So many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainlySo many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainly see why fans enjoy these so much. I thought the premise was very creative and unique, something I've never seen in a romance novel before. I kept thinking as I read it that this is the stuff that great sci-fi movies are made of. It definitely held my attention, but I found myself wishing the author would tell me more about the Breeds and their back-stories. I guess maybe that will be covered more in the sequels. Even though I really liked the ideas that the plot was built upon, I had mixed feelings about some other aspects. This was only my second read of an erotic novel, the first having been fairly tame by comparison, and although I went into it with my eyes wide open as to the content and wasn't shocked by anything I read, I think I was still caught off guard a bit by the raw, edgy intensity in the sex scenes. There didn't seem to be much tenderness or what I would call heart-stopping romance to be found, and when some of these types of emotions started to surface, it seemed all too brief. That said though, I wasn't offended by anything I read and did not find anything out of context for the storyline. It was really just more a matter of personal preference.
I thought that Callan and Merinus were interesting characters, but I can't say that I really related to either one. I think they were both just a little too alpha for my taste. I felt like these two spent way to much time trying to dominate each other and not enough time just trying to work together to find solutions to the dangerous situation they were in. I like my alpha males, but they also have to have a gentler side (like the brothers of the BDB). Callan just seemed to be on testosterone overload almost all the time. Merinus was also too stubborn and dominant for me. In my opinion her character just wasn't fully fleshed out. I felt like I knew and understood Callan pretty well, but I realized after finishing the book that I never knew much anything of a personal nature about Merinus. I also had a hard time buying into their falling in love. One minute they were lusting after each other like two animals in heat (which they basically were) and the next she was declaring her love out of the blue with him following not long after. This just didn't work well for me. In spite of my criticisms though, I honestly think that Lora Leigh is a good writer, although the editing on the book could have used a little more work. The intriguing cast of secondary characters and the open-ended epilogue have peaked my interest suffieciently to make me want to continue the series to see where this riveting story leads.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive....more
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's boReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's books. While I had liked the idea behind the Breeds series, Tempting the Beast, the first book, had failed to fully resonate with me. The Man Within now has me hooked on the series and wanting to know more. It continues the fascinating story of a group of humans who were cruelly treated as science experiments when their DNA was mixed with that of various predatory animals in an attempt to create the perfect soldier. No longer in hiding, the Breeds are now known to the public and living in their own compound, but are still in grave danger from their creators and extremist groups. This whole overarching sci-fi/suspense plot and continuing storyline has really drawn me into the Breeds world. I think the main reason I liked The Man Within better than Tempting the Beast was the relationship of the hero and heroine. Unlike it's predecessor, which had an immediate “meeting and mating,” Taber and Roni had known and been in love with each other for years, ever since she was a little girl. Taber was very protective of Roni throughout those years too which I thought added a nice touch. Another thing I enjoyed more was the love scenes, which for the most part exhibited the tenderness and loving feelings which I had felt were missing from Tempting the Beast. I also appreciated that the misunderstanding that had kept Taber and Roni apart for three years did not drag out for the entire book, but was resolved about halfway through.
Taber and Roni themselves also made the story more enjoyable for me, as I found them to be more relatable characters. I remember liking Taber as a secondary character in Tempting the Beast, and he definitely did not disappoint me in his own story. Because of his animal DNA, Taber still had dominating alpha tendencies, but I thought he had a very gentle, loving and even vulnerable side as well. I love that Taber was so protective of Roni even before he marked her as his mate, and wish that those years had been explored in a bit more depth. Overall, he was just a very yummy hero, in my opinion. I thought Roni was pretty likable too, as a young woman whose childhood had been extremely difficult, having lost her mother at a young age, and grown up with a father who was more interested in where his next con and his next bottle were coming from than his little girl. It was nice to know that Roni had found someone like Taber to watch over her during those years. Roni did annoy me a bit with her stubbornness, especially when it led to arguments or she was having trouble trusting Taber's judgment. She liked to say that it was Taber who was the stubborn one, but in my opinion, her's outweighed his by quite a bit. Roni did have a softer side though, and it was when she was letting it show through that I liked her the most. I thought she was at her best when she was being loving, giving and nurturing toward Taber. I also liked that in spite of her instinct to fight any male dominance in her life, that most of the time she was fairly willing to surrender herself to him. All in all I thought they were well-matched and had good chemistry in their relationship.
Even though I really liked The Man Within, and it has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf, there were a few things I thought could have been better. I thought the editing in this book was better than in Tempting the Beast, but I found that it still had several typos and one glaring age discrepancy. There wasn't a lot of background information given on Taber other than the standard stuff that all the Breeds seem to have gone through in the lab. At one point Dawn said that Taber deserved happiness more than any of them, which led me to believe that there might be some big reveal about his past, but that never materialized. I also would have liked it if Dayan had been given more solid motives for his actions, which readers are still learning about even from beyond the grave. Right now, I just feel like that part of the story is a bit fuzzy and hope that it will be explored in more depth in future installments. I admit that I enjoy alpha males who occasionally use statements like, “You're mine” toward the heroine, but once or twice in one story is sufficient. I thought having Taber say it nearly every time they made love, and then some, was a little too overwhelming. I did enjoy that Roni returned the sentiment in one love scene, and found it to be a really fun reversal. As I mentioned earlier a bit less arguing would have been nice too, but at least Taber seemed to be more amused and aroused by Roni's obstinacy than anything else. Also, Taber and Roni's first love scene was a bit rough for my taste, leaving me with concerns that it was going to be that way throughout the entire story, but I was impressed when Taber immediately showed regrets for initially loosing control and made up for it by being generally more patient and restrained.
The Man Within is book #2 in the Breeds series and has a strong and varied secondary character palette. Several characters who were first introduced in book #1, Tempting the Beast, once again made appearances. Readers get to see Callan and Merinus again, not long after the ending of their own story. There are also quick visits from Tanner, a Bengal Breed, who becomes the hero of book #9, Tanner's Scheme, and Dawn, a cougar Breed, who becomes the heroine of book #14, Dawn's Awakening. Kane, Merinus's brother, and Sherra, a snow leopard Breed, who have a previous history together are also seen, and by the epilogue of this book, more of Sherra's secrets are revealed, leaving me very anxious to read their story, which is book #4, Kiss of Heat. Readers are also introduced to Mercury, a lion Breed, who becomes the hero of book #16, Mercury's War, which is due to be released in October, as well as a brief introduction to Seth who will become Dawn's mate in her story. There are currently a total of 15 novels and short stories in the Breeds series with more to come. According to Lora Leigh's website, she wrote the Breeds series out of order chronologically and it has been printed by two different publishers, making the ordering of the books confusing to some readers. For the proper order in which the books should be read, check out Ms. Leigh's website. The Man Within left a few rather open-ended threads with some mystery still shrouding a couple of Roni's long-lost relatives and who was trying to infiltrate the Breed compound, as well as the reveal of Sherra's past, which really make me look forward to continuing this engaging and creative series soon.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language which may offend some readers and a couple of scenes of strong violence. The sexual content is frequent and sometimes intense, containing some erotic elements, but did not, in my opinion, contain anything particularly kinky....more
Some readers seem to think that a good storyline and good erotic content are mutually exclusive, and while, unfortunately, this is often the case, I,Some readers seem to think that a good storyline and good erotic content are mutually exclusive, and while, unfortunately, this is often the case, I, for one, do not automatically think that my brain needs to be checked at the door when I'm in the mood for a really hot, steamy romance. But alas, perhaps I'm expecting too much. The plot of Elizabeth's Wolf felt like it was built up around the scorching love scenes, and when all was said and done, I was left with more questions than answers both about the Breeds and about the individual story contained within this book. Ms. Leigh's explanations for some of the things that happen are at best, weak plot devices, and at worst confusing and convoluted. One example of a weak and convoluted plot device, in my opinion, was the Breed registration process for minors. When looked at logically, it made little sense in and of itself, much less as a protection measure for Breed minors. In reality, it was simply a way for the author to “legally” make Dash, Cassie's daddy. Also, as hard as I tried, I couldn't quite figure out how Grange, a drug-dealing pervert, became involved in Breed experimentation except that he coincidentally had connections with a Breed scientist and it was some sort of power play. Another thing that didn't make much sense to me was Elizabeth's need to fight Grange herself. Initially, she was practically begging to stay with Cassie, but Dash wouldn't allow it, giving her all sorts of confusing reasons why she couldn't. Then Dash later gives her an out because of his concern for her safety (though why he wasn't worried about that from the start, I don't know), but she refused to take it. I realize that she felt some desire to be a part of taking down a bad guy who had ruined her life and threatened her little girl, and Dash wanted to know that she could handle the danger and stress of being his mate, but it all just seemed like thinly veiled excuses for putting Elizabeth in the thick of things. Don't even get me started on the realism of Elizabeth being able to train for such a mission in just a few weeks. No matter how tough she was or how intensive the training, Elizabeth likely still would have been more of a liability than an asset. Another thing that bugged me was all the new characters coming out of the woodwork to help Dash and Elizabeth go after Grange. I understood that the author was trying to demonstrate that Dash, a solitary man who flatly refused to acknowledge he had any friends, really did, but I thought that it could have been done better and the characters given more backstory and connections. Overall, for plot and execution, I give Ms. Leigh a C.
Now that all my criticisms are out of the way, I have to say that in spite of the plot weaknesses, I still actually enjoyed this story. Why you ask? Well, a couple of reasons. For one, this lady sure knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that had me drooling, panting, sweating and begging for more, which I suppose is a main point of a good erotic story. In fact, sometimes they would turn my brain to mush until I was thinking, “Ummm, what was it I was having issues with again?” For the most part all these scenes, beginning with the sexual tension in the early chapters, were extremely sexy and well-written. Admittedly, there were a couple of times that Dash could have toned down his need to exert his masculinity, in particular, the final scene where he “punishes” Elizabeth for disobeying orders, but overall, in spite of their intensity, the love scenes exhibited enough tenderness and feeling to satisfy me. The other thing that worked really well for me was the concept driving the story. From the start, I've been very engaged by the idea of the Breeds and can't seem to get enough of them. I also enjoyed the notion of Dash and Elizabeth falling in love through the letters he exchanged with her daughter, Cassie, and how those letters gave him a reason to live. There is just something very romantic about two people falling for each other through the written word alone. Of course, I know that Dash's wolf DNA played a part too, but it was still a great way to start a story in my opinion. So, for imagination, creativity, and her ability to sear my brain with mental pictures of extreme hotness, I give Ms. Leigh an A.
I think that the one last thing that really cinched my liking of the book were Dash and Elizabeth. It seems that Lora Leigh has a tendency to write cookie cutter heroes and heroines. Her men tend to be extreme dominating alphas, and her women are usually spitfires who give 'em hell. The only thing that seems to vary is the intensity of the characters. Dash and Elizabeth were no exception to this rule, but they were toned down enough for me to like them both pretty well. Although he wasn't quite as vulnerable as I like my heroes to be, Dash did exhibit some classic tortured hero characteristics. He was a solitary man who had basically been on his own since he was ten, and rarely allows himself to get close to anyone. Experience had taught him some hard lessons in loss and betrayal, until the letters of a little girl brighten his existence. After that, I loved how he became singularly focused on rescuing this child and her mother, both of whom his wolf senses told him, were in grave danger. I also liked that in spite of his intense instinct to dominate, Dash did manage to tamp down that need sometimes, and behave in a more gentle, civilized way, and his softer side always showed where Cassie was concerned. Elizabeth was a very smart and strong woman to have kept herself and Cassie alive while constantly on the run from the villain for two years. I liked her complexity in the early parts of the book, her wariness over allowing a man she doesn't really know and isn't quite sure she can trust to take over the job of protector, but her weariness in having fought for so long and the vulnerabilities associated with that. I liked that she was willing to let Dash take the reins, but that she wanted to know what was going on too. She also had a lot of mettle to stand up to Dash when his harsher side came out, and I couldn't help but like the way she sometimes teased, taunted and tried to get the upper hand. There were times that I felt like I was being jerked back and forth between this couple's fierce moments and their more tender ones, but overall it wasn't too bad. In spite of their occasional arguments, I still felt like they were a good match.
The secondary characters were a mixed bag. Cassie was really the only supporting player who had much influence on the story. She was a cute kid, and while I usually enjoy precocious children in my romances, I thought that her words didn't always reflect her mere eight years. I know that she was supposed to be very intelligent for her age, but even super-smart kids should still act and speak in an age-appropriate way. Her blatant manipulations sort of rubbed me the wrong way too, so I never completely warmed up to her. Mostly though, she was just a good kid in a extraordinarily bad situation. In my opinion, the villain, Grange, was underdeveloped and didn't have enough bite. He was really little more than a vague, far-off threat until the very end of the book, and even then was pretty benign. There were also plenty of Breed sightings. The five main feline Breeds, Callan, Taber, Tanner, Dawn and Sherra, as well as Mercury, all put in appearances, though Taber and Tanner had no dialog. Callan is the hero of book #1, Tempting the Beast; Taber is the hero of book #2, The Man Within; and Sherra is the heroine of book #4, Kiss of Heat. Her hero, Kane Tyler, also put in his third appearance in Elizabeth's Wolf. Tanner, Dawn and Mercury all helm books later in the series. Additionally there was a mention of Aiden, Faith and Jacob, all wolf Breeds who eventually get their own books. Elizabeth's Wolf also has a wide variety of Dash's “friends” who pop up here and there, at least one of whom is quite colorful, but for the most part, they didn't play particularly big roles.
In the end, the plot holes in Elizabeth's Wolf may have had the logical part of my brain screaming in frustration, but the mindless sex scenes definitely satisfied some baser instinct, “brain candy” as I've seen other readers call it. There was also just a dash (no pun intended) of a few elements that I really like to give it some flavor, and keep me reading and eagerly coming back each time I had to put it down. As with the first two books in the Breeds series, the editing could have used more spit and polish. There were quite a few repetitive words and phrases (lots of sighing, shrugging and head shaking going on), poor word choices, typos and minor inconsistencies, but I was entertained enough to overlook most of these too and just enjoy the story. Three books into the series, I'm not entirely certain that all my questions and curiosities about the Breeds are ever going to be answered to my satisfaction, but I'll certainly have fun trying to find out. Elizabeth's Wolf is book #3 in the Breeds series. There are currently a total of 18 novels and short stories in the series. The recommended reading order can be found on Lora Leigh's website.
Note: This book contains a couple of acts of violence, as well as extremely explicit language and sexual situations including some BDSM (biting, spanking, mild restraint, domination/submission) and anal sex, all of which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, oneReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, one has to leave their brain at the door and not think about the plots too much. Unfortunately, being the cerebral person that I am, that can be very difficult, and I end up finding annoying discrepancies and worse yet, huge plot holes. The author gave just enough backstory on Kane and Sherra in the two previous Feline Breeds books, Tempting the Beast and The Man Within, to really whet my appetite for more. I desperately wanted to know exactly how it was that Kane and Sherra met while she was in the lab, and why she was able to accept him as her lover (and mate) after the traumatic experience of numerous rapes. I also wanted to know how it was that Kane escaped and why he wasn't able to take Sherra with him when he did, but alas, my questions were not to be answered by reading Kiss of Heat. In fact, I didn't really learn anything new about Kane and Sherra that hadn't already been told in the previous novels. I even wondered if I was forgetting some details and went back to skim those two books to no avail, so I guess I was meant to simply accept their relationship for what it was and leave it at that, which as I've already mentioned, is easier said than done. For some reason, Lora Leigh decided to begin Kiss of Heat with a prologue that was basically a re-written and expanded version of a scene straight out of Tempting the Beast when I thought it would have been more effective to take readers back even further to Kane and Sherra's meeting in the lab.
Even though, I badly wanted more character development for Kane and Sherra, they were still fairly likable characters. I can't say that I had been drawn to Kane very much in the previous books, because he was portrayed as an extreme alpha who was every bit as dominant as some of the Breed men, and he started this book with that same intense personality. At first, he was still a bit too much for me to take, but as the story progressed, he slowly started to lighten up. When he showed some vulnerability over Sherra's inability to open her heart to him again, and then at the end, when he was literally brought to his knees by his love for her, I couldn't help but like him to some extent. I deeply sympathized with Sherra over the torture she experienced in the Breed laboratories years ago (although exactly how many years ago is highly in question as it was seven in Tempting the Beast and eleven in Kiss of Heat). I understood why she initially fought her desire for Kane even though she was in the throes of a painful mating heat. She was simply trying to protect her heart from being broken again and was also trying to protect Kane since no one knew how a man would react to the Breed mating hormone. Still, I felt that Ms. Leigh could have expressed the emotional impact on both of these characters a little more deeply. As written, I felt like she was telling more than showing, so I never fully connected with Kane and Sherra in the way I had hoped.
Although I realize it's a Lora Leigh trademark, the fact that Kane and Sherra spent a lot of time sniping at and arguing with each other didn't help matters for me, and it wasn't just the hero and heroine who were engaging in this type of behavior either. Nearly everyone in the book, even the women, seemed constantly angry, with someone grunting, growling, yelling, snarling or participating in general alpha posturing every couple of paragraphs. I could definitely see how someone could get completely smashed if they played a drinking game while reading this book, and quite frankly it might have been more enjoyable that way.;-) I also couldn't help but roll my eyes at the idea of the hero walking around aroused nearly 24/7. I know it was the mating hormone causing it, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how with him being a normal human male, this would constitute a major medical issue. Not to mention, he didn't seem all that concerned about hiding it either. The happy little event at the end was just a bit too easy and convenient for my taste too.
With Kiss of Heat being primarily about Sherra going through the mating heat and trying to come to terms with Kane being back in her life and her permanent mate, lots of steamy love scenes were definitely expected and in that respect, I wasn't disappointed. Lora Leigh certainly knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that are sure to leave the reader in need of a cold shower or ready to “attack” their own mate, and this book was no exception. These parts helped to make the story more enjoyable and were a little sweet treat for my mind. However, with the previous books in the series, the red hot lovin' turned my brain sufficiently mushy enough to almost forget some of the other story weaknesses, but in this case, I think there were a few too many deficiencies for mere steam to overcome. I just found myself thinking about all missing pieces and questions I had that weren't being answered, rather than enjoying the heat.
Time line wise, Kiss of Heat takes place immediately following The Man Within, and simultaneously with the latter part of Elizabeth's Wolf. As such, the Breeds are still fighting against threats and attacks from outsiders at their compound and Cassie, the little Wolf Breed girl from Elizabeth's Wolf, is involved in the story. She is pretty much the same as before, but I have to say that I'm still slightly off-put by her occasionally manipulative nature. Callan and Merinus (Tempting the Beast) and Taber and Roni (The Man Within) also play significant roles, as do some of the characters who will get their own books in the future: Tanner (Tanner's Scheme), Mercury (Mercury's War), Cabal (Bengal's Heart), and Jonas (Lion's Heat). The latter two were introduced in this book, and Dawn and Seth (Dawn's Awakening) had their first scenes together. I'm intrigued by this pairing, but considering that Dawn experienced something similar to, if not worse than Sherra did in the labs, I felt like Seth's overtly sexual overtures toward Dawn were a little bit much. Still, I've heard that their book is one of the best in the series, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading it and hope that it has better character and plot development than Kiss of Heat did.
In spite of my frustrations with it, Kiss of Heat was a worthwhile read, but it left me with a half-full feeling, like the whole story simply wasn't told. Anyone who can shut their brain off long enough to overlook that will probably enjoy it much more than I did. Even though this was probably my least favorite book in the Breed series that I've read to date, I'm sure I'll continue on. The whole Breed concept is an intriguing, albeit rather underdeveloped one at this point, but if nothing else, I'll know that there'll be some “hot sex” to console me in the event of a disappointing plot.
Note: For the most part, the sexual content reads much like a super-steamy mainstream romance, but there is one brief moment of anal play with fingers. There is also a scene in which two characters (not the hero or heroine) are caught in the aftermath of a menage a trois....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Soul Deep may not be a general fan favorite in The Breeds series, but it certainly ended up being one of my favoriReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Soul Deep may not be a general fan favorite in The Breeds series, but it certainly ended up being one of my favorite books so far. In a series that has generally been riddled with plot holes, this character driven story was a welcome change of pace. The editing was also better than in previous books, primarily consisting of just typos with only one continuity error that I found, which made for a much more pleasant reading experience. There may not have been as much action or overall advancement of The Breeds story arc, but I really enjoyed getting to know Kiowa and Amanda.
Kiowa was a very tortured and lonely hero, perhaps even more so than any of the other Breed males to date. The felines at least had each other, and Dash, although something of a loner too, had found a place for himself in the military and had some friends. Kiowa is also a Coyote, the most reviled Breed species, because they were bred to be the jailors and tormentors of the other Breeds. He didn't grow up in the labs which in some ways was a blessing, but he was still treated with contempt by a grandfather who hated him and basically left him to fend for himself in an isolated mountain cabin. Kiowa has never known the love of family or any human being for that matter, but he grew up longing to experience those things. Constant disappointment trained him to bury those dreams deep inside, right alongside the pain of rejection, so he can seem a little cold and emotionless at times. However, I always saw through the stoic facade to the hurt little boy inside, and viewed him as more of the quiet, brooding type. Kiowa is definitely an alpha (does Lora Leigh ever write anything else?;-)), but a bit less intense than most of her other heroes I've read so far. Even in his more dominating moments, he seemed to have a tender, gentle side that I loved, and he was even willing to let Amanda go when he thought that was what she wanted. I even liked that Amanda didn't think of Kiowa as particularly handsome, much less gorgeous. Average looking romance heroes are hard to find. While I realize this might be off-putting to some readers, I found it to be a refreshing change. Overall, Kiowa was a surprisingly well-developed character to be found in a Lora Leigh novel, especially one this short.
Amanda is the president's daughter and a teacher who of course, loves kids. She is a kind, considerate woman who gets swept up and unexpectedly thrown into a situation that is totally foreign to her. Although she knows about the Breeds, she certainly didn't think she'd ever be mated to one, much less have to suffer through an excruciating mating heat. Even though Amanda is a virgin, she's always known through reading and personal experimentation that she has some “kinks,” but in spite of Kiowa being the embodiment of all her sexual fantasies, she is understandably upset about having her plans for the future disrupted. Everything happens so quickly that Amanda also has a lot of doubts about whether her feelings for Kiowa are real or just fueled by lust. I liked that she too was not as intense as Lora Leigh's typical heroines, but she did still have her moments. If I had one quibble with Amanda, it would be her lack of intuitiveness about Kiowa's feelings. For someone who was so nurturing toward others, I thought she could have tried a little harder to get Kiowa to open up to her about the past and what was bothering him. Instead she kind of went off half-cocked, first trying to run away from him in what I would call a TSTL moment and then just simply made threats, which I think only served to make him feel more unworthy. In spite of that, she was a pretty good heroine who did eventually come around, and she was brave to go through the terrible pain of the tests for the betterment of all Breeds. I just wish she had been a little more understanding.
As a couple, I thought that Kiowa and Amanda worked well together. Usually not being a fan of instant meeting and mating, I was rather surprised to feel some pretty deep emotions emanating from the pages of this novel very early on. One thing that might have helped those feeling along was less bickering between the hero and heroine (another Lora Leigh trademark, and something that in the large doses she tends to be fond of, isn't romantic to me at all). Although Kiowa and Amanda did argue, their first disagreements made perfect sense and didn't just feel like alpha posturing as it has in the other books of the series. I'll admit that it did begin to wear a little thin by the end and could have easily been solved with better communication, but overall it wasn't nearly as bothersome as it could have been. Their connection was also helped by some blistering hot love scenes (Lora Leigh's best trademark, IMHO;-)) which probably occupy at least half of the pages in the story. I was a little bothered by the beginning of their first encounter, because it initially felt a little like forced seduction. However, once I quickly realized that it was the biological mating frenzy taking over and neither one of them had much of a choice in the matter, I was totally on board. The only other thing that was a teensy bit troubling were some ropes and a knife. I like a little BDSM action in my erotic romances from time to time, but I couldn't stop thinking about rope burns, and the knife was just a little too scary, so not quite my cup of tea. Otherwise, the love scenes were totally scrumptious and for someone who was supposed to be cold and uncaring, I thought Kiowa was a very gentle, skillful, and considerate lover who set the pages on fire.
A large part of Soul Deep takes place inside the Breed compound, so there are Breed sightings galore and we get a few status updates on couples from previous books. Of course, Callan and Merinus (Tempting the Beast) are there, along with Taber (The Man Within), Kane (Kiss of Heat), Dawn (Dawn's Awakening), and Tanner (Tanner's Scheme). Mercury (Mercury's War) and Cabal (Bengal's Heart) are also mentioned but have no lines. Dash (Elizabeth's Wolf) is the one who recruited Kiowa to protect Amanda, so he plays a significant role, and his mate, Elizabeth, and daughter, Cassie have bit parts too. Also putting in another appearance is Dash's mysterious friend, Simon and one of his “girls,” Stephanie.
Soul Deep is book #5 in The Breeds series. Other than my few minor quibbles, I really enjoyed this story, and am pleased to say that it has earned a spot on my keeper shelf. After a less than satisfying experience with the last book, Soul Deep has helped to put the series back on track for me, and I now look forward, once again, to continuing with it soon.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including some BDSM elements (bondage, spanking, biting) and anal sex which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" After reading Hiding Space, the first in Linda Andrews' sci-fi series which follows intrepid space adventurers BroReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" After reading Hiding Space, the first in Linda Andrews' sci-fi series which follows intrepid space adventurers Brongill of Da'Hap and Alderina of Rutgers, I was very undecided about how to rate it. I had liked the characters and enjoyed certain aspects of the story, but I was a bit disappointed at the lack of romance and a little confused by the socio-political details of the world they inhabited. Now that I've read Animosity, I'm wondering if I missed something, because I thoroughly enjoyed this follow-up volume. Maybe it had something to do with the story taking place on the surface of Brongill's home planet, Terrill, rather than in outer space, or maybe it was the addition of some lively new characters, but whatever the reason, Animosity ended up being a really fun read. This book was packed with non-stop action and adventure that kept me turning the pages wondering how Brongill and Ally would bring peace to the warring factions and defeat their common enemy. Although the focus was still squarely on the sci-fi elements, I was pleased to find a little more romance this time. There is some sexual tension peppered throughout the narrative and one relatively mild love scene, but it was just enough to make me comfortable with actually categorizing this one as sci-fi romance. Also, the world building was much clearer this time. Either it was explained better or I was paying closer attention, but whichever was the case, I had no trouble understanding what was going on and who was who which only added to the enjoyment.
Animosity begins with Terrill being in a virtual post-apocalyptic state. Sentient machines have essentially taken over the planet and are trying to off the humanoid beings (this part reminded me in some ways of The Matrix or Battlestar Galactica). It is on this world that Brongill, Ally, and the crew of the Tyche crash land in the opening chapters (there's nothing like having your spaceship blow up right out of the gate;-)). From there, it's all about their survival and the search for Ally's children and the rest of Brongill's crew, but in order to accomplish that, they must face the now-hostile environment of Terrill. Along the way, Brongill and Ally discover that an ancient prophecy says they will unite the races and bring peace to the world, which of course, is a very heavy burden to bear, but they seem to be very much up to the task.
As with the first book, Animosity is more plot-driven than character-driven, but I felt like I got to know the characters a little better this time. Ally is tough as nails and cool under pressure, while still being kind and compassionate. She's also very intelligent, often managing to reason her way out of some very sticky situations. She's a great mom, always thinking of her kids, and a wonderful bondmate to Brongill. I thought it was very cool how she could control the nanites (amazing microscopic machines that can both build and destroy). Ally thinks of Brongill as a natural-born leader, but throughout the course of the story, she discovers that innate ability within herself too. Brongill is the same no-nonsense commander he's always been, a man who sees what needs to be done and just does it. I think being with Ally has softened him up a bit, as he shows a more loving side, but Ally and her safety are always his first priority. It was rather funny how Brongill could be a little cave-mannish in his protection of Ally, while she balks at him trying to treat her like fine china. She is definitely a strong, spirited woman, but in a good way.
There are lots of supporting characters who add energy to the story, and somehow, I managed to keep them all straight. They represented a wide variety of personalities and purposes which only added interest. I was quite fascinated by the fantastical creatures who inhabit Terrill, particularly the lynuktars, giant, flying, purple cats (I want one for a pet;-)). There are some pretty scary things too like toblets (shark-like fish), speek (pterodactyl-like birds), and of course the machines. Linda Andrews certainly has quite an imagination to come up with all these creatures. I was kind of sad that we don't get to see more of Ty. She only appears in the first few chapters, but it was interesting to see her in her natural element with her own kind.
As you can probably tell by now, I had a really good time reading Animosity. All the action and the twists and turns of the plot kept me on the edge of my seat, eager to learn what would happen next. I don't know if there will be any more adventurers for Brongill and Ally, but if there are, I would be very interested in reading them. But, perhaps I should just check out some of Linda Andrews' other titles and see if I can find some new, exciting characters to spend time with instead.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews KTL23 is a steamy e-book quickie told from the first-person point-of-view of a soldier who falls for the genetically engineereReviewed for THC Reviews KTL23 is a steamy e-book quickie told from the first-person point-of-view of a soldier who falls for the genetically engineered warrior that he's been guarding. When the man, who Horatio has dubbed Kelty, starts exhibiting symptoms of illness and the scientists believe the cure is sex, Horatio is more than willing to volunteer himself to “heal” Kelty. Thinking this was probably a one-time thing, Horatio wanted to keep some emotional distance between them, but I love how once he was in the same room with the hunky guy he'd been admiring from afar, he just couldn't help himself. Having been created in a lab and never ventured outside the walls of his room, Kelty, of course, was a virgin, and Horatio very patiently and lovingly tutored him in the art of sexual pleasure. Kelty was absolutely adorable in his innocence and eagerness to please, but much smarter than he at first seems, as the clever little plot twist at the end attests. There were no unbelievable declarations of love in this short story, but there is plenty of tender, loving interactions that were also quite spicy. I had no trouble believing that Horatio and Kelty were perfect for each other and would have a happy future together. KTL23 was my first read by Missy Welsh, but it was so fun and enjoyable, I'm looking forward to trying something else by her soon.
Note: This novella contains a scene of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I've been a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series for quite some time, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to get aroundReviewed for THC Reviews I've been a fan of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series for quite some time, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading The Host. I think part of it was simply that long books like this are somewhat daunting to a slow reader like me. However, I also think that perhaps subconsciously I wasn't sure I would like it as well and didn't want to ruin my relationship with this author I've come to love so much. Well, I'm happy to say that nothing could have been further from the truth. The Host still embodies Stephenie Meyer's trademark writing style, but it is a very different kind of story. I love books that make me think about what ifs, and this one definitely did that in a profound way.
The concept of two consciousnesses inhabiting the same body and fighting for control of it was an unusual and intriguing one. I'm still not sure how she did it, but Ms. Meyer managed to give Wanderer and Melanie very different personalities that were both appealing in their own way despite them sharing one body. Melanie is a tough survivor who managed to keep herself and her brother, Jamie, from being taken by the souls, even though she was only a teenager when Earth was invaded and their parents “died.” When she met Jared, he helped to shoulder some of the burden for their survival, and after spending a short time together, they fell deeply in love. When Melanie was finally caught by the Seekers, she loved Jared and Jamie so much, she would do anything to keep her promise to return to them alive, including battling with Wanderer in her own head. She plagues Wanderer with her thoughts long after the implantation when most other human souls would have succumbed and faded into the background, if not disappeared completely. Wanderer has traveled the universe and lived on many other planets. She is an eternal being who is now in her ninth life cycle. Like most souls, Wanderer is kind and gentle to a fault. She can't stand to see anyone, even her enemy, hurt in any way, especially when she thinks it has something to do with her. The longer Wanderer spends inside Melanie's body, and the more Melanie lets her see of her life before being caught, the more intrigued and sympathetic Wanderer becomes toward Melanie and all humans in general. Having access to Melanie's memories and emotions, Wanderer comes to love Jared and Jamie every bit as much as Melanie does, so they forge an uneasy truce in order to find the two men that Melanie had to leave behind. That truce gradually grows into a mutual respect and eventually a sisterly bond. As they integrate more fully and work toward their common goal, their thought processes start veering away from "I" and "my" to become "we” and "our." Watching the psychological evolution of these two beings was fascinating.
The secondary characters were wonderful too. I loved almost everything about Uncle Jeb. He's an old conspiracy theorist who also has a curious mind and is definitely the voice of reason when it comes to nearly everything, especially Melanie/Wanderer. Not to mention his “home” is just too cool for words. I also thoroughly enjoyed his no nonsense manner, “My house, my rules.” I adored Jamie's boyish curiosity. He is quick to see the good in Wanderer and is the first to believe that Melanie is still alive in there too. Jared is a tougher nut to crack. The story is told in first person perspective, mostly from Wanderer's viewpoint. Sometimes I wished we had Jared's POV, but it was obvious that he was going through a mighty struggle. He hates Wanderer for taking over Melanie's body, but because she still looks like Melanie, it's hard for him to kill her even though he feels like doing it sometimes. Ian doesn't exactly get off on the right foot, but he turns out to be a total sweetheart who I completely fell in love with. I can't say much more about these men or the other secondary characters in general without giving away some major spoilers. All I'll say is that it was a colorful cast who each had their own personalities and roles to play, and each one went through a personal transformation throughout the story which was a pleasure to watch. I also can't help saying that the way things turned out for Kyle was a delicious irony.
I've seen people say that The Host is more “grown up” than the Twilight series, and therefore, isn't really young adult, but I can see it both ways. Just by virtue of the characters generally being older, it is a more mature story that doesn't embody the teen angst of Twilight or other typical young adult books, but at the same time, the content isn't really any more mature. I think this story is appropriate for most fans of Twilight, both young and old. The language is very minimal, and while there is some violence, it isn't overly descriptive or particularly disturbing. There are a few fairly intense kissing scenes and one passionate embrace that embodied some moderate sexual tension, but there is no actual sex within the narrative and the sexual references are written in a veiled way and pretty mild. There are a few moderately mature themes, such as whether it's OK to take measures to end a human's suffering, but there are also plenty of positive messages about tolerance and doing the right thing. All this considered, as a parent, I would say that the book is appropriate for a mature teenage audience of approximately 14-15 and up.
While The Host is unequivocally post-apocalyptic science fiction, anyone who prefers hard science and/or action and adventure in their science fiction may be disappointed in the story. The science aspect that's present seemed reasonably sound to me and it does have a few adventurous scenes, but this is more of a psychological and sociological drama. Since these are areas of infinite fascination to me, I couldn't help but love this story. It's about relationships, not just of the romantic variety, but also friendships and what it means to be a family. It's about making hard decisions, and about doing the right thing even when others may not agree with you. It's about fear of that which we don't understand and learning tolerance for others. But most of all, The Host is a story about what it truly means to be human. It is a story that touched me in a very deep way. It did start off a tad slow, but I realized that the languid pace was necessary for building trust between the characters, and once it reached the halfway point, it really took off and thoroughly engaged my attention. All in all, a fabulous book that didn't seem nearly as long as it was. I wish there was some inkling of when Stephenie Meyer is going to release the sequels, because I'm dying to read more. I highly recommend The Host to anyone who enjoys watching fictional characters go on an emotionally-charged journey of self-discovery as they explore new concepts and learn to love and respect others for who they are....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Your Planet or Mine? is my first read by Susan Grant and the first book in her Otherworldly Men series. It got off to a lovelyReviewed for THC Reviews Your Planet or Mine? is my first read by Susan Grant and the first book in her Otherworldly Men series. It got off to a lovely start with the sweet, childhood friendship/romance between the hero and heroine who meet at a young age when he comes to Earth with his scientist father and she rescues him when he accidentally gets stuck in a tree outside her window. I love how they fell in love as kids during the few magical days they shared and neither ever forgot. In my opinion, this is the most romantic part of the book, and when they finally reconnect, the author relies heavily on this brief moment in their lives to explain the ease of their relationship as adults. I had mixed feelings about this. I love the reunion romance theme, and think that having a prior connection went a long way toward developing their relationship. At the same time though, they only spent a few days together when they were quite young and have been separated for twenty-three years, so in spite of them supposedly falling in love at first sight and never forgetting each other, it would have been nice to have a little more build up to their adult relationship. Having them fall right back into that comfortable place with no internal conflicts perhaps stretched the bounds of credibility a bit, but overall, it was still a fairly entertaining story.
As a child, Jana had a speech impediment. Since she couldn't talk, she spent a lot of time dreaming about the fantastical, which makes her very open-minded when a glowing boy in a bubble suit appears outside her window. I loved her childish exuberance, her ready belief that Cavin was from outer space, and her confidence that she would one day marry him. Then we fast-forward to Jana as a grown woman. She has followed in the footsteps of her famous family's political dynasty and become a California State Senator while still in her twenties. I liked that Jana was an idealistic politician with scruples, and I admired her commitment to her family. She's just the kind of person we all wish politicians would be once elected to public office. Her grandfather believes that she will one day become president too. Somewhere along the line, as she was growing up though, Jana convinced herself that her encounter with the boy she dubbed “Peter” was all in her imagination, but for the life of her, she can't seem to make a relationship last. She's gained a reputation in the tabloids for being something of a playgirl, because she runs through men pretty quickly, always looking for someone who will measure up to “Peter” and never finding him. When Cavin finally comes back into her life, she almost immediately discovers that sense of fulfillment again.
Cavin was a sweet boy, who even in his youth, recognized the wrongness of his people "acquiring" Earth and colonizing it. He felt guilty that he and his father ever came there to study the planet, because it would be his father's scientific findings that would eventually lead to them invading. When he went exploring the planet, he instantly fell for the pretty girl who lived in the dwelling near where their spaceship landed. Over the years, he never forgot her and was pretty much always biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to return to her. Cavin became an accomplished soldier, but when he discovered that his people were finally going to invade Earth, he simply couldn't allow that to happen. Setting out on his own, he went in search of Jana, intending to do whatever was necessary to save her and her planet, but he does so with an assassin on his tail. I love how sweet Cavin is when he reconnects with Jana, as well as all the naughty things he whispers to her and how he can't seem to keep his hands off her. He was also very brave in his fight to save Earth. I do wish however, that there had a been a few more scenes from his POV. There were times when I felt like I didn't know him quite as well as I wanted to, but the author does mention that he's a simple man with simple needs, so perhaps there wasn't much more to know.
Your Planet or Mine? has a number of secondary characters, primarily Jana's family. Her grandfather, a former governor, is a driving force throughout. Also introduced are her brother, Jared, and sister, Evie. Jared is a former air force pilot who now owns his own business. He takes part in the Earth-saving operation from the sidelines, and when the story arc continues in the next book, My Favorite Earthling, he gets paired with Kiera, the queen of Cavin's people. Evie is a chocoholic divorcée who has always been Jana's champion. She becomes the heroine of the third book, How to Loose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days, paired with someone who is introduced in this book, but I can't mention his name or it would reveal a spoiler.
In addition to the romance, I thought that Your Planet or Mine? had a few other weaknesses. Jana's family was a little too quick to accept that Cavin was an alien which wasn't entirely believable. I realize that, at the very least, he needed Jana's grandfather's cooperation, but perhaps one of Jana's family members could have shown a little doubt. Instead, they, and then the government officials, all jumped on board with very few reservations. The political parts of the story were a bit slow-moving. In addition to Earth being in jeopardy, Jana has someone out to get her and her family by spreading false rumors of campaign fraud, but I couldn't help wondering if this part of the story couldn't have been pared down or eliminated altogether in favor of building Cavin's save the Earth mission a little more fully. Despite these perceived deficiencies, Your Planet or Mine? was a light, easy read and a pretty enjoyable story if the reader is inclined to just go with the flow. It has definitely peaked my interest enough to continue with the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Knight of a Trillion Stars was my second read by Dara Joy and the first in her Matrix of Destiny series. Having read and lovedReviewed for THC Reviews Knight of a Trillion Stars was my second read by Dara Joy and the first in her Matrix of Destiny series. Having read and loved her stand-alone historical romance, Tonight or Never, I was really looking forward to this novel, and for the most part, I'm happy to say it lived up to my expectations. When I finished the book, I was left somewhat undecided as to how to rate it, but eventually settled on four stars. I thoroughly enjoyed most of the story, but there were a few weakness, enough that I didn't feel it was quite worthy of keeper status. However, Knight of a Trillion Stars was definitely a solid four stars, perhaps even a tad higher. Overall, a delightful read that was quite steamy for the 1990's when it was first published.
When the story opens, everything is going wrong in Deana's life. She was laid off from her job, sat in something nasty on the train, and then was trapped in a parking lot when two other vehicles were involved in an accident behind her car. While waiting for the accident to be cleared away, she goes into a junk shop to browse and ends up buying an unusual necklace. She finally arrives home to find a gorgeous stranger in her apartment who claims to be from another world and who insists on being her protector. As it happens Deana is a sci-fi geek who is on her way to a convention in San Francisco, which I think made her a lot more accepting of the idea of Lorgin being from another planet. Of course, that doesn't stop her from being frightened and stubborn when he unexpectedly takes her to his world. I could hardly blame her though, given that she was practically “kidnapped” and taken to outer space, but she does start to warm up to the idea gradually. Although Deana slowly beings to accept a relationship with Lorgin and decides to enjoy it while she can, she adamantly refuses to entertain the fact that he views her as his wife and that he intends for her to stay with him in his world. This is where I thought the author could have dug a little deeper with her characterization. I felt like Deana's reasons for not believing Lorgin truly wanted her as his mate were lacking in clarity. It took most of the story for me to figure out that part of it was rooted in self-esteem issues and part of it was that she stubbornly believed that she was not the woman destined for Lorgin (ie. He had made a mistake). This being the case, it took until the final pages of the book for her to finally embrace her destiny, and it came about without any particularly deep introspection on the matter. Deana and Lorgin also had a few too many misunderstandings based on misinterpreting each other's language and culture, which could be funny at times, but once Deana had her translator implant, it seemed to me that she shouldn't have had as much of an issue with the language barrier. Also, I felt like she should have been asking more questions. Oftentimes, she would start questioning Lorgin, but when he gave her a muddled answer, she would simply stop. If I were her, I would have asked as many questions as it took to fully understand what was happening. Overall, though, Deana was a nice heroine who was pretty relatable if a tad obtuse at times.
In the beginning, Lorgin is an arrogant alpha which isn't my favorite type of hero. In much the same way that Deana should have been asking more questions, I felt that Lorgin should have been more understanding of Deana being a “foreigner” in his strange land who wasn't familiar with the customs and culture. He should have taken the time to explain what was going on and gently coax her into accepting certain things and doing what was necessary for her safety. Instead, he basically compels her into many things, including getting the translator implant and making love the first time which made me rather uncomfortable. In particular, he should have explained the Transference ritual, which among other things, bonded her to him for life, instead of performing the ritual without her full understanding of it. However, despite being a little miffed with him about these things, I can't deny that later in the story he lightened up on the uber-alpha act and transformed into a kind, loving, gentle hero who was a seductive and sensuous lover. I adored how the men from his planet are trained from an early age to weave their wives' hair, and when he did this for Deana it was so sweet, a beautiful way of marking her as his.
The secondary characters were wonderful too. Yaniff is a wise old mystic who reminded me of Gandalf or Dumbledore with a side of Yoda thrown in for good measure. He is Lorgin's mentor and a good friend to all of them. I have to admit that I'm already half in love with Lorgin's brother, Rejar, and his childhood friend, Traed. Rejar is a shape-shifter, known in his world as a Familiar. He has an extremely sensuous nature which essentially makes him a man slut, but I loved him anyway for his charming ways. The story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger for him, but he becomes the hero of the next book in the series, Rejar. I'll be interested to see how one woman manages to tame him. Traed intrigued me almost from the moment he was introduced. He harbors a painful past with a father who abused him. He's a classic tortured hero, and I'd love to read his story. I thought perhaps his would be the third book in the series, but alas, I was wrong. Unfortunately, it also looks like I may never know what happens to him. Due to Dara Joy's hotly contested dispute with her former publisher, Traed's book was never written and sadly might not ever be. Even if it was, I'm not sure I would read it, because it appears that Ms. Joy's more recent self-published offerings are lacking in the quality of her earlier traditionally published books.
Besides the slight deficiencies in characterizations, there were two other things that bothered me a bit about Knight of a Trillion Stars. First, was the author's penchant for head-hopping which could be a little distracting but not as bad as I've read in similar novels. The other was the overall plot of Lorgin being on a quest that is typical to many fantasy-type novels. The problem wasn't so much the quest itself, but the fact that the reader isn't exactly made privy to all the reasons for his quest and how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together until very late in the story. We learn that Traed's father, a dark wizard, is causing trouble in some vague unknown location on the edge of their world and that Lorgin will presumably have to do something about it, but I felt like the author took a little too long to state what the ultimate objective was. This being the case, my interest occasionally waned slightly, but I did enjoy all the adventures the characters embarked upon while getting there. Once Lorgin got over his hot-headed alpha phase, the romance was tender and swoon-worthy with lots of steamy, sensuous love scenes. Overall, Knight of a Trillion Stars was a very enjoyable story that has left me eagerly looking forward to continuing the series soon....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Eland is a short prequel story to Allyson James's (aka Jennifer Ashley's) Tales of the Shareem erotic romance series. It's reaReviewed for THC Reviews Eland is a short prequel story to Allyson James's (aka Jennifer Ashley's) Tales of the Shareem erotic romance series. It's really little more than a teaser for the series, giving the reader a taste of the author's writing style and the world building. With that being the case, there isn't much in the way of characterizations or plot. The setting is futuristic and otherworldly. The heroine, Jeanne, is a virgin who lives on a planet that disdains sex. The hero, Eland, is a genetically engineered male known as a Shareem, beings who were created exclusively to dispense sexual pleasure. The corporation that made him has been disbanded for their experiment with the Shareem, and now, the Shareem are being hunted like criminals.
The scenario presented in this story is a tad far-fetched. Eland shows up at Jeanne's door filthy and severely dehydrated after running from the law for days, but a glass of water and their futuristic version of a shower revives him enough to “perform” amazingly well. For a virgin from a planet where sex is a no-no, Jeanne is pretty well-informed about sex. She also isn't particularly off-put by Eland's presence in her home or his overt sexuality. I've never been a huge fan of stranger sex and the bulk of the story is about just that. They spend one passionate night together and then are separated for three months while Eland continues to run for his life. Jeanne pines for Eland while they're apart, but eventually, they're reunited and make some quickie declarations of love that weren't entirely believable under the circumstances. The love scene was fairly steamy though and the writing pretty solid, so overall, this wasn't a bad story given the word count the author had to work with. It's mentioned that Eland is searching for Rees, who becomes the hero of the next book of the series. While Eland wasn't a stellar story in and of itself, the world-building has sufficiently intrigued me and whetted my appetite just enough to make me give the next book, Rees, a try. Eland was originally published by Ellora's Cave in their Naughty Nooners series of free short stories. It has since gone out of print, but it appears that the author has plans to re-release it soon on her own.
Note: This story contains explicit language and sexual content, which includes some light bondage, intimate shaving and a little spanking, but given that Eland is a level three Shareem (basically anything goes), it was fairly subdued for an erotic romance....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I’ve been wanting to try the Psy-Changeling series for a while now, and I’m so glad I finally got around to picking up the firReviewed for THC Reviews I’ve been wanting to try the Psy-Changeling series for a while now, and I’m so glad I finally got around to picking up the first book. Slave to Sensation was an excellent start to this new-to-me series. The author has created a world that’s quite different from anything else I’ve read so far in the paranormal romance genre. It’s part sci-fi, because it takes place on a futuristic Earth with advanced technology. It’s also part fantasy, because the inhabitants of this future Earth fall into one of three races: human (although we don’t really see many of these in this story), changeling (the shape-shifters), and Psy (mentally advanced beings who have various psychic capabilities). To make things more complex, the Psy, who are mostly seen in the upper echelons of society in business and government, have shut down all their emotions, ruling strictly by cold logic. Also all Psy are connected to one another via the PsyNet, which is an Internet of sorts made up of all Psy minds. To some degree, they can all access each other’s minds and also feed off each other’s psychic energy, something they need in order to survive just like air and water. For Trekkies, the Psy are kind of like Vulcans meet the Borg. It’s all a very intriguing and satisfying new world that I can’t wait to read more of.
Sascha is a Psy who feels her mind deteriorating daily. She knows she’s not supposed to feel emotion, and yet she does, finding it increasingly difficult to hide this defect from her mother and the other Psy with whom she associates. Sascha believes herself to be broken, and at some point, knows she’s going to be caught and sent to the Center for “rehabilitation,” which basically amounts to lobotomizing the Psy mind, leaving them a zombie-like shell of their former selves. She lives in fear of this daily until her mother sends Sascha to represent their family business interests by cutting a lucrative deal with a local leopard changeling pack to build housing on changeling land. There she meets pack alpha, Lucas, who makes her feel things she’s never felt before. When she learns that changeling women are being kidnapped and murdered and that the changelings believe it’s a Psy committing the crimes, she doesn’t want to believe it at first. But before long, Sascha realizes the truth and decides to help the pack ferret out the perpetrator even though she knows she’ll likely be caught. Since she refuses to be “rehabilitated” and knows there’s no escaping from the PsyNet without dying in the process, it’s her way of going out is a blaze of glory while helping the changeling male she’s come to love and righting a wrong in the process. I have to give Sascha a lot of credit for being strong enough to stand up to Lucas’s alpha posturing. She’s every bit as a stubborn as he is and very brave, too, to go up against years of accepted Psy wisdom. I was also extremely intrigued by the things she discovers about herself and about Psy nature in general as she goes on this journey, and I look forward to seeing where it all leads in future books of the series.
Lucas earned his status as alpha of his pack at a very young age. He was still just a juvenile when he saw his parents murdered by rivals and barely survived their beating himself. He vowed revenge and took it at the tender age of eighteen, which led to him beginning to gain the respect of his fellow leopard changelings. While violence is part and parcel of changeling nature, Lucas tries to rule with his head and not always his heart. That’s why when one of their own females falls victim to the Psy serial killer, he knows they must investigate first. Going in “guns blazing” so to speak will only get them into a war with the Psy that will lead to the loss of thousands of lives, so his plan is to identify the killer and seek retribution on him alone. But when a female from a wolf pack with whom the leopards have a tenuous truce goes missing, they know they only have one week to find her or war will be imminent. That’s why Lucas decides to try to leverage his connection with Sascha to get information out of her. Of course, his inner cat quickly awakens to the mating dance which leads to him discovering that his little Psy is far more than he ever dreamed. I typically prefer my romance heroes to be more on the vulnerable side, so Lucas was perhaps just a teensy bit too alpha for me, but he did balance that dominance out with his touchy-feely nature. Touch is an innate part of changeling nature to express pack and familial bonds, and being a tactile person myself, I really like that. Also, when he faces the possibility of losing Sascha if she disconnects from the PsyNet, he does show more of the emotion that I like to see in a hero. I love that he wouldn’t give up on finding a way to help her survive and was willing to sacrifice himself to that end.
Slave to Sensation has a lot of secondary characters. First, all of Lucas’s pack sentinels, who are basically the soldier/protectors of the pack, go on to get their own books. Vaughn is the hero of the next book, Visions of Heat. Clay, the enigmatic loner, becomes the hero of book #4, Mine to Possess. Dorian, the brother of the murdered leopard female and a changeling who can’t shift, intrigues me. He’ll be the hero of book #5, Hostage to Pleasure. Then, Mercy, the only female sentinel, becomes the heroine of book #6, Branded by Fire. There’s also Nate, who’s already happily mated to Tamsyn, the gentle pack healer, but it looks like the author wrote a prequel novella about them (after the fact :-)) titled, Beat of Temptation (from the anthology Wild Invitation). Also from the wolf pack side, alpha Hawke, who seems even more closed off than Lucas, becomes the hero of book #10, Kiss of Snow, his lieutenant, Indigo, who was barely mentioned becomes the heroine of book #9, Passion Play, and Brenna, the kidnapped wolf girl, along with Judd, a Psy who I can’t really say anything about without giving away spoilers become the hero and heroine of book #3, Caressed by Ice. There might be other minor characters who show up in some of the novellas, but these are the carry-over characters I know about for sure.
Overall, Slave to Sensation was a really good read. There were a couple of plot points that were a little predictable for me, but it didn’t really detract from the fun of getting to the reveal. Perhaps there could have been a little better emotional connection, but at the same time, I recognize that Sascha was a Psy who’d been taught to suppress her emotions and Lucas, as pack alpha, doesn’t easily show a lot of emotion either, so it definitely wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. A few more love scenes wouldn’t have gone amiss either. There’s only one (unless you count the dream sex), but it is pretty hot, so I guess I can’t complain too much. All these were pretty minor things in an otherwise exciting story. Not to mention, the author gets some extra points from me for the racial/ethnic diversity of her characters, which I loved. I’m very enthralled by the intricacies of this new world and look forward to exploring more of the stories to see just how far the changeling/Psy integration goes. I’m also interested to see if the Psy hierarchy is dismantled. They definitely suffered a blow to their supremacy in this book, so I’m very much intrigued to continue on with the series soon, as well as check out the deleted scene and free short story on Nalini Singh’s website that show readers more of Lucas and Sascha’s relationship....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Freedom is a fascinating post-apocalyptic/dystopian story that takes place in an unspecified future time frame aftReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Freedom is a fascinating post-apocalyptic/dystopian story that takes place in an unspecified future time frame after something called The Burst, which while not explained, I assume to probably have been an EMP or something similar. The bulk of the story takes place in New Las Vegas, where only a chosen few live and work within the city. The rest are pretty much relegated to the Outside, which appears to be the outskirts of the city and in between the two is the NeverNever. In this future society, there are Talents and Non-Talents. The Non-Talents are exactly what you might expect, just normal humans. The Talents are special humans who’ve developed various psi talents. They might exhibit as empaths, telepaths, telekinetics, or other psychic phenomena, some of which are only known to the Talent Management Center, an organization that seems to oversee the various operations around the country that were put in place to identify Talents. The TMC basically ignores Non-Talents, using them in menial type jobs, while those who exhibit a moderate amount of talent will be trained for more specialized jobs within the cities. However, those who exhibit talents that go above and beyond, essentially become lab rats, who are tested over and over to figure out their limits until they are mentally broken. Although most don’t realize it, the TMC rules with an iron fist and are a pretty evil organization. I would have liked to know a little more about them. Are they the new government in this futuristic society? The fact that they have the Marines at their command seems to suggest that they either are or have some sort of government backing, but overall, the author doesn’t go into that too much. They are, however, a very scary organization with equally scary people working for them.
While the dystopian aspect of the book is very intriguing, at its heart, Freedom is very much an emotional human story. Within this landscape, we’re introduced to Patrick, who is a mid-level empath, working in the psychiatric wing of a medical facility. He and his two best friends were tested years before. His friend, Charlie, didn’t have enough talent to qualify to move into the city, but Patrick and Charlie’s girlfriend, Evie, did. Patrick was trained for the job he now holds, while Evie was taken elsewhere and later released back into the Outside. After being tested, she was said to be too psychologically damaged to work and hasn’t been the same since. However, no one really suspects that it was the TMC who did the damage to her. Patrick is pretty content in his job and has just been given his first solo case working with a John Doe who was found nearly dead by the Escapeway. The man is practically wild and doesn’t appear to speak or write except in gibberish. Using his empathic talents, Patrick soon realizes that his John Doe is much more than he seems on the surface and the longer he works with the man, the more he comes to care for him in a non-professional way. He also starts to realize some things about himself and about what’s going on in a wider sense, not only within the facility but the world outside as well. Patrick eventually comes to understand that his patient is in grave danger and he knows he cannot betray him, but he must make a difficult decision about whether he can give up the comfortable life he has in the city for the unknown world beyond.
John Doe 439 is really a young man named Jac, who has partial amnesia. Due to severe injuries, as well as emotional trauma, he sustained when attacked by the Purples, humans who’ve gone feral, he’s forgotten who he is or how he came to be at the medical center. All he knows is that his older brother always taught him to fear the All-Whites, and now he’s locked up in a place that’s completely white and only tended by people dressed in white. Into this frightening landscape comes Patrick, who treats Jac with gentleness, dignity, and respect. Gradually Jac begins to trust Patrick, especially after they connect psychically. To say that Jac is a sweet and gentle soul is almost an understatement. To many around him, he’s viewed as weak and easy prey, because he possesses an almost childlike quality. Even after he remembers how to speak, he does so in the way a small child might, dropping syllables and sometimes mispronouncing words, something his friend, Rob, calls a form of baby talk. Jac has an interesting backstory as to why this is that I won’t spoil for readers, but one of the reasons is that it’s much easier for him to simply communicate telepathically. There aren’t a lot of scenes from Jac’s POV, but on the rare occasions we get a look inside his mind, particularly after he starts to calm for Patrick, we see an intelligent man with a tremendous gift. He has psi talents above and beyond anyone who works with him has ever seen before. Patrick isn’t even certain what to call some of his talents. Again, I won’t spoil anyone by saying what they are, but he truly is a wonder. He’s also a deeply affectionate human being who loves to give and receive touch from the right people and in the right way, which as a touchy-feely person myself, I loved. When he finds out that Rob also survived the attack and they’re reunited, Jac is like a clinging vine who must be physically connected to him at all times, which made me question at times which of the men he was meant to be with, Rob or Patrick. The answer is kind of both but in different ways.
Initially the bulk of the POV scenes belong to Patrick with a few glimpses inside Jac’s troubled mind, but as the story progresses and moves outside the medical center, we get more and more scenes from other characters’ perspectives. There’s Patrick’s top-level empath supervisor, Sam, who recognizes Jac’s talents early on and starts covering up some of the things he can do. Sam ends up being a whole lot more than he seems at first. Patrick also has a co-worker, Dana, who works with Jac, too, and ends up helping in a lot of ways. We get to see things from Rob’s POV as well, as he supports Jac and gives so much of himself to the man he thinks of as a brother of sorts. Then there’s the evil Julia from TMC, who’s a bully determined to get her man and break him, but she didn’t count on him having help and being so powerful himself. If memory serves I think these were the only characters who got their own POV scenes but there are plenty more supporting players such as Charlie and Evie, and several other Talents, as well as at least one Non-Talent who we meet as they make their escape and who played integral roles.
Overall, Freedom was a story that very much drew me in and kept me reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so that being the case you might be asking yourself why I knocked off the half-star. Well, the main reason is that as wonderful as it was, I still felt it had a few weaknesses. First, I was a little reluctant to even classify this book as romance, because that part of the story is rather subdued and kind of secondary to other events in the story. The plot simply doesn’t follow the two men on the same track that most romances do with them meeting, forging a relationship, and falling in love. These things do happen, but in a much different way than what I’m used to. There’s no explicit sex and I don’t even recall them saying, “I love you,” although it’s fairly apparent by their actions. So for me, this was more of a sci-fi story with a light romance on the side. Then there were the questions I mentioned earlier about the greater world outside New Las Vegas and exactly what was motivating the TMC. Lastly, the author wrote the book in a number of different styles. Patrick alone was written in first person present tense when he’s interacting with Jac, first person past tense when he’s taking case notes, and third person past tense when he’s interacting with other characters. Once we start getting into the other characters’ POVs, they could be either first or third person, and I can’t say I understood the differentiation on those. I did get used to it and was never confused as to whose perspective I was reading because each POV change is clearly labeled with the character’s name and setting, but for some readers this may be jarring. Despite these perceived weaknesses, I still couldn’t help giving the book keeper status. I’m fascinated by all thing to do with the inner workings of the human mind and psychic phenomena, so that alone kept me glued to the pages. I also loved all the characters and felt like I was very much a part of their world. This was such a good read, I was quite surprised and a little disappointed to discover that this is, so far, the only book Jay Kirkpatrick has written, but if she (yes, despite the male-sounding name, this is a female writer) ever writes another, I’ll definitely pick it up....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The Cannibal Princess is a short story in the Psy-Changeling series, featuring Lucas and Sascha from Slave to Sensation. It faReviewed for THC Reviews The Cannibal Princess is a short story in the Psy-Changeling series, featuring Lucas and Sascha from Slave to Sensation. It falls between their book and the next one, Visions of Heat, in the series chronology. In this one, Lucas and Sascha are babysitting Nate and Tamsyn’s two little cubs, Roman and Julian. The boys want Sascha to tell them a story, but it ends up being Lucas who makes up a story with the same title as this one. I liked the touch of vulnerability in Sascha. Having an emotionless upbringing, she was never told stories and has no idea how to do it. Lucas not only steps in to save the day, but he also agrees to help her learn how to tell stories in the future. I also liked that she was almost as enthralled by Lucas’s story as the boys were. Roman and Julian are adorable, typical little boys with boundless energy and an eagerness to listen, especially since the story was scary. Because of it’s brevity, there were a few things I would have preferred be a bit longer and more detailed, but overall, this is a cute story that was a nice addition to the greater story of Lucas and Sascha and to the series as a whole. The Cannibal Princess can be read for free on the author’s website....more