Annie Kildare is a dedicated school teacher who's tired of being set up on blind dates by her mother and feeling like she'll never measure up. She's plain, plump, and a serious childhood injury has left her with a limp, while most of the men her mother parades in front of her are expecting someone more like her beautiful sister. After watching her father become more and more distant with her mother, she's also pretty skeptical of love. When one of her young changeling students gets into trouble and calls his uncle to school to deal with the problem, Annie is quite surprised when the gorgeous man starts intently flirting with her.
The instant jaguar changeling Zach Quinn lays eyes on his nephew's pretty schoolteacher, he's smitten, and his inner cat is telling him she's his mate. Wanting to get to know her, the park ranger invites Annie to accompany him on a tour of the forest and to a DarkRiver pack picnic. As the two spend time together, Zach feels her interest in him but also senses her wariness, so he pours on every ounce of seductive charm he possesses to win her over. But knowing her reluctance, he fears how she will react when he tells her she's his mate for life.
"Stroke of Enticement" is a short novella that falls between Caressed by Ice and Mine to Possess in the Psy-Changeling series chronology. In it, we have two brand new characters to the series, Zach and Annie. When Zach's nephew, Bryan, gets in trouble at school, Bryan insists on calling Zach instead of his parents. Zach arrives at school to find Bryan waiting with his teacher, the lovely Annie, who his inner cat instantly recognizes as his mate. After dealing with the situation at hand, Zach, a park ranger, invites Annie to come explore the forest with him the next day and to attend the DarkRiver pack's annual winter picnic. Annie can't resist Zach's seductive charm, but she values her independence and never intended to get married. Zach can't let her go, but he'll have his work cut out for him convincing her to be his mate for life.
Zach is a totally dreamy Native American jaguar changeling, a real sweet-talker and a seductive charmer, who I completely fell for in only seventy-five pages. While he definitely has that alpha side that all the changeling men do, he's surprisingly gentle and a little more easy-going than the others I've read in the series so far. I know I wouldn't have been able to resist Zach and neither can Annie, who's a great mate for him. She was severely injured in an accident as a child and walks with a limp. Between that and feeling like she's a little too plain and a little too plump, she's never quite felt like she could live up to her mother's high standard, so she's pretty surprised when a hot guy like Zach starts flirting with her. Annie has watched as her mother adored her father, while her father seemed to drift further and further away. Not wanting that to happen to her, she plans to remain single and independent, so the thought of being with Zach long-term scares her. She fears that, while he may cherish her now, it probably won't last, and she can't bear the thought of losing him in that way.
I absolutely loved "Stroke of Enticement," and it's now become one of my favorite stories in the series so far. I'm not usually a fan of insta-love, but it worked for me here because of Zach's mate-bond. He knows from the instant he sets eyes on Annie that she's his, and he spends the rest of the story utterly adoring her and showing her just how important she is to him. Annie is a wonderful heroine to whom I could easily relate, because her fears and vulnerabilities made sense. There's a surprising amount of character development that takes place in such a short space, making this an exceptionally well-written story. The sexual tension throughout is exquisitely done, and I was so happy that, unlike a couple of other novellas in this series, the author actually gave them a detailed love scene, which ended up being a great payoff. This novella just gave me all the feels I look for when reading a romance, along with a truly sigh-worthy HEA ending, and I can't say enough good things about it. "Stroke of Enticement" was originally published in the multi-author anthology, The Magical Christmas Cat, and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology, Wild Invitation, along with three other novellas set in the Psy-Changeling world.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook