Title: Almost Paradise
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Cover Artist: Lee Tiffin
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: paranormal, shifter
Length: 17,300 words
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Very quick development but with the promise of more depth.
Travis will do anything to keep his daughter safe, now that he finally has custody. Financially ruined, he cannot even afford food for himself most days. Could a stranger’s offer to dogsit be the solution Travis has been hoping for?
Travis has done everything to keep his daughter safe. He’s fought a long, hard battle with the courts to gain full custody and has finally found some breathing room. But that security comes at a heavy price.
Staying in a motel and living off his quickly dwindling savings is no way to raise a toddler, so when Liam steps into his life and offers him hundreds of dollars just to watch his dogs for a weekend, it almost seems too good to be true.
But when he finds out there is more to Liam than he ever thought, he has a hard decision to make. Can he and his daughter stay and be safe or will he need to leave?
I both adored this story and was frustrated, as an assortment of interesting plot points got rushed treatment. I would have gladly followed along for a slower ride. Even so, I was charmed.
Liam, who is introduced as both dominant but not the supreme alpha of his shifter group, starts out by taking his enormous, half-grown dogs on a shopping expedition for trinkets and clothing. He encounters Travis, who’s there to beg a job, any job, if it will just pay something he can use to feed his toddler daughter Hannah. Totally the center of Travis’ world, keeping Hannah has cost him his home and his prosperity, and he knows down to his bones that his baby girl is worth it. But it’s costing him meals to keep her fed.
Little scene stealer that she is, Hannah interrupts her father’s pitch for work, wanting to touch Liam’s giant dogs. The animals adore her, and her cheerful shouts of “Puppy!” punctuate the rest of the book. All her loving daddy’s goodnight stories bear strange fruit—she’s distressingly accurate about puppies.
Things happen dizzyingly fast after that—what starts as a simple offer of a much needed meal becomes an offer to dogsit while Liam takes care of Shifter business—Travis is understandingly spooked by the instant trust, a hint of charity, and maybe an exchange of favors, and if he wasn’t desperate he’d be backing away quickly. Even if Liam is so damned hot.
Travis has been fighting for Hannah since her birth—the mother is a promise breaking horror, and the relationship between her and Travis has been messy, although what each wanted from the other was never clear and has changed with time. She’s persistent, with a hint of strangeness. Travis had a child with her, but he’s never explored his true desires—a single kiss from Liam wakes more in him than he’s comfortable with.
The story resolves several elements in a very open-ended fashion; the story is marked the first of a series and there’s all sorts of issues to explore in more depth. I’m intrigued enough to read more in spite of a couple of eye-rollers like the incredible shape-shifting clothing. The structure of the shifter group has story potential, especially since a few other characters are introduced in depth but don’t play direct roles in the plot arc here, which would annoy me more if they weren’t so clearly sequel bait.
Hannah and the dogs get a little more depth than do Travis and Liam—there’s chemistry there that we don’t see consummated, but Liam is smitten with both of them—his dreams of a family are fingertip-close, if he could just gentle Travis into accepting what’s crackling between them. Liam’s frustration is one of my favorite aspects—he can dominate dogs and people into obeying his demands, but any application of pressure on Travis and he’ll be gone like smoke, Hannah with him.
The sexual tension between Liam and Travis could be cut with a knife and is not exactly resolved. I wish certain elements had received deeper treatment and that certain issues of trust hadn’t been whipped past so quickly, but this beginning has a lot of promise. 3 stars