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The Mandrake Company #1

Mercenary Instinct

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Skulking around in the ruins on a planet swarming with treasure hunters, slavers, and bounty hunters isn’t good for one’s health. But Ankari Markovich needs a few archaeological samples for her latest business venture, a venture that might prove lucrative enough to move her family off the impoverished planet where she grew up. Unfortunately, she has no sooner collected her samples than she’s captured by a band of brawny mercenaries. The captain might be handsome, but he’s intent on turning her over to some finance lord who has, for reasons unknown, put a bounty on her head, a ridiculously large one at that. If she can’t figure out a way to escape before she’s delivered to the lord’s home world, she could be forced into a life of indentured servitude—or worse.

Captain Viktor Mandrake doesn’t usually take on piddling bounty hunting gigs, but when his intelligence officer informs him of a criminal on a nearby planet, he decides it wouldn’t hurt to take a shuttle down to collect the woman. But Ankari Markovich is trouble from the start, nearly eluding his elite forces, then fighting and tricking his people left and right. He finds himself admiring her spirit, but according to her warrant, she’s a criminal. The safest thing is to keep her in the brig and ignore her until she can be handed off to the man who wants her.

But the situation grows more complicated when other bounty hunters show up, wanting to claim Ankari for themselves. Thanks to this woman, Viktor’s ship is in danger, his crew members are going missing, and he’s fighting enemies he never asked for in a jungle in the middle of a hurricane. He’s either going to strangle Ankari… or fall in love. Either scenario could get him killed.

Mercenary Instinct is a full-length, stand-alone novel of 90,000 words. It is part of the “Mandrake Company” series of science fiction romance stories and is recommended for readers who enjoy space-based adventure (such as Firefly) and steamy love stories (in the style of Linnea Sinclair).

248 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 10, 2014

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Ruby Lionsdrake

28 books466 followers

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5 stars
733 (24%)
4 stars
1,147 (38%)
3 stars
801 (26%)
2 stars
215 (7%)
1 star
86 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 326 reviews
Profile Image for Mei.
1,879 reviews403 followers
May 14, 2015
Captain Grumpy... LOL

A really, really fun and action packed story!

Ankari, an enterprising girl, with her two friends/business associates, is captured by mercenaries after a bounty issued by a Finance Lord.

The leader of mercenaries is the hot grumpy captain, Victor.

As we came to expect from SF romance stories, Victor is attracted to Ankari. He’s a honorable man trying to remain honorable even in his new profession and he “rules” his crew with the same attitude.

Ankari is a very determinate to make her business a success and she doesn’t appreciate Viktor’s trying to detain her. She also doesn’t understand why the Finance Lord issued the bounty – she didn’t do anything wrong!
So she constantly tries to escape Victor in any way she can.

But Viktor is a very capable captain and she gets caught every single time, but with her escape plans she puts in danger the mercenaries each time. That was the fun part, because she’s very inventive with her escapes! LOL

Victor and Ankari, each fighting for their own goals, get to know each other better. And the attraction becomes more!

Viktor overcomes his grumpiness with Ankari and Ankari gets to know him better and view him as a man with an unexpected sense of humor and warmness.

I loved Viktor’s quirks: he never sits down except when piloting; he drinks strange tasting shakers because he doesn’t like to eat vegetables… it was really fun reading about them!

A very nice romance with the right amount of hotness and humor!
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,851 reviews1,490 followers
January 19, 2015
If you take Romance as the main genre and Sci-fi as a qualifier, you'll do okay with your expectations of this story. I had a bit of a cheat going in, as I already know I liked the author from a separate penname and thus had my expectations set more or less squarely. And I wasn't disappointed.

I liked Ankari pretty much immediately. She's determined, courageous, and capable and a good leader for her mismatched team. She's trying to turn an idea into a business and willing to take some risks along the way while she does. And I liked that her team all had different strengths and weaknesses and that the story highlighted the need and use of Ankari's unique skillset. Which means that I could sympathize with her immediately and she maintained my interest in the frame story with little effort.

I had a harder time with Viktor. I'm used to my sci-fi covert-ops leader/killers maintaining their hard exterior a bit longer, even (particularly?) in regards to interesting females they capture along the way. I liked him fine, but I had a hard time transitioning him to love interest. I suspect this is a quirk of the (sub)genre and I did get used to it. And once I did, boy howdy was he a lot of fun!

At any rate, this ended up a fine tale, well told and a lovely romance. Lionsdrake knows the audience expectations and she hits them very well, indeed. And not in any by-the-numbers way, either. The story fit the characters and the action was as fun as the romance.

A note about Steamy: I was relieved to find this folding right into the middle of my range. There are a couple explicit scenes of moderate length and a great deal of enthusiasm...
Profile Image for Melanie A..
1,029 reviews375 followers
February 7, 2019
3.5 STARS!
"Letting you go when there's such a sizable bounty on your head would be . . . problematic."
Lots of fun! If you like sci-fi adventure, you should check this one out. It made for some entertaining, easy reading - and best of all, Ruby Lionsdrake is a very decent writer.

It was maybe a little too long in parts, and with all the 'adventuring', the romance took a bit of a backseat, but overall a very decent read.
Profile Image for Mara.
2,467 reviews228 followers
December 9, 2017
Definitely a meh experience. A very thin plot, cardboard characters, evil mustache-twirling cartoonish villain, instalove.
Skimmed a few paragraphs.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,124 reviews261 followers
June 5, 2020
New series for a favorite author under a new name...Lindsay Buroker is now writing adult alien scifi fantasy under the name Ruby Lionsdrake. Come to find out I had already owned 2 of the books, so I decided to check them out and am loving this new series.

The Mandrake Company is a mercenary ship for hirer. In Mercenary Instinct, Captain Viktor Mandrake collects the bounty on Ankari Markovich and her fellow crewmates. But Viktor quickly discovers that the women in his care can't be wanted for the crimes they supposedly committed. With each escape attempt Ankari weasels her way deeper under Viktors skin.

Totally shocked on the bases of Ankari's research but what an original idea!!!

Fun, flirty and fantastic science fiction adventure, I was immediately absorbed into this new, and much steamer exploit.

Written by: Ruby Lionsdrake
Series: Mandrake Company
Sequence in Series: 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Genre: Scifi | Fantasy
Find this book on: AMAZON

Reviewed for: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Laura (Kyahgirl).
2,039 reviews143 followers
December 6, 2015
3.5/5; 4 stars; B+

This was a fun kind of space adventure with humour, romance and action. I enjoyed the characters and the plot. I am looking forward to reading more in the series.

Thanks to my GR friend Mei for the recommendation!
Profile Image for Sunny.
1,423 reviews
February 24, 2017
This book is sci-first light. No deep emotions, no deep mystery, no deep explanations, simplistic world-building. It is superficial which makes it difficult to care very much for these characters.
Profile Image for Coco.V.
46.3k reviews4 followers
Want to read
June 19, 2020
🎁 FREE on Amazon today (6/19/2020)! 🎁
Profile Image for Marlene.
2,812 reviews192 followers
January 2, 2015
Originally published at Reading Reality

Some of the reviews compare Mercenary Instinct to Firefly, and it's a pretty fair starting point. Possibly an alternate universe Firefly. It's not that Mal Reynolds couldn't end up as cynical and universe-weary as Victor Mandrake (he pretty much did) but that I can't imagine Mal creating or leading a successful mercenary company with 200+ people on its payroll. He wasn't that organized, nor did he want to be in charge of quite that much. (Zoe, on the other hand, possibly yes)

But Mal would certainly have pulled the same stunt that Viktor does - taking a bounty for someone who seems criminal, only to change his mind when he discovers that the supposed criminals are every bit as much victims of intergalactic politics and chicanery as he is.

Upon which change of heart, trouble comes hunting him and his. So yes, Firefly.

Back to the actual book in hand (or on ereader), Mercenary Instinct. This is a combination unlikely love story and poke in the eye at intergalactic mercantile empires wrapped up in a fun package.

Viktor Mandrake is the Captain/Commander/Leader of Mandrake's Company, a successful mercenary company with a fairly decent sized payroll and quite a bit of good space-faring equipment. He's also a deserter from the GalCom Special Forces. GalCom isn't a government or a planet, it's a corporation. A universe spanning corporation that operates as a government. It's also the entity that wiped out the entire population of Mandrake's home planet because they didn't want to join the company.

Only one other planet ever suffered the same fate, and for the same reason. GalCom also wiped Ankari Markovich's home planet of Spero off the face of the universe. No other planet failed to heed those heart-breaking examples. But it does give Viktor something in common with Marcovich, the woman he is supposed to turn over to one of the more secretive Lords of Commerce on brutal but rather flimsy charges.

Ankari Markovich is the owner of a small biotech firm that plans to use ancient alien gut-bugs (try to say that three times fast) to make people healthier through gut-bug treatments. (As they are formally called, microbiota are real and research on changing or fixing them through injections from people with healthy microbiota is currently ongoing in our 21st century, which makes this plot not as far-fetched as it first appears)

Lord Felgard creates a "Most Wanted" poster for a very nasty crime using very shaky, almost "photoshopped" evidence so that he can put a very hefty bounty on Ankari and her two partners, Jamie and Lauren. All women in their early to mid-20s who have never even heard of Lord Felgard.

Their capture, in fact, the wanted posters themselves, come as a total surprise to Ankari and company. So much of a surprise that Viktor Mandrake starts to question the purpose of this bounty he has hunted. When Felgard double-crosses him, Viktor is certain there is more to this story than appears, in spite of, or perhaps because of, Ankari's repeated escape attempts.

She may be trouble, but she isn't a cold blooded killer. So what is she and why does Felgard want her in such a huge, expensive hurry?

And why can't Viktor manage to resist letting her trouble all the way into his formerly regimented life?

Escape Rating B+: In spite of, or perhaps because of, its similarity to Firefly, Mercenary Instinct is a whole lot of fun. It has that same blend of space opera combined with rooting for the underdog that made Firefly so much fun.

In the science fiction side of this book's roots, we have two themes that make for an interesting "man and woman against the evil corporation" plot work. The idea of an intergalactic corporation becoming the effective government is unfortunately all too easy to believe. After all, corporations now have rights to free speech in the U.S. Also, considering the current mess between Sony and North Korea, we have a corporation that either hacked, was hacked, and censored or was censored or refused to bow to censorship in the face of an actual government. The future where corporations are as big and powerful as countries may already be here.

And we've already talked about the gut-bugs. As funny as they sound, there's real science hiding in those microbiota.

Markovich and her friends make an interesting bunch of would-be entrepreneurs. Lauren is the scientist who focuses on her work to the exclusion of everything else, including self-preservation. Jamie is a self-taught pilot and engineer desperate to escape her home planet, and Ankari is the brains and guts of the outfit. She's the one who keeps going when it would be logical to stop trying. She rescues herself, over and over.

The double-cross by Felgard creates a dramatic tension as every mercenary company in the area swoops in to attempt to re-kidnap Ankari and her friends from Mandrake. The more odds that are stacked against them, the closer that Ankari and Viktor become.

I'll confess to not being 100% sold on their romance. While it made sense that they banded together in the face of so much opposition and danger, it smacked a bit too much of insta-love to sell me. I could see insta-lust in this situation but not true love. YMMV.

Felgard was a bit of a cookie-cutter villain, if the cookies were made out of man-eating plants. He's a bit bwahaha at the end, and seemed to exist mostly to create the situation rather than have real motives of his own.

But I still had a ball with this book, and have the entire series so far on my iPad waiting for the next time I need a treat. Trial and Temptation is already tempting me.
Profile Image for Laz the Sailor.
1,445 reviews74 followers
January 27, 2019
This was a fun adventure where a group of feisty woman intersect with some guns-for-hire with unexpected results. There was a good amount of snark, and a fair bit of smexy scenes too (could have been hotter). The intrigue and fighting scenes were above average, and no one did anything stupid - except the bad guy, he was a bit lame.

This is the first in a series from an author I enjoy, so I'll be reading the next one.
Profile Image for Lyndi W..
2,026 reviews190 followers
July 22, 2019
A fun read, but a whole lot of build up for a kinda meh ending.
Profile Image for Hannah.
651 reviews51 followers
June 27, 2015
This is actually a fun, frothy sci-fi romance, but I would have enjoyed it far more if I hadn't read just about every single thing Ruby Lionsdrake had written under her other name, Lindsay Buroker. I'm not sure whether it's fair to the book or not, since the bulk of my criticisms have to do with its similarities to the author's other works under a different name, but I simply can't avoid the comparisons.

The fact that I've loved almost everything Lindsay Buroker had written is why I tried this despite sci-fi romance/space opera being a genre I usually avoid. Her trademarks are here - and therein lies the problem. Ankari is a strong heroine with a sense of humour and a talent for persuasion, running her own self-recruited team only to find that she has a bounty on her head (she's basically , but with considerably less character). She has an interest in scientific research and works in the field (much like ). The hero, Captain Viktor Mandrake, is a stoic mercenary who has a few question marks over his relative morality (in essense, a more socially-functional, less dangerous version of ). All the action in this book, from the heroine being captured due to a bounty, plotting escape and dodging captors left and right with the goal of clearing her name - all these elements are central to the above-mentioned books under the Buroker name as well. It was difficult to enjoy Mercenary Instinct as its own story and as something that's supposed to be a bit different - an expectation based on the author's explanation that it's why she chose to use a pen name - when it's actually composed of bits and pieces of her other books. Watered down bits and pieces, as well, since the space of one novel hardly did justice to the elements that took time to develop and grow in the other series.

That aside, Mercenary Instinct is enjoyable as a light romance novel in sci-fi clothing. Don't expect serious depth to the characters, plot or world-building, but Ankari is likeable, there's plenty of humour and it's easy to just get swept along for the ride. I'll be the first to admit that disappointment over a favourite author producing same-same under a different pen name has heavily coloured my reading experience, so I'm sure other readers who're less familiar with the author's work would likely enjoy this more.
Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,159 followers
March 24, 2019
This was the inaugural pick for the Smart Podcast Trashy Books book club. Let's hope the next selection is a better fit for me. Lots of plot holes, poor character development, and the world-building needed more development. Power dynamics desperately needed to be addressed and never were. And I could have done without the sexism and gender stereotypes. I ended up doing a lot of skimming because it either didn't make sense or it wasn't holding my attention. If you're able to completely suspend disbelief, you might be able to think of this as a fun, silly read but there's much, much better sci-fi romance options out there.

Profile Image for Gwynn White.
Author 23 books237 followers
February 8, 2015
This was a fun read and I did enjoy it, but I found a few too many similarities between Akarai and Mandrake and some of the author's other characters written under her other pen name. Also, some of the settings and the action seemed familiar. I guess when one has devoured every other book an author has ever written that it is inevitable that there will be some crossover of plots. I will read the rest of the series.
Profile Image for LoveYourShelf (LAB☺).
521 reviews30 followers
March 18, 2015
This was probably the best free book I've ever downloaded. I don't read a lot of scifi but not for any real reason other than I don't hear of too many. I loved the H in this book. Viktor was a complete badass. The h, Ankari, was full of surprises and definitely wasn't a weakling waiting to be rescued. I plan on continuing with this series.
Profile Image for Shanna Matheo.
355 reviews32 followers
July 11, 2017
Mehh... Didn't really dig it. Although the characters al seemed to have complicated back stories, they themselves seemed one dimensional.
Profile Image for Spuffed.
562 reviews55 followers
July 8, 2015
Wow! This book is action packed! I actually had to put it down at about the 70% mark because it was getting too intense for me and I needed a mindless historical romance for a bit. Two weeks later, I remembered that I needed to finish it and I was on the edge of my seat for the remainder of the book. I was afraid of a cliffhanger but they did wrap things up pretty quickly after another big, intense action scene.

Quick Rundown: In a future where other planets are now inhabited and Earth no longer exists, Kick Ass Chick who has hustled her whole life to get away from the poverty of her youth has gathered two other ladies to create a company that will harvest ancient alien shit (literally) into a microbiotic treatment for those many who have weak immune systems due to all kinds of current day health problems. All three get picked up by bounty hunters and learn that a exorbitant amount of money is on their heads to be delivered to a super rich asshole for reasons unknown to them. Dude runs his own mercenary outfit and trouble begins when his group is ambushed many times by other mercenaries in order to steal the prisoners for reward money. Heavy action is the name of the game in this book and some connections are made by Chick and Dude (or course).

Characterization: Really impressed. With all the action going on in this book, the author still managed to show us who the characters were as the book progressed. There was no character info dump in this book. It all intertwined together with the plot. The Chick was a bad ass and was always thinking ahead and not making dumb girl decisions. She was proactive and sneaky along with some great fighting skills. Dude was more of a mystery as he wasn't the type of person to share his feelings and I didn't find him lacking because of that. That's just who he is. Secondary characters were just fine. The Big Bad's motivation is shown at the very end and while the action scenes surrounding that reveal were great, the actual reason was a bit of a let down. There was not a whole lot of romance in this book. There was a decent amount of really good sexual tension and I think only two sex scenes, the later of which was very abrupt so that was a bit disappointing as I love my smut:)

Plot/Writing: The basic plot was nothing new, I suppose but there was something about it that made this book different. It had layers and again, a ton of exciting action scenes. The writing was great. Everything made sense and despite all the troubles in the book the characters had to go through, there was only one detail in the end of the book that was over the top for me. But, this author ended up making that detail worth it in the end.

Overall: I do wish there was a bit more romance and smuttyness in the book but I can't fault the book for that. It was a really great read and I thank Celestine for recommending it to me! I will certainly be reading more books from this author!
Profile Image for Andre Dias.
14 reviews7 followers
January 21, 2016
It was a fun surprise, how much I have enjoyed this book. It was fun, packed with real-life like characters, well defined from the get-go coupled with an interesting plot.
Ankari and the rest of the group are truly interesting characters and the addition of the Mandrake Company crew just make it all more remarkable.

But it does come with some caveats:
- I felt like the way they dealt with the antagonist, albeit spectacular and with a bit of a twist, was slightly rushed. I admit that this is due to my own expectations, and not any fault of the book per se, but I expected it to last towards the rest of the books in the series.
- the relationship developed too rapidly, instead of being s slow burn. I understand why the author did it like she did, but I just felt it too rush.

Even so, it was a very good book and I'm intrigued by the rest.
552 reviews6 followers
January 23, 2015
Interesting premise, problems too easily resolved

I liked the setup - three women from a microbiology startup falsely accused and grabbed by bounty hunter, and the fact that the hero and main heroine were both from doomed planets. Most everything after that was too easy - her attraction to him, the constant escapes by the three women, the mercenaries agreeing to go after the evil overlord type who offered their bounty, and the destruction of said overlord. No big problems, no real cost, only two people even get wounded in the final assault: all too formulaic and much too easily accomplished.
Profile Image for Vero.
1,414 reviews9 followers
July 11, 2015
This had everything. It was well written, had a likable heroine, an absolutely great hero, a solid story, atmosphere, interesting and funny side characters, romance, action and humor.
What I especially loved: the development of the romance part. This was so well done!
It had some attraction, but the progress of this was shown in increments - no stupid misunderstandings, no insta-something. 
And it made me smile - it had that kind of dry sense of humor that I love most.
I am very happy right now, because I saw, that there are 4 more books in this series!
Profile Image for Vleigh.
376 reviews38 followers
August 10, 2020
3.5 stars. This was a space opera about a woman trying to start up her own business and running into a few setbacks which included mercenaries and bad guys. The adventure kept me interested as well as some humor and a couple scenes of romance. The writing had a few minor issues with repetitive words and phrases but everything else was great. I plan on reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Summer.
1,350 reviews246 followers
July 7, 2016
I'd seen quite a few good reviews of this and I'm a big fan of sci-fi with a strong romance angle. This however did not work for me. I didn't really like the characters and I found myself putting it down and not really interested in picking it up again.
Profile Image for kels .
392 reviews3 followers
August 1, 2017
Again, I can't help but wish that Goodreads allowed for 1/2 *s. This wasn't quite a 3 for me, but it didn't quite make a 4 either.

I thought the balance between sci-fi action and romance was decent, and I enjoyed how realistically the majority of the characters behaved. I liked that it didn't *entirely* feel like instalove. For the most part, the action plot was intriguing, and I was pretty curious about what was up. Towards the end though, it felt like it switched gears from mostly-serious with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour sci-fi romance to wtf weirdly-over-the-top sci-fi romance. It kind of threw me out of the story and I ended up skimming through most of the approaching climax.

Profile Image for Carrie.
1,607 reviews69 followers
August 13, 2020
Mercenary Instinct was entertaining, but not all I'd hoped it would be. Parts of the plot felt far fetched and didn't always make sense to me. The overall plot wasn't bad, and parts of the book were very exciting, but it still somehow lacked the "wow" factor.

That said, there are relatively few scifi-rom books out there and this had enough potential to interest me in the second book of the series.
Profile Image for Emmy.
896 reviews147 followers
January 8, 2021
This wasn't bad at all and was all geared up to be pretty good, but the development of Ankari and Viktor's relationship was a little insta-y and pretty rushed, and the fact that they were busy getting busy while in a dangerous situation and possibly under attack just really didn't work for me. Viktor is supposed to be this super special black ops guy. He should know better. After that just totally took me out of things.
Profile Image for MC ❤ (A Persnickety Peruser) .
1,136 reviews17 followers
August 25, 2021
This was more sci-fi than romance. (No declarations of love, a few short sex scenes). Lots of technical verbiage, that made it difficult to read. I found myself lightly skimming early on, increasing to major skimming the more I continued. I found most of it uninteresting, and finally gave up at 32% of the way in. The writing was okay, it was the story that wasn't for me.

Recommended for those who are more into science fiction, then they are romance.

Profile Image for Eve.
504 reviews14 followers
September 21, 2021
This was a nice, easy read. I liked our main characters, Viktor was a sexy lil grump and Ankari was a crazy lil schemer. The actual plot was nice enough, nothing too complicated. The final chapter was a bit of a disappointment, the baddies motivations just seemed so anti climactic compared to the rest of his actions throughout the book. Oh well.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 326 reviews

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