This is the first book in the Fire and Snow Series by Khloe Wren. I haven't read anything by the author before, but I am always on the look out for another excellent shifter story. This one in particular intrigued me because of the shifter type - snow leopards. I have always had a fascination with them. They are just incredibly beautiful creatures. Add in the setting of Australia and those lovely accents and I was hooked.
The story opens with an introduction to the male lead Dominic, talking with his brother and then father about the dreams he has been having about his future mate. He has seen her in his dreams since her 21st birthday, a few weeks before and is developing an emotional connection to her. This would be fantastic, except for the fact that she is in emotional pain and it is affecting Dominic. He consults with his father on what he can do to help his future mate. His father suggests joining her in her dreams or bringing her into his.
Meanwhile, several hundred miles away, 21 year old Adele is dealing with her mother's advanced Cancer situation. When she lays her head down on her mother's bed and cries herself into exhaustion, she finds herself dreaming about a snow leopard. She feels a connection to him and before she knows it is telling him all about her mother. Adele names the snow leopard chaton, or kitten. Over the next four years she will come to rely on her Chaton and their emotional connection to get her through her mother's death and struggling at university on her own.
Dominic and Adele will finally meet face to face when she arrives to help at an accident scene, while out applying for paramedic positions in the area. Dominic recognizes her right away, but Adele doesn't trust the draw she feels toward him. Dominic has won her over as Chaton, now he has to win her over as Dominic. But Adele is mistrustful and caution around men, especially men trying to hit on her.
There is also another story coinciding with Dominic and Adele's romance. That of an abusive man and the slave that he has chained up in his house. This isn't the safe and consensual BDSM that we read about, but the sadistic torture and abuse of a human being. This monster has a woman that he keeps chained to the wall that he whips, beats and rapes regularly. The scariest part, she has a child that is trapped in this nightmare right along with her. These parts are very tough to read, but it's not just there for shock value. Their stories are intertwined, interconnected and a vital part of the over all story line. It's just not a pleasant part, so fair warning.
Overall this was an excellent story. The author did a fantastic job of giving us information about the world and history as it was needed in the story, without just doing an "info dump" in the beginning. The characters were unique and mostly quirky with excellent dialogue and vivid imagery. The story went by very quickly. I just couldn't put it down. I don't normally give out 5 star reviews on the first book in a series, but I think this one is worth it. I will be reading the next book as soon as it is released.