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Book CoverSandy M’s review of The Shape of Desire (Shifting Circles Series, Book 1) by Sharon Shinn
Paranormal Romance published by ACE Hardcover 3 Apr 12

I’ve not read Sharon Shinn before, but I have friends who love her work, always say she gives you something different than the norm. So when I received this book with a shifter theme, I had to get into it. Something different? Definitely. But part of the story suffers for it.

Maria is very adept at weaving lies when it comes to the love of her life, Dante. Those lies are born of necessity. Dante is a shape-shifter; thus, secrecy is of the utmost importance to them. They’ve been together fifteen years, and Dante’s time as human has increasingly become less and less; therefore, their time together is also less. So Maria really looks forward to her time with him each month.

Never knowing what kind of animal he’ll change into whenever he shifts, Dante has no control over much of his life. His siblings also shift, as did his parents. He thinks them all abominations. He refuses to get married, have children, force his awful nature on other people, even if they can keep his secret. He has taken precautions for most any situation that may come about, always coming home to Maria when he’s able. Dante is a brooding, sexy man, quite amorous after being on his own for so long, then drawing into himself as his time comes again to depart to his next few weeks of the unknown. Other than the fact that he loves Maria, this is about all we get to know Dante, which is a little disappointing. The entire book is in Maria’s point of view, so we never really get into Dante’s head, which, I think, would have added more depth to the story, especially considering Maria’s doubts that pop up.

There have been a couple of killings in the area recently, people discovered mauled by a wild animal. Suddenly Maria begins to question herself, could it be Dante behind this. She finds that he has lied to her concerning his whereabouts when he’s able to call her during his brief shiftings. I find this a bit out of character. She’s been with this man for fifteen years, has kept his secrets, weaving her own lies to cover their life together. There’s never any reason for her to doubt Dante, only circumstantial evidence as more is discussed about the events. Maria does waffle back and forth about this issue, so you have to give her that. And when Dante does return, she’s just as happy as ever he’s home. It’s only when he’s gone that she begins her doubting. She also keeps this all from Dante. She never asks him straight up if he’s responsible.

In between Dante’s visits we follow Maria through her days, mostly at work where there’s a lot of drama with one co-worker’s domestic troubles, which eventually intersect with Maria’s life. A number of other employees are also introduced, and I’m not sure they’ll all necessary. We also meet Dante’s brother and sister, who has recently had a child, much to Dante’s dismay. It’s Maria who bonds with the child, knowing she’ll never have children of her own. There’s also a few instances where Maria flashes back over life events that now have some importance on their present situation.

We don’t get much shifting in the story until more than halfway through. After hearing about all the different animals Dante shifts into, I find it amusing he’s in dog form when finally interacting with Maria, after so many years of never allowing her to see him in any other form. But these are nice scenes and rather enjoyable, Dante’s way of protection. There is some intensity later on when the “killer” is revealed, and I do have to admit I didn’t see the who of it all coming.

After all of this, however, I still want to see things from Dante’s viewpoint. He’s the center of everything in the story, most notably Maria’s life. There are so many points throughout that would have had so much more depth to it if we’d been given Dante’s spin on things. Alas, not to be, though. I do like Ms. Schone’s voice, even if some scenes get a tad too flowery at times. I look forward to reading a few more of her books.

Grade: B


Maria Devane has loved Dante Romano since she met him. But he’s a man with a secret: He’s a shape-shifter who spends an increasing amount of time in animal form. Or so he tells her—in the fifteen years they’ve been together, she’s never actually seen him take another shape. She tries not to wonder if that’s the truth. She tries not to think about the other reasons he might disappear for weeks at a time. But she has to start asking herself extremely hard questions when there’s a series of brutal murders in town and the most likely culprit is someone who is half animal, half human.

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series: