Savage Sanctuary by Jacqueline Barbary

Savage Sanctuary Savage Sanctuary by Jacqueline Barbary

Sexy bad boy shapeshifter Michael O’Dare grew up on the streets. When government soldiers finally captured and imprisoned him, he became a lab rat and a collared slave, never again allowed to be human. His escape allowed him to return to human form and head for freedom in the Western Territories.

Robert Hamilton-Scott had lived by the code "You’re careful, or you’re caught" for too long to take chances now. The one risk he takes in his carefully controlled life is offering temporary shelter to shifters on the run like Michael.

Robert knows it’s definitely not safe to want the sexy renegade he’s giving sanctuary to-passion is dangerous for a shapeshifter. As the soldiers close in he must choose between the careful life he’s built or life on the run with the man who has captured his heart.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I wanted to read Savage Sanctuary as one of the new m/m offerings from Carina Press. Unfortunately I found it totally boring, stereotypical, not all that sexy or erotic despite the whopping 5 sex scenes in a 70 page novella. It has a lot of classic mistakes such as lengthy, repetitive descriptions with dense, flat prose about characters containing little to no depth or interest. There are several good ideas presented but none are developed very well and the story repeatedly tells the reader everything going on. I struggled to finish this and this likely should have been a DNF because I lost interest after almost 20 pages of internal musing and one piece of dialogue early on.

The story is nominally about shape shifters that are being hunted by the government for horrible lab tests. This theme is not especially new or different but it remains an interesting theme if given a fresh life. Here unfortunately the world building surrounding the shifters, the government agencies, and the new world order wanting to use shifters as soldiers never really materializes. There are hints and comments offered here and there but the story refuses to give much time and weight to these matters. Instead they end up as vague outlines used to give a loose setting to two characters more concerned with sex than the world they live in.

This isn’t necessarily bad either if you’re not looking for an intricate, complex plot but more so want something sexy with a hint of shifter. The shifter mechanics are somewhat of a cop out here – the shifter thinks of the body they want, their human body disappears and magically the animal body appears in its place. It’s frustrating that a complex, fascinating process is reduced to something of a non-event but not one that ruins the book. It, like the world building, is just ignored for the most part and accepted as a part of the unimportant background.

What unfortunately does kill the book for me is the writing. The set up initially is interesting with quick paced dialogue and a sense of danger. The sexy half naked dripping wet man brought in during the dead of night and tight laced, controlled Robert can’t resist. Sounds hot but unfortunately after that beginning, the story grinds to a halt. Instead Robert and Michael spend page after page (close to 20 pages) staring at each other while they internally muse about how the other looks like an angel and how much they want to tap that ass. Some of this is fine and shows how hot both men are but when they’re standing in a room together, staring at each other with no dialogue, it gets a little weird. I soon got bored with the repetitive descriptions used over and over as they have the first sexual encounter barely saying a word to each other (one piece of dialogue there).

The descriptions are used frequently and often. Michael is described as a gang member so much I wanted to scream and tell the book to shut up. Yes I know he’s a gang member. Is he anything else? We know he’s a gang member when it’s mentioned three times in the beginning, why does it continue to be constantly mentioned. Furthermore Michael is actually incredibly polite, well mannered, and well adjusted. He even very politely asks Robert for sex to re-affirm his humanity but wants Robert’s permission and kindly will wait until Robert is comfortable. Although Michael is described as a gang member and half feral shifter from being in the labs for a year, he actually acts like a normal, intelligent, polite, and kind man. He’s nowhere near the savage, feral, raw, dangerous creature that he’s continually described as. In fact I’m not sure why the labs are considered such horrible, evil things considering how normal most of the people coming out of them seem to be.

Another issue I had with the book are the sex scenes. There are a lot, five within the space of a short novella and these include anything from a blowjob to anal sex. These scenes don’t progress the plot, what little there actually is of a plot, or the characters. Instead they seem to be added strictly for erotic pleasure. While I enjoy hot man on man sex as much, if not more, than the next person, these scenes felt superfluous and boring. They also perpetuate that great sex heals all. The two men fall in love instantly due to sex and then proceed to have it, a lot. These scenes take over the book where it’d be better served giving more weight to the plot, the characterizations, the world building. Instead of weak outlines as a vehicle for erotica, this could have been a solid paranormal with great sex.

Unfortunately Savage Sanctuary never delivers as an interesting, plot driven story. It’s mostly empty erotica with some shifter thrown in for flavor. That’s not bad if you’re looking for it, but the mundane, dense prose killed any excitement this could have had for me. It felt like slogging painfully through a forest in search of the great idea hidden within. But since opinions are always highly personal, perhaps others won’t feel the same way. Check it out for yourself (if you dare).

14 thoughts on “Savage Sanctuary by Jacqueline Barbary

    • I’ve only read the m/m offerings from them but of the 3 they offer 1 is decent, 2 would have been DNF and are not recommended.
      Perhaps their m/f offerings are better? Perhaps they assume that all m/m is like this and thus fitting? I’m not sure. And no doubt there will also be those that think these offerings are absolutely fabulous.
      For my money, I’m not buying Carina Press. Even Loose Id’s sex-filled stories are better.
      Though I will say that CP knows how to spellcheck, which in this world of non-editing, I guess that’s at least something?

          • Well, they do have Deborah Nemeth (formerly Samhaın) employed, and Josh Lanyon’s book ıs eıther just out or due out soon. So I thınk there are many ındıcatıons that Carına does publısh good books – I certaınly got one of the best edıts of my lıfe from them, and whıle I haven’t read the other books, I assume they are just lıke any other publısher – publıshıng a wıde range. I haven’t yet found a publısher who only publıshes amazıng books… there’s always a dud somewhere. 🙂
            I’ll check my contract when I get back home and see ıf I can send you a revıew copy. If You see me talk about the release and I’ve forgotten, just remınd me.

            • well if you feel strongly then I’m willing to give the press another chance. I’m not denying that there are going to be duds in every press. In fact, it’s a given. I think the first few published tend to set the bar though so that’s worrying. However if future releases are better and receive positive reviews I’m always willing to give it another try.
              That’s great to hear they have strong editing. Very appreciated…

              • Oh yeah, and some have changed course, too – when they focused on qualıty the reputatıon went there, too. Other presses punch well above theır weıght, so I’m happy to gıve any publısher a second chance or several. I buy based on author rather than press. too. The only way some publıshers wıll ever get my money ıs when I buy the good authors from them.

  1. *eyes my newest offering with 70 pages and three sex scenes and worries just a little*
    Well, hopefully no one will say my characters don’t make internal sense or that my world building is weak. If anything, I go overboard on the world and don’t provide enough man sexing. Maybe this author and I should co-write.

    • I rarely, if ever, count sex scenes. I only did in this case because I kept thinking to myself “omg they’re having sex AGAIN?! did they just have sex?”
      If the scenes fit the novel, fabulous, great, who cares how many there are. In a novella, the sex scenes almost always have to advance characters, plot or the world building since the space is so limited. If it does that and still works, all the better for us pervs.
      My concern was that here in such a short space, adding 5 simply for erotica’s sake greatly decreases the story.

  2. I didn’t buy this or Bonnie Dee’s book (neither storyline appealed to me at all), but I did buy a number of other Carina books already, and have read/reviewed one so far. I really, really enjoyed that one (a het romantic suspense w/a 21 y/o thief as the heroine). I definitely wouldn’t count Carina out yet, though. Doesn’t Josh Lanyon have a book coming out soon with them, too? I’m keeping an open mind for now. I can’t think of a single e-press that doesn’t have its share of weak offerings (for instance, I’m not nearly as forgiving of Loose Id as I suspect you are), and if a story looks interesting – and I’ll admit, not getting hung up on stupid editing mistakes is a definite positive for me – I’ll give it a go.
    If I stopped buying from an e-press because it had DNFs or low scores, I probably wouldn’t buy e-books at all any more. Granted, I understand your hesitancy completely. I got luckier than you did on the first Carina book I read. 🙂

    • Oh definitely! If I gave up on a press every time I hated a book, well I wouldn’t be reading lol. What concerned me initially were these are the first books out of the gate by Carina so .. I’m surprised. I always thought presses had a bit of a good foot forward attempt. Or again, it could be me.
      If authors I know and like publish with CP then of course I’ll buy them. I’m certainly not going to boycott it if I want the books hehe. I think I’ll just wait and see what others are saying about the m/m offerings first.
      I think they had a rough first opening in the m/m dept, but like you said you really liked another offering so there’s hope. I’m keeping an eye on them for future titles.

  3. Oops…
    And I’m just preparing a review request for TDB for my Carina m/m erotic mystery, out in July :). Like Vashtan, I had the best edit of my life there and I can only hope that combined effort, care and experience have produced a good read.
    On a personal, but general note, the wide range of fiction available from e-presses can both delight and astonish me. And usually does :).

    • I agree. Wide range! If I’d encountered these books randomly from an established press, I wouldnt have thought twice. I mean, for a long time DSP had more duds than stars so there’s no question that any press is going to have missteps. The first impression however, is key..
      I’ll be interested to read your book!

      • Thanks! I’m just waiting for it to be loaded on the site and to have a Buy URL, then it’s on its way over :).Hopefully next week.
        You can tell I’m one of those impatient authors, can’t you?LOL

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