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Shifter's Destiny Mass Market Paperback – August 21, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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About the Author

Anna Leonard is the nom d’paranormal for fantasy/horror writer Laura Anne Gilman, who grew up wondering why none of the characters in her favorite Gothic novels ever seemed to know a damn thing about ghosts, vampires, or how to run in high heels.  “Anna” lives in New York City, where either nothing or everything is paranormal….

Both can be reached via www.sff.net/people/lauraanne.gilman or http://cosanostradamus.blogspot.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The sun was high overhead, and the Saturday flea market was in full swing.

"You like? It's twenty dollars, but for you, sweetie, eighteen. No? All right, fifteen!" The vendor held up the brightly patterned silk scarf, letting the breeze ripple it invitingly.

The girl he was addressing gave the scarf a longing look, but shook her head, backing away from the table. Just that hesitation had cost her—she looked around, frantic for a moment, and then hurried to catch up with the woman who, not realizing that her companion had stopped, strode through the crowded flea market several paces ahead. The woman's gaze darted back and forth, scanning the crowd as though she was looking for someone—or looking to avoid someone.

"Libby?" the girl called, her voice high and thin with worry.

Elizabeth stopped, looking back with alarm that subsided when she saw her sister was not in trouble. "Maggie, come on! Stay with me, baby." Elizabeth's voice was calm and soft, but it carried through the crowd, and there was a note of tension running through it that her sister heard as clearly as a shout, and obeyed immediately.

"I'm sorry," Maggie said, running forward and slipping her hand into her sister's. "I'll stay close, I promise."

The two girls were obviously related; both of them were slender, with long legs, although the preteen Maggie's were more coltish than her older sister's. Long black hair, braided in Maggie's case and pulled into a long ponytail for Elizabeth, and wide-set brown eyes with a vaguely exotic cast, further stamped the family resemblance. Their looks hinted at Spanish blood, or Arabic: an exotic edge that spoke of distant lands and warmer climates than their current New England location. Although they wore plain jeans and unadorned sweatshirts, and Maggie had the same backpack over her shoulder as half the kids around her, something more than their looks set them apart from the others milling around them; something obvious, but difficult to identify.

It was a way of looking around, of observing without being part of the crowd, a difference that identified them—if an observer knew—as residents of an enclave that some cynics called a cult, or a commune, but most people simply called the Community.

Good folk, neighbors would say if asked. Founded, oh, near fifty years ago, wasn't it? Bunch of them came and bought old farmland, built it up nice with houses and gardens and a proper downtown with stores and whatnot. Pay their taxes on time, send their kids to the local schools, mostly. They don't seem to like technology much, but otherwise perfectly normal. Not a cult at all, no. No, there was nothing particularly strange about the Community.

Six months ago, Elizabeth would have agreed with them. Now, she was less certain.

"We have to hurry," she told Maggie. "They saw us come in here, but they can't keep track of us so long as we keep moving."

Maggie nodded, and the two moved on, weaving through the shoppers and sellers, moving around the overladen tables and backed-in vans that filled the parking lot of the makeshift flea market.

"Here, this way." They slipped behind an oversized van near the end of one row, between two racks of brightly tie-dyed summer dresses, and found themselves at the far end of the lot. Behind them, the bustle and noise of a warm Saturday afternoon. In front of them, a muddy field, cars parked in a squared-off pattern. To their left was the bulk of the local regional high school, a redbrick-and-chrome building. To their right, a large and dense-looking wooded area, green with new spring undergrowth and full-branched evergreens, enclosed by a mesh fence with official-looking signs posted at regular intervals. There was one place where the mesh was torn, exactly the right size for a high school stu-dent—or a slender adult—to slip through.

Elizabeth studied the distance between them and the fence, and then looked down at her sister. "Do you think you can make it, baby?"

Maggie set her jaw, judging the distance, then nodded. "Just keep up," she said with bravado that Elizabeth knew was faked. Her sister had been sick recently, her body wasn't as strong as it used to be. She got tired too easily now, needed more rest, more often. But they couldn't afford to rest, not yet.

"Just nonchalantly at first," her sister advised. "Walk like you're just stretching your legs, no hurry, no worries, okay? Come on, follow me."

They stepped out off the pavement, the muddy grass sucking at their shoes, their backpacks slung over their shoulders casually, as though they were just walking back to their car after a morning of shopping.

"Going somewhere, Libby?"

The two girls stopped cold, Elizabeth instinctively putting her arm around her younger sister as though to protect her from the man walking toward them. Damn.

A flicker of movement caught her eye, and she saw two other men circling around them, as though to herd them somewhere. Somewhere they definitely did not want to be.

Maggie let her backpack slide down her arm, taking the weight in her hand as though to use it as a weapon if need be, and shifted her weight, mimicking her sister's movement.

"Really, Libby," the first man said, exuding compassion. "Look at poor Maggie, she's exhausted. Don't do this to her. Why don't you tell us what's wrong? We're your family, we'll help you. Isn't that how it's always been?"

Elizabeth's shoulders tensed, but she otherwise didn't move. "Go to hell, Jordan. You're no family of mine." All of her family, save Maggie, were dead.

"Oh, Libby." Jordan was in his late forties, a handsome man in jeans and a dark blue polo shirt. He could have been someone's father, heading to a soccer game or baseball practice. But his gaze was intent, steady and cool, like that of a jailer. "Why do you insist on doing this? Come home with us. I know that losing your parents was a shock—"

"Leave my parents out of this." The pain of that loss was still bone-deep, six months later, but it only made her more determined to go nowhere with these three. "If they knew what was going on…"

Jordan looked hurt and surprised. "Elizabeth, nothing is going on! Nothing except this foolishness. Please, my dear. It's been a terribly stressful time, everyone knows that, but you're overreacting. Let us take care of you, you and Maggie both."

The other two men moved closer, blocking any chance of escaping into the crowd. They were dressed like Jordan in weekend-casual clothing, sturdy hiking boots under their jeans. If it came to running, Elizabeth and Maggie, in sneakers, might be able to escape…if they could run at top speed. Elizabeth didn't let herself look at her sister, didn't dare glance down at the leg that was still weak, after her bout with the terrible illness that had taken their parents earlier that year. She would not show fear, not in front of these men.

But the truth was there. Maggie would never be able to keep up.

Maggie leaned in against her sister, so that an observer might assume she was seeking reassurance—or offering it. "I can do it," she whispered, as though knowing exactly what her sister was thinking. Knowing Maggie, she did. Her sister was only thirteen, but she knew far too much, for her age. "I don't want to go back with them."

Elizabeth took a deep breath, still holding Jordan's gaze. Neither of them were going back. The thought of the sleepy little village where they had grown up, once the source of only happy memories, was enough to make Elizabeth ill. There was only death and fear there, now.

She gauged the distance again, and her heart sank.

Maggie, she thought, as hard as she could. Maggie, be ready….

Jordan saw both their gazes flicker toward the trees, and shook his head sadly. "Elizabeth. Maggie. Don't be idiots. You'd never make it, and then we'd all be out of breath and cranky. That's not good. Our van is right over there, why don't we walk over there like civilized people, and let the Elders sort all this unpleasantness out?"

"The Elders can bite me," Elizabeth said through gritted teeth. Before he could respond, she darted toward Jordan as though intending to tackle him. He flinched, and she pivoted away from him, daring him to catch her, even as Maggie was sprinting for the dubious safety of the woods. Good girl, Elizabeth thought. Good girl, run!

Even as she cheered inwardly, one of the other men lunged at Maggie as she went past him, grabbing her by the elbow and jerking her off her feet.

"Get your hands off her!" All thoughts of distracting Jordan fled, and Elizabeth went after the man holding her sister, intent only on freeing her from that hard grip. She had barely taken two steps when her arms were caught behind her back, stopping her forward motion and preventing her from taking further action. She swore, and struggled, trying to free herself.

Jordan's breath was warm in her ear as he said, gently, "There's no need to make a fuss, Elizabeth.

Just—"

Elizabeth had no intention of going, quietly or otherwise. Leaning forward with all of her weight so that he had to lean back to steady himself, she gave a quick prayer that his grip would hold, and then kicked back with both feet, aiming up for his groin. The move sent her off balance, as expected, but she landed a solid blow and had the satisfaction of hearing him grunt in pain, and feeling his grip on her weaken. But her satisfaction was short-lived as he grabbed her long ponytail with a hand and yanked hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.

"Stupid, Elizabeth. Very, very stupid." All pretense of gentleness gone, he nodded curtly to the third man, who went off, Elizabeth assumed, to get their car. The man who had grabbed Maggie now had his arm around her neck i...

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780373885541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373885541
  • ASIN: 0373885547
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,193,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Time is running out for shape shifter Josh, he must heed the call to find a mate for if he doesn't the consequences are dire. But when he comes across Libby and her young sister Maggie struggling to avoid being forcibly taken back to the 'Community' they have fled, Josh's protective instincts trump his more basic 'needs' and he will risk everything to keep Libby and Maggie safe.

I have been a huge shape shifter fan for years but I can honestly say that I have never come across another leading man like Josh. A were-unicorn stallion - how cool is that? And that he is a protector at heart who is willing to sacrifice his future - and lose the chance of a mate and family -to keep Libby and her sister free from those who hunt them, makes him doubly appealing. I also liked the romance part of the story, Josh has good chemistry with the 'unsuitable' Libby and I liked the conflict generated by the background plot even though I didn't care for the 'what' of the background plot itself and don't think that the secret that is lurking in the shadows of Libby's closed community make much sense.

Still I liked it overall, and Shifter's Destiny was nice light paranormal romance read from Anna Leonard, who is the romance alter ego of my beloved Retrievers' author Laura Anne Gilman.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Laura Anne Gilman is an autobuy author for me, so when I discover she had a new Paranormal Romance out under the name of Anna Leonard, I snapped it up.

And I am glad I did. I fell in love with this story.

The shapeshifting unicorns felt unique, and was a welcome relief from the standard shapeshifters like Werewolves. What I liked was how believable their traits felt. Ms Leonard had included traits from horses, and used them that made total sense, and at the same time added an extra layer of tension.

. That both Maggie and Elizabeth had gifts were obvious, but I liked how different they were. Maggie's was obvious, but Elizabeth's gift was more neboulus.

The plot sucked me in, and it kept me hooked. The sexual tension between Josh and Elizabeth, the rut, the fear that the villain will catch them... All of it works together to create a tense, fast paced story set against the quaint New England country side. That the plot built up towards an confrontation with the bad guy was clear. But how it happened took me by surprise.

It was touching to see how Elizabeth cared for Maggie, and how Maggie loved her in return. Josh was a reluctant hero at first, since he had to return home. Yet, I adored him for the fact that he was there for them when they needed him the most.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I picked up this little book with an unassuming title at the grocery store one day because I liked the purple cover with the handsome man and the unicorn on it. Plus, the blurb snagged me and I wanted to know more. It's taken me a while to get to reading it, but boy am I glad I did. This story starts in the middle of realistic action and doesn't let up until the end. It's full of drama, adventure, sexual tension and suspense, plus Ms. Leonard addresses the misogynistic rules and beliefs about "purity" and "virginity" in such a cool way. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is I would've had a little more action and "sizing" up between the Lead Mare and Elizabeth at the end. Great tale and I'll be interested in more of Ms. Leonard's work.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
SHIFTER'S DESTINY is an original and beautiful take on shape-shifting, where the male character transforms to a unicorn stallion, ready to protect young females and take them into his herd - even if the herd they are leaving is vile and threatening.

Elizabeth and Maggie are close sisters, with young Maggie just thirteen, when life changes at their isolationist commune in New England and they flee the new leader and his sinister plans for them. He sends workers to pull them back but a stray horse knocks down the commune members and the two girls seize their chance to escape. Only as they shelter in a nearby wood do they realise that the horse which is still with them is in fact a white unicorn. Next morning it has vanished and they are being watched over by a tall, strong fair-haired man. He tells them his name is Joshua Mustang and he will see them to safety.

Joshua is of a tribe of shape-shifters which lived in peace with the native peoples of North America but hid and adapted when colonisation occurred. Mares rule the herd and young males leave at the age of nineteen, wandering as humans until called by the demands of their bodies to find a mate for life. If Josh doesn't succeed he will be stuck in his four-legged shape forever. Elizabeth and Josh can't avoid feeling the growing chemistry between them but there are two problems: Elizabeth is not a virgin, which unicorns traditionally require, and the commune is sending evil genetically altered cat and bear beasts to track the girls. Soon the three are running and fighting for their lives.

Anna Leonard has created a story for all those of us who love horses and love shapechangers, with plenty of fast-paced adventure in a deceptively simple and well-realised location. More of these please.
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