Book: Forest of Thorns and Claws
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: May 15, 2017
Length: 247 pages
Donovan McGinnis, a veterinarian and conservationist at a research center in Sumatra, is fighting to save the rainforest from poachers and politicians alike. One day he discovers a tigress trapped by a snare, and while treating her injuries, she bites him. He becomes ill with strange symptoms that leave him feverish and dreaming of the jungle and blood.
Kersen and his family are part of the Siluman harimau, a clan of tiger shifters hidden away in a secret village near the rainforest. When Kersen’s sister is caught, he knows he must free her before she infects someone with their magic and reveals their secret.
But Donovan has already been turned, and only time will tell if he can control the tiger within. Kersen must help him, but will the fierce attraction between the pair bring ruin to them all? With the rainforest under threat from outside forces, they may be doomed anyway, unless Kersen and Donovan can find a way to defeat the danger from inside and out.
Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Forest of Thorns and Claws! This M/M shifter (weretiger) romance is a standalone novel set in the rainforests of Indonesia. The book features a lonely veterinarian and wildlife conservationist from the UK, Dr. Donovan McGinnis, who meets a man from the local Sumatran village, Kersen, after rescuing a snared tigress. I hope you'll read on to learn more about Donovan and Kersen’s adventures.
Also, remember to leave a comment on this post... one lucky winner will get a $15 Riptide gift card!
Gunung Leuser National Forest, Sumatra
May 14, 2013
Donovan McGinnis paused to wipe the sweat from his brow with his camouflage T-shirt, then peered through a dense curtain of strangler fig. Ahead of him, sunlight highlighted a small clearing in the rainforest. Behind him, three men, all members of the Tiger Conservation and Protection Rangers, held still and listened. They were kilometers into the rainforest—about two and a half hours away from their base camp near the village of Ketambe. It was important to keep quiet and tread carefully. Here in the jungle, wild animals weren’t the worst threat.
Worst were the poachers and their cleverly hidden snares.
This was the front line of an epic battle, but not one that most of the world was aware of. Every day, Donovan and his men fought to preserve what little rainforest was left on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, home to some of the rarest creatures on Earth. A lot of people didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Sumatran elephant or rhinoceros. The orangutans tended to draw the tourists, and their population was in better shape. But the most endangered of all was the creature he loved best.
The Sumatran tiger.
“Stay there,” Donovan whispered. Amin, his best tracker, nodded and signaled to the other men. Amin was in his early twenties, beardless as many of the locals near the jungle tended to be, with short black hair and brown skin. He wore cargo shorts and a dark-brown T-shirt, the better to blend in with the dark undergrowth of the rainforest. He was Donovan’s lead assistant at the research center.
Slowly, Donovan parted the vines and stepped into the clearing. Moving cautiously, he searched through a cluster of orchids on the forest floor, alert for signs of disturbance. High over their heads, leaves rustled, perhaps with the wind.
The jungle was quiet today. That wasn’t a good thing.
Using a long collapsible walking stick, he poked the underbrush, noting broken stems and vines which appeared to have been arranged. It didn’t take long for him to find something—a thin, braided rope beneath a cluster of vines. A taut line and a loop was a classic tiger snare. The poachers were here, all right. At least this one was empty. With deft fingers, Donovan felt for the trigger and deactivated it, breathing easier once it was done.
“Found a snare.” He waved for the others to come forward. They gathered up the pieces to throw into the evidence bag, as Amin logged the location.
“That’s eight you’ve uncovered so far today.” Amin sounded impressed. He took the bag once Donovan was done with it, handing it back to one of the porters.
Donovan sighed. Not yet sundown, and already so many traps. The poachers were getting more desperate—only about a hundred tigers were left in this particular forest, and the forest itself was being gnawed away by coffee and palm oil planters. The big corporations funneled money to the nearby farmers in the hopes they’d do the dirty work of clearing the forest and planting the illegal crops. Most of the time, the provincial government turned a blind eye. Sometimes trying to combat it all felt like a hopeless task. In fact, tomorrow he’d be over in Blangkejeren to testify against a paper company trying to take even more of the supposedly protected national park.
But despite the conflicts between the local government and conservationists like himself, Donovan loved Sumatra and this area in particular. The jungle was magical to him. The locals believed there was actual magic in the area and called this forest “Hutan Duri dan Cakar,” which translated into “Forest of Thorns and Claws.” The thorns referred to actual thorns in the plant life. Enduring the prick of such thorns was said to bring health and long life.
He kept hoping for a glimpse of the claws today. Claws of the tigers, that was.
Using the walking stick for support, Donovan stood. “Eight, right. I think we’ve cleared this area. We’ll keep moving toward the west. Stay quiet. We could still run into whoever’s setting these things.”
The fact that the jungle was so quiet worried him. Even the birds and monkeys were keeping clear of this area, which meant there was probably a large predator somewhere nearby. It might be a man. As they began walking, Donovan kept a hand near his rifle, strapped to his shoulder. Vines and ferns brushed his bare legs; it was too humid to wear trousers out here, so he did as the locals did and wore long shorts instead. Also plenty of mosquito repellent.
They’d been walking for maybe fifteen minutes when he heard something thrashing in the dense undercover ahead. Donovan signaled his team to be silent and brought out a pair of binoculars. With a sinking feeling, he tried to spot the source through young teakwood trees and bird of paradise plants.
A frantic yowl confirmed his fears. That sound could only come from a large cat.
“Get the tranq gun ready! I’m moving in closer to see how badly it’s been trapped.” Donovan was no longer concerned about noise. If it was a young tiger, its mother would have already been on them; therefore it had to be a solitary animal.
He kept watch for more snares as he crept closer. Branches swayed maybe twenty meters off, but he still couldn’t see the animal. This wasn’t good; it meant the tiger was probably rolling on the ground, perhaps injured. “Radio the home station,” he told Evan, one of the junior rangers and a conservationist from Germany. “We may be bringing this one back with us.”
Evan quietly began to report the incident to the rehabilitation center as Amin handed Donovan the tranquilizer gun. Donovan checked his watch. They were going to need reinforcements for an extraction. There goes the rest of the day.
“Hang back for now. Once it goes down, I’ll need everyone to help me free the animal.” Donovan gripped the gun in one hand and tucked his collapsible walking stick into his backpack’s side pocket. As he drew closer, he focused on where the snarls and growls pierced the jungle. It was a positive sign that the tiger was making so much noise. A noisy tiger was a live one.
Crouching low, he climbed over a dead branch, then rounded a large rubber tree and finally spotted the animal in a clump of tall reeds. The tiger’s orange and black coat showed clearly through the foliage as the creature flailed, its left front paw trapped by the cruel rope of the snare. The tiger snarled in anguish.
It was a small specimen, most likely a female. There was blood where the snare had cut into the animal’s paw, probably also cutting off circulation. Yeah, they’d want to keep this one overnight, in case she had broken bones or damaged ligaments. Females were particularly important to the breeding pool; this one appeared to have just reached maturity, making her vital to their conservation efforts.
The tiger yowled and licked at the injury, her muzzle red with her own blood. Poor thing. I wonder how long she’s been here.
Donovan raised the tranquilizer gun, and lined up the tiger in his sights. He hoped the poachers weren’t close. It would be Evan’s job to keep Amin and the porters safe while Donovan aided the tiger.
His finger grazed the trigger, ready to fire, when a low growl to his left made him pause. That’s not the snared tiger. Slowly, Donovan lowered the rifle. He glanced at a dense thicket of reeds to his left.
A pair of yellow eyes stared back at him.
About J.T. Hall
J.T. Hall has been writing for many years under this name and others, and has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and online books. She earned her BA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, her Master’s in education from Argosy University, and works as an independent technical writer for state and federal programs. In her free time, she volunteers for the LGBT community and is active in the leather scene. She has a teenage daughter and a partner of over ten years. They live in sunny Arizona with three adorably cute dogs, three black cats, and a hamster who loves peanuts.
Connect with J.T.:
- Twitter: @JTHall7
To celebrate the release of Forest of Thorns and Claws, one lucky winner will receive a $15 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 20, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!