Desert Isle Keeper
If you’re a fan of LGBTQ paranormal romances, and especially those featuring shifters, then Mia West is an author who should be on your reading list! Having first picked up her work with the Alaskan set Grizzly Rim series featuring native wildlife of the area (including my first ever book with an eagle shifter), I eagerly awaited her latest series in a new setting – that of the open water. Entry Shock is the third story in the Rogue Rescue series, about an elite secret unit of the Coast Guard. The members of the unit are for the most part water animal shifters – dolphins, seals, and in the case of this exciting and adventurous story – sharks. Who can resist a shark shifter? Well, not I! I’m happy to say that this story turned out to be my favorite of the series.
If the general population knew about shifters, no-one would be in the least surprised to discover that Ian Mackey’s alter ego is a shark. Quiet, observant, and no-nonsense, Mackey is the man his team relies on to keep them safe, patrolling the waters for wild sharks while the dolphins and seals assist the victims of boating accidents until the ‘real’ coast guard rescuers arrive. Using lethal force when required, Ian is motivated but cautious about maintaining control. His personal history includes abandonment by his mother and then going to live with his grandfather, who taught him everything he knows. He lives in an old lighthouse, a family home, and an easy place from which to slip into the water to patrol and keep an eye on his teammates even when they’re not on duty. He has some dark secrets in his past, but they are well hidden.
A chance encounter with another shark in his territory turns into a more complicated situation when the rogue shark turns out to be a new member of their unit. Patrick ‘Trick’ Harper has been assigned to the Rogue Rescue team as Mackey’s new partner, and to help instill some discipline in the maverick shark. Trick is deaf, adept at reading lips on land and with no need for hearing in the water where his other senses come into play, including all water shifters’ ability to communicate telepathically. Putting a shark who needs control and one in need of a stern hand together as partners is like oil on water, until they discover that sexually, it makes for a helluva match. Blowing off some steam together when off duty starts out fine, but soon an affair isn’t enough for Trick. Will Ian’s secrets keep him from letting Trick become his partner in the water and out?
Alpha males can be tricky beasts to write in such a way that they’re not totally overbearing and there’s no doubt that anyone who can shift into a shark’s body is going to be an alpha male. In this story you’ve got two such men, and they butt heads (literally) at their first meeting. But even though they are both tough guys on the outside, they’ve got emotional and sensitive sides, too. Mackey’s care for his teammates is the non-verbal kind, patrolling the waters by their homes to keep wild sharks away, and never wanting to miss a work shift (including going to extremes to show up). Trick is used to people treating him differently due to his hearing loss and is often on the defensive as a result. When the two of them are together, and especially after sex (those scenes are h-o-t by the way) they can relax and let down their guards. One of the signs that Mackey wants to get to know Trick better (even if he won’t say it out loud) is that he starts learning American Sign Language so that they can communicate on yet another level.
The author uses an interesting and effective method to express the use of sign language between Trick and Mackey by putting signing in double parentheses. In an author’s note, she says this is to avoid the use of having to say ‘he signed’ all the time, and also to show the growth in Trick and Mackey’s relationship as Mackey becomes more comfortable with signing.
He settled against the chair, and Trick dug in again. His hands were large and warm, and as strong as the rest of him. Mackey knew that of course – he’d already enjoyed one massage from them. They just felt different today. As if they were on him for him, not just for Trick.
(( For what?))
He didn’t know how to sign it, so he turned his head.“For talking me down today.”
Trick becomes a teacher to Mackey, showing him signs for things on land, even as Mackey trains him in the water. Then in the bedroom, it adds extra intimacy to their scenes.#
One of the strengths of this series is its originality, combining the popular theme of men in uniform with a unique mission to aid coast guard rescues from under the water. Each of the water shifters has a particular place and task in the water, and the worldbuilding is very well done with the logistics of shifting and some exciting underwater scenes. There are several secondary characters including some family members of the team that have particular parts to play, and the door is left open for more in the series, or a spinoff. The secret that keeps Mackey from fully embracing a relationship with Trick is eventually revealed and has some consequences later in the book, and there’s an interesting reveal near the end that took me by surprise. In fact the only thing that keeps that book from a solid A for me deals with that later reveal (which I don’t want to spoil) only because I think the significance of it isn’t dealt with fully. But I’ve no hesitation in recommending this or any of the author’s other books to readers looking for some heat, action and unique worldbuilding (including her non-paranormal historical romance series set in post Roman Britain, Into the Fire, and her Arthurian Sons of Britain saga) with guaranteed happy endings all around.