was bright and analytical, proposing new theories and ideas for Hugh to ponder, and Hugh became much more likable once he was brought to more enlightened thinking and started to realize what a gift he’d been given when Johnnie became his Siphon. Their love and bond strengthened their connection and their future looks bright at the time the story closes. I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series.
I recommend this to those who like new and unique shifter stories, those who love their M/M romance with some smoking hot sex scenes, including a first time experience. And, of course, to those who love and follow Cardeno C. You won’t be disappointed.