Title & Link: The Trials of Gregg
Author: Stephani Hecht
Cover Artist: Carmen Waters
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Buy Link: Buy Link The Trials of Gregg (Lost Shifter)
Genre: M/M Paranormal Romance
Length: Novella (110 pages)
Rating: 3 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: Another installment in the Lost Shifters Series that just missed out on having the needed adventure to make it an exciting addition to the series.
Blurb: Sometimes when you least expect it…bam….love comes out and smacks you right in the face, and you have no choice but to deal with it.
For years, Navy SEAL John has been harboring a secret: he can shift into a Lion. He thinks he’s the only one of his kind. That is, until his commanding officer discovers his secret and takes him to the feline coalition. There, John finds out that he’s not alone. He also meets the alluring Hawk shifter, Gregg.
Gregg is given the task of helping John integrate into shifter society. As the two men grow closer, they find that they are attracted to each other. Will they be able to act on their attraction? Or will their differences keep them apart?
Review: Much like the other stories in this series, a lost shifter, John Smith is found out when he accidentally shifts in front of his commanding officer. Hauled off to the coalition the very next day, John is welcomed and assigned to a hawk shifter by the name of Gregg. Gregg harbors a secret that has much to do with an abusive, drunken father and a sister whom he must protect. As John and Gregg get to know one another, the attraction between them grows, but Gregg is reluctant to move forward and admit his feelings for John, knowing that at any moment his secret may be found out and he may be forced to leave the coalition.
First, while it helps to know some background about the previous installments in this series, author Stephani Hecht does a really seamless job of inserting background material that allows the reader to catch enough of the previous story line so that they are not lost. The Trials of Gregg could, in essence, be read a standalone.
Gregg has endured the verbal abuse of his angry father for so long that his own self esteem is at an all time low. He worries over his sister, who seems to be withdrawing more and more from the harsh and violent reality that is their life. Gregg knows that if he even utters a word about his father, the man will be banished and take Gregg’s sister, Tiffy, with him just out of spite. So he lives in a world of silent and furtive abuse, each day dodging the truth that his life is finely balanced on the edge of the proverbial ball that is next to drop.
John is a lonely man in many ways. Always feeling different and avoiding coming to terms with the fact that he is a lion shifter, John holds himself apart, aloof. He has no real emotional connections to anyone and takes to the coalition slowly, often feeling a bit overwhelmed. Gregg is like a lifeline to him and the desire to be with him grows fast and hot.
As usual author Stephani Hecht weaves a short and swift love story between her two shifters. Her men are both in need of comfort and a partner who will understand their self-perceived shortcomings and Gregg and John fit the bill for sure. These are tough guys each with a soft underbelly who have a love to share if only they can find someone to take a chance on them. I enjoyed their relationship and given that most of these stories have very little preamble to the near instant love aspect, I went along willingly with the idea of their falling for each other so quickly.
However, the secret that Greg hid seemed to be the real weak link in this plot line. I don’t mean this the way it is going to sound but quite frankly if Gregg’s dad had been physically abusive as well as verbally, I felt the whole “battered down by abuse” story line would have been so much more convincing. Instead, I was left shaking my head at a young man who would continue to believe his father’s drunken slurs and not simply dismiss them out of hand. I understand we are all shaped by what we are told, but Gregg was an adult and the idea that the confrontations between he and his dad had never escalated into the physical seemed hard to swallow.
Also, Tiffy was a teenager and had been living in this cycle of hate for quite a few years. So, her sudden withdrawal seemed forced and unbelievable. I think had we seen more of an emotional build within her character indicating the stress she felt and that it was becoming intolerable for her. If this had happened before she shut down physically and mentally then the abrupt shift in the story line would have been much more palatable.
In the end, The Trials of Gregg lacked the tense action that is usually associated with these stories either through a violent confrontation with the enemy or a prolonged avoidance by one of the characters falling in love so easily. This one was just a bit too tepid for my liking with neither of those elements fully fleshed out or realized by story’s end. I have enjoyed many of the other shifter novellas in this series and hope that author Stephani Hecht gives her next story an infusion of both excitement and tension as she has done so well in the past.