SAVAGE SANCTUARY by Jacqueline Barbary is my first read from this author and it was an enjoyable one but with flaws. I don’t know if the author is going for more stories set in this world but I sincerely hope so because the battle between the government creating shape shifters and the Rebellion counter-acting them holds enough intrigue for me to hope for a more thorough exploration of this set-up. The three things that really stood out in this novella was the fiery combustion between the two men, which ignited quick and fiery. The plot, which contained enough intriguing facts to keep my attention and the character development of Robert that held an interesting twist.
One of the elements that really underwhelmed me though was the characterization of Michael. He endured gruesome and debasing testing in a government facility, he is a gangster by origin, and he supposed to be feral, savage and dangerous. I expected a mountain lion, growling and roaring, but by his actual description and behavior I got a kitty-cat instead. From the moment Michael opened his eyes he never lashed out, there were never big trust issues that gave struggles between him and Robert or a danger emanating from him that instantly put me on edge. Michael fell quite easily for Robert and albeit at first it was very sexual driven, emotions were eventually a part of the interaction.
Robert Hamilton-Scott was every bit a caring beta man who had to discover his own strength and potential. His character growth is what I enjoyed from the start. His family history and his way of life is very much a part of who he is. He was so single minded on what he was taught that he actually forgot to explore his own self. To see him come in to his own contained a promise of what this author can do within the range of a novella and I look forward to more of this in her storytelling.
Something that was rather confusing was the working of the shape shifting itself. Those with the ability to shape shift physically leave their human body behind to take an animal form. Every time such a shape shift was described I crunched my brain where their human bodies would go. If the body ceases to exist, how does it get to be claimed later again? Does the physical body completely disappear? And if so, where does it remain? Many questions that didn’t get much answer within the story and it just didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me which threw me out of the story.
The voice of Jacqueline Barbery is easy to absorb and many pages were devoted to the simmering attraction between Michael and Robert. The romance contained a quick pace where the feelings, the pull of the sexual attraction, created some erotic charged moments. The plot fueled the story with some risky moments that made both men realize they had something more going on besides that chemistry. All in all Michael and Robert fit together, they draw out the best in each other and give challenge where it is needed. The story heads towards a tension filled ending where I found my interest piqued for where this battle is going. I think this story arc can deliver some wonderful novellas with hopefully some overall stronger characterization and world building.
While I’m not wow-ed by Jacqueline Barbary’s SAVAGE SANCTUARY it did contain enough promise with its sensuality and premise of the Government versus Rebellion that I’m interested in future stories set in this world.