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December Read-a-Thon: White Christmas by Ros Baxter Offers a Post-Apocalyptic Erotic Short For Your Holiday Pleasure

12 Dec

White Christmas by Ros Baxter (Escape Publishing, December 1, 2013)

I love science fiction romance and for some reason my holiday reading binge is never complete without a few great sci-fi romances in there, the more erotic the better. Imagine how thrilled I was to stumble across this particular short story by Ros Baxter…and find out that it was free right now on Amazon!

The more I read from Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s Australian branch, the more impressed I am with the quality of writing coming out of that particular house, and White Christmas fits my expectations. Despite being a mere 30 pages or so, Ros Baxter manages to sketch a post-apocalyptic world and two lovers separated for years by forces beyond their control (although only one of them knows that).

Tabysha is a scientist – an Explorer –  whose craft was shot down in an unexpected firefight, unfortunately right to the surface of a planet filled with a particular creature – one she’s been studying – who literally survive by sucking the life out of any being with the misfortune to get in their way. With the predators blind, Tabysha knows that she just has to stay in her ice cave to mask her heat signature and wait for the rescue craft on the way.

But when she sees another craft – an Avenger – go down and the pilot clearly struggling and in the path of a hoarde of hunter gatherers, she ignores orders to inject him with a drug that will keep him on his feet and hopefully alive. Yet when he pulls off his helmet, she’s aghast to discover it’s Ashe, the slow-talking Southern boy she feel for at seventeen, the year he disappeared without a trace, breaking her heart. Yet as the creatures get closer and closer to the ice cave where Ashe is deliberately pushing at Tabysha’s defenses, this scientist realizes that succumbing to their still burning desire is the only way to keep them alive.

Holy crap! Ros Baxter has a true talent – I could not believe how much world-building and history she managed to convey with a few, crisply worded sentences. I’m surprised the heat between Tabysha and Ashe didn’t melt that ice cave and I loved the references to Christmas despite the atheism officially adopted in the post-apocalyptic society. It ended up being a nice parallel – just as humanity clung to the holiday of hope and love, Ashe and Tabysha still clung to their feelings for one another deep in their hearts and minds after all those years.

Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now to download this short for free. You’ll be happy to have found a new author, gotten a bargain, and managed an infusion of the holiday spirit, science fiction style.

Happy reading!

Lauren Dane’s Federation Chronicles Aren’t Just Great Erotic Science Fiction, They Are Amazing Science Fiction. Period.

30 Nov

Undercover (Federation Chronicles #1 – Brandt, Sera, and Ash) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2008)

That isn’t to say they aren’t erotic – they are damn erotic – but so much of erotic science fiction is heavy on the unusual penises or having some earth woman show an alien what love really is (and hey, I’m not judging since I read it). What gets missed in that emphasis is kickass world-building with deep conflict and political machinations which highlight the flaws in society, while hopefully giving the reader insight into the inequities in their own world.

Lauren Dane does all this in her Federation Chronicles. And she does it so well that it leaves me reeling and wanting more.

You do have to be comfortable with the erotic part, and a reader unused to a high level of steamy might find the first book a baptism by fire since it involves not just two people, but three and is heavy on a BDSM dynamic. But in case you’re worried this is going to be “who puts what in where,” don’t be. This is Lauren Dane, the writer who gave us contemporaries like the Brown Siblings series and the Chase Brothers series, and paranormal series like Cascadia Wolves, the de La Vega Cats and the recently concluded, terrific Bound by Magick series. Triads pop up all the time in her writing, sometimes accepted by the culture, sometimes not, and she deftly highlights those tensions while infusing the relationship with such emotion that you are cheering for everything to work out (and it does, thankfully, since it’s a romance novel!). While Dane has written this series so each book can be a stand-alone, with world-building like this, I’d strongly recommend reading all of them in order to truly appreciate the story arc.

Public domain image via Pixabay

Public domain image via Pixabay

The Federation is actually a federation of universes (or ‘verses as the citizens refer to them) settled by humans descended from Earth colonists generations upon generations ago, with a network of official Portals linking vast distances to shorten travel and enhance commerce. Comprised of millions of people and controlled by Houses, a handful of powerful families wield sole control over the masses. Think of the Houses as medieval aristocracy in terms of power and financial control and you won’t be far off. Members of the Houses are “Ranked,” meaning they possess tremendous status and privilege in addition to vast quantities of wealth at their disposal. While ranked men and women can have affairs with unranked people, it’s extremely limited in nature, with the more prominent ranked having to enter political marriages arranged (or at least approved) by the head of their House. Naturally with this arrangement, the men often have unranked mistresses, basically courtesans, and Ranked women are raised to think only of enhancing their family’s status through marriage as their destiny.

The first book, Undercover, focuses on Lieutenant Sera Ayers, an outstanding operative for the Federation military, known for using her facility with languages and cultures to good effect in undercover operations. Coming from an extremely modest background, she’s worked hard to find her place, but has finally achieved a level of respect from her superior officers and her peers and assembled a crack team which she leads successfully. When she’s called into her CO’s office and told that her team has been reassigned to someone else so she can work with the two men in front of her on a secret assignment, she’s both stunned and enraged, primarily because the one man, Ash Walker, is the ranked jackass who stole her heart ten years ago and then shredded it with the offer of becoming his official mistress when his arranged marriage was announced and finalized. She ran from him then and she’s going to run from him now, but not before landing a terrific punch to the face.

Ash Walker knew Sera was likely to still be angry with him, even after a decade apart, but he didn’t expect this strong a reaction. He’s never stopped loving her and while he knows that she is perfect for this mission, he also knows that he’s hoping that he can show her that they can finally have a future together. His sham of a marriage fell apart after only a few years, and the best thing he got out of it was the man sitting next to him, his once brother-in-law, Brandt Pela, who is not only his best friend but his occasional lover as well. Ash suspects – no, he knows – that Sera might be the final piece to bring the three of them together, if she would just lower her defenses.

Image purchased under a web license from Shutterstock

Image purchased under a web license from Shutterstock

Brandt Pela might also be a wealthy ranked man but he sees what Ash stubbornly doesn’t, that Sera was so shattered by Ash’s treatment of her years ago that her lack of trust endangers their mission, especially since Ash constructed their cover so that Sera would have to pose as his mistress. Brandt knows that Sera is astonishingly beautiful and obviously a terrific soldier. Since he quickly decides he wants something more permanent with her as well, he offers to have her be his mistress on the mission, with the clear understanding that they will have to have sex and that the world they are traveling to is going to expect him to share her with Ash.

Sera hates Ash (and her reaction to him after all these years) but she doesn’t have a choice in this assignment. With the good-looking and considerate Brandt trying to make it work with switching the proposed roles, she accepts his offer, knowing that this mission is dangerous both physically and to her heart. When she discovers that her understanding of Ash’s choices ten years ago was not as clear as it should have been – and that the betrayal they are slowly uncovering on their assignment strikes at the heart of Ash and Brandt’s families – Sera decides she will do whatever it takes to fight for her world, even if it means having her heart broken all over again, this time by two ranked men.

I’ll be honest, this book is the most painful of the entire series for me to read since Sera and Ash are still both so raw from their loss of one another, even if it has been a decade. Sera was young and naive, at least to the point that she didn’t understand that Ash’s marriage involved the livelihood of tens of thousands of unranked people like her. Ash is an entitled ass who still doesn’t get it, but he is so in love with Sera and so tender with her as her relationship with Brandt develops that she is able to take the risk and be with him once more. Both Brandt and Ash are dominant, which works fine as Sera loves being a submissive to them (only in the bedroom, however), and the M/M action between Brandt and Ash *fans self* is quite steamy, even though Sera is their ultimate focus. Even though BDSM is not my thing, Dane writes it so well that it was clear the dynamic was about satisfying everyone’s desire to express their love and affection for one another, so it never made me uncomfortable.

I was so wowed by how Dane managed to figure out an HEA for these three since I spent a large part of my first reading desperately trying to brainstorm how on earth she could solve the problem of their status inequity. Yet these two ranked men use everything at their disposal to follow their hearts and find happiness, while also shedding the cover they’ve held for years of dissipated playboys, enabling them to be honest about both their undercover military service while at the same time honest about their love for Sera and each other. As tough as the first half of the book is, the last 30 pages always initiate a gigantic burst of warmth in my chest as it all comes together!

Relentless (Federation Chronicles #2 – Abby and Roman) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2009)

The second book in the series, Relentless, is actually my favorite (by a close margin, but still manages to move ahead). Centered on the Federation’s home world of Ravena, the focus of power and commerce in this polarized world. The powerful heads of houses and their heirs meet in councils to discuss issues and events, and the recent exposure of corruption in the houses of Walker and Pela (fortunately by two honored sons from those houses in the military) have stirred unrest among the unranked.

Heading it is the beautiful and dynamic Abbie Haws, a respected barrister and head of an organization which seeks greater representation for the unranked among the Houses. Abbie considers herself fortunate when she can get one of the House’s personal assistants to return her calls, but she draws attention when a nursemaid to one of the Houses is accused of stealing and fired, coincidentally right before she would qualify for her pension and retirement. The ranked members of the House involved are incensed, and Abbie is almost attacked in the courthouse. That near assault draws the attention of the most powerful man in the Federation, Roman Lyons, the head of House Lyons.

Lauren Dane mentions in her acknowledgements page that she wanted to specifically thank actor Daniel Craig since he was her inspiration for Roman Lyons, and I defy you not to think of that sexy actor as you fall for Roman. Married incredibly young at the age of 17 in a political union, Roman produced two wonderful sons quickly and then watched their mother waste away to a disease brought on by her last birth. Serious and intense, Roman has the weight of millions on his shoulders with literally the responsibility of hundreds of thousands of people directly working for the benefit of House Lyons.

Daniel Craig (the sexy beast). Whether he’s playing James Bond on screen or Roman Lyons in my head, he brings sensuality and incredible strength of purpose to the role. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

So naturally he’s astonished when he meets the troublesome Abbie Haws in his office to discover that the two of them have an immediate, combustible chemistry, one he has literally never experienced before and which ends with her having an orgasm within 10 minutes of their meeting. (That is my kind of meeting!) The two of them recognize that there is something there but the need for privacy is vital as the press getting a hold of any whiff of anything between them would be disastrous. Considering the work Abbie is doing, work that Roman grows to respect and wants to foster, her reputation would be horribly undermined with the taint of sexual connection between them. Roman also knows that as the head of House Lyons, it’s his duty to negotiate another political marriage and strengthen his House.

Knowing that there is no future is no guarantee of not falling in love. Abbie takes Roman undercover to see the lives of the unranked he controls while she gains insight into the unbelievable pressures and responsibilities he has. The Roman Abbie discovers is a man who adores his two sons and is incredibly loyal to the people who work for him. In turn, Roman discovers the truth behind Abbie’s many scars and realizes that a woman who has every reason to despise the ranked instead confronts them daily working to forward the rights of average person. The more each of them uncover, the more amazing their connection, and a hopeless love develops between them, one that they both know must end. For Roman the agony is knowing he will have to deal with everything in his life without the joy and fire that is Abbie grounding him; for Abbie it’s knowing that she will need to go on with her life seeing Roman on the vids (video) and hearing about him at every turn, particularly after he’s married to someone else.

Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock.

Image purchased with web license via Shutterstock.

Oh. My. God. There is no way you don’t come away adoring Abbie – the love she has for her family (and they for her), her handling her narcissistic and idealistic father, the older brother who almost went to jail for her before accepting a military position instead, the ex-fiancee who has remained a good friend. Particularly after hearing the crucible she went through at such a young age when she was assaulted, you will be ready to get BFF necklaces and take her out for a drink! Roman is actually her perfect match, as her playful demeanor offers him an outlet he never before possessed and his intense support with no agenda other than helping her is a welcome relief from the many people who demand a piece of her. Their heat is off the charts – muy caliente – and when that sensuality is combined with the tenderness between them, it’s enough to break your heart, particularly knowing how doomed they are.

Which brings me to the number one reason why I think this book should be made into a movie. Of all the books (and the whole series would be an incredible movie franchise if middle America wouldn’t flip out at the M/M action and the triad relationships), the ending of this book, literally had me standing up shouting “Yes, YES!!” the first time I read it (and I still do a fist pump with each subsequent re-read). Dane just surprises the hell out of me with her ability to pull an emotional yet believable HEA out of what previously appeared to be thin air. Suffice it to say that you’ll be so much more in love with Roman than you were before, if that’s possible.

Insatiable (Federation Chronicles #3, Phantom Corps #1 – Daniel and Carina) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2010)

The third book, Insatiable, stars none other than Abbie Haws brother, Daniel, who works for Roman Lyons’ chief military officer in what’s known as the Phantom Corps. In fact, Dane has created a mini-trilogy within the larger construct of the Federation Chronicles, continuing the story arc of political corruption within the Federation and demonstrating how the brave men and women of this elite undercover force ferrets out information and eliminates threats to the universes.

This book brings in a fascinating angle to the series’ story arc of the growing threat to the Federation by exposing us to the threat inherent in Imperial territory. The Imperial ‘Verses are the direct competition and insidious enemy of the Federation although no conflict is officially declared. One of the most powerful men in this ‘verse is a sick bastard by the name of Fardelle, who is about to marry off his twenty-three year old daughter Carina to further cement an alliance with one of his underlings.

Carina has perfected the facade of a shallow, stunningly beautiful woman just waiting to be married off to further her father’s agenda. Her mother, Fardelle’s first wife, has worked quietly behind the scenes to undermine her husband and support her children at every turn, for all the good it’s done her.  Her oldest son literally disappeared and his name stricken from all records and portraits, her youngest son died suddenly of a mysterious and virulent illness, and now her daughter is to be married to a violent lecher who will make the rest of her life a hell. Stealing vital data chips from her husband’s home office, Carina’s mother convinces her to accept the coded data as a subdermal chip, intrinsically linked to her body’s system so that in order to extract the data, Carina must be alive. Contacting Federation forces, Fardelle’s wife arranges for an operative to ferry Carina to Federation territory and safely out of her father’s hands.

Carina agreed to be the carrier thinking that this would undermine her father’s evil while helping her and her mother escape, and she’s dismayed at the last minute by her mother’s announcement that she plans to stay behind. Carina fleeing a horrible marriage is believable versus the more treasonous implications of the two of them disappearing. When the handsome but bossy operative Daniel Haws arrives in disguise, Carina can tell she’s in good hands even if the agent in question treats her like an utter moron.

Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay

Public domain image courtesy of Pixabay

Daniel is shocked at not only how beautiful Carina Fardelle is, but how her public face of a vapid, shallow daughter of wealth completely disappears and in its place is that of a vibrant and capable young woman eager to experience the world and feel her freedom. He must get her out of Imperial territory alive, however, and back to Ravena where the information on her chip can be decoded. Fardelle is suspected of trafficking in bioweapons with the goal to attack Federation outposts and the human costs could potentially be in the millions. Yet as he and Carina evade Imperial forces with the help of his fellow agents, Daniel finds himself sexually and emotionally pulled toward this brave young woman, all the while knowing that when they return to his home planet she will be inundated with proposals of marriage from ranked men. But Carina didn’t escape her father’s control to not take the reins of her own destiny, and she knows her future includes Daniel, if he can let go of his belief system to see it.

Dane does a terrific job showing us the phenomenal pressures of Carina’s life, pressures which force her to don an impenetrable mask in order to avoid detection. But although Carina is a virgin, she is a sensual, slightly naughty one with a propensity for voyeurism, so she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve and she plans on trying all of them with Daniel. There is no way for Daniel to resist her for long, at least not once his instincts confirm that this bold, courageous woman is the real Carina, and he knows she may just be one person he can never let go. I loved them as a couple, adored their heat, and felt that the sense of imminent threat to the Federation was so well done, I wasn’t sure what was making my pulse pound more – Carina and Daniel’s sexy times or the urgent need for them to get her information back to Ravena ASAP! Meeting the other members of the Phantom Corps helps understand the dynamics of their operation while introducing us to a few key people, namely the heroes of the next two books.

Mesmerized (Federation Chronicles #4; Phantom Corps #2 – Andrei and Piper) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2011)

The first fellow Phantom Corp agent with his own book is Andrei Solace, the enigmatic assassin who helped Carina and Daniel get to Federation territory. Now in Mesmerized, with the escalation of animosity from the Imperial forces a growing rumor – particularly with their use of mercenaries to traffic bioagents and ammunition – Andrei is sent back to his home planet to investigate. There is one mercenary in particular who he never forgot and who he is sure will help the Federation. But seeing her means confronting his past and, more importantly, having the strength to walk away…again.

Piper Roundtree thought Andrei might have died when he disappeared at age 17 and it broke her young heart. Always best friends, their affection for one another became an all-consuming young love which had them taking one another’s virginity. But Andrei and Piper both lived a hardscrabble existence on the wrong side of the law, and while Piper had her siblings, Andrei was alone after his mother died and his siblings were taken away. After his arrest, the Roundtrees never saw him again, only comforted by the occasional packets of credits marked with a single “A” that helped them survive in their isolated compound during the hard years.

But when Andrei turns out to be the mysterious sniper who just saved Piper and her family from annihilation at the hands of Imperial soldiers pressuring her to ferry illegal cargo, Piper has the realization that nothing has changed regarding her feelings for Andrei. Yes, he’s now a man when she loved the boy, but realizing the work he’s done and how he has made himself into a deadly soldier only makes her more determined to show him that he is loved exactly for who he is. Andrei knows that who and what he is will only stain this incredible thing that he has with Piper, but he can’t help needing her, even when he knows he should push her away.

Andrei was a sexy beast in Insatiable and had a demonstrated wry sense of humor, but seeing him revisit his painful past is worth it to find Piper again. She is so upbeat and stubborn (both in the best possible way) and most importantly, she knows him well-enough to understand all the shame and worries he brings to their renewed relationship, allowing her to blast past those barriers one at a time. For Andrei, being an assassin and spy is so much of who he is (and that part of him that he doesn’t want Piper to know) that for him to see her actively take part in his life – using her shady contacts, her ability to bluff and her amazing piloting skills to help him and the Federation – is this eye-opening moment where it occurs to him that his vocation doesn’t have to be separate from the love of his life. I adored them both and cheered for them to figure it all out, even when the ending of the book broke my heart with Piper’s loss during the plant raid.

Captivated (Federation Chronicles #5 ; Phantom Corps #3 – Vincenz, Julian and Hannah) by Lauren Dane (Berkley, 2012)

That final mission in Mesmerized had a big impact on more than just Andrei and Piper. In Captivated, we see the story begin back at the raid, as Vincenz Fardelle (Carina’s older brother who disappeared and then enlisted in the Phantom Corps) helps raid the plant in an effort to discover more about his father’s Imperial plans for bioweaponry. As he is making his way through the deserted labs, he spots a naked, filthy woman, clearly tortured, in one of the glass cells. Glancing at the lab’s information to insure that she is not infected or dangerous, he’s angered and horrified to discover that she has been subjected to an experiment for over a year at being deprived of touch or interaction of any kind other than experiments involving pain or violent treatment. He scoops her up and takes her to the transport to get her out of that hellhole prior to its detonation.

The woman, who is identified as scientist Hannah Black, is naturally terrified of doctors of any kind, reminded all too much of the experiments and pain inflicted upon her in her captivity. Vincenz, who has rejected his father’s name and taken his mother’s surname Cuomo, is in a relationship with fellow Phantom Corps member Julian Marsters. Brought together soon after Julian lost his best friend in the attack on Ravena in Insatiable, Vincenz and Julian discovered that their love for one another has pushed back the darkness they each carry. Perhaps because of this, they empathize with Hannah’s struggle to fight to gain back the pieces of her shattered memory and personality, immediately protecting her from the Federation doctors who want her in a hospital under their care.

In the weeks after her rescue, Hannah feels nothing but frustration at her fragmented intellect combined with intense affection for the two gorgeous men who protect her. Deprived of human touch for so long, golden Vincenz and the dark Julian keep her sandwiched between them at night, making sure one of them is always close by for her to hold if she needs them during the day. When it becomes clear that she was kidnapped for a reason by the Imperial scientists, Hannah agrees to undergo a painful experimental treatment which will hopefully amplify the piecing together of her memory in order to help the Phantom Corps with information. In the process, a part of herself she thought permanently lost – that of sexual desire – returns with a vengeance and is embarrassingly directed at the handsome soldiers who saved her.

While Vincenz and Julian may have begun their acceptance of Hannah into their home based on the need to protect her, the weeks of witnessing her daily bravery have deepened their feelings into much more and they both admit to each other that their feelings are quite carnal. Helping Hannah reclaim this part of herself as well is nothing but a pleasure to all three of them, but with Julian still withholding a part of himself over grief for his friend and Vincenz facing his father’s demons in an important mission, Hannah wonders if the feelings she has for these two men will have to come to an end.

Public domain image via Pixabay

Public domain image via Pixabay

Okay, this is the book practically tied with Relentless as my favorite of the series. Vincenz and Julian are both hot and sweet with one another – brainy, hunky soldiers with dark pasts who nevertheless find something precious and wonderful in one another. The development with Hannah is all the sweeter for them not realizing it was anything they needed or wanted, they just woke up one day realizing that her happiness was incredibly important to them and that she was a woman whose beauty, inside and out, made her an intrinsic part of their relationship.

Hannah is an amazing character and I think Lauren Dane is nothing short of masterful the way she conveys how Hannah’s brain has morphed into something truly different, yet how that change has simply revealed the core of her amazing personality. Seeing Piper and Andrei again was a pleasure, particularly when they both explain how Vincenz and Julian are seriously stepping in it and hurting Hannah. There’s no way you don’t have a smile on your face when Andrei lectures the two of them on how to treat a woman! Dane offers great further development of threat from the Imperial forces and a really exciting denouement when we return to the compound from which Carina escaped back in Insatiable. There is joy and heartbreak in the final showdown, but once again, an unexpected HEA that makes you cheer for this triad and the future they have together.

While Dane has made clear that while she is busy juggling other projects in 2014 (and I’m looking forward to them!), she’s is planning at least two more books in the series – Wil (the hot head of the Phantom Corps who we have already seen flustered by a woman back on Ravena) and Deimos (Roman Lyons oldest son who I carry a crush for based on how much he loves his father and how he wants to help Abby). Her website states that she’s hoping their books will come out in 2015, but luckily for us, these five books are so amazing that whenever I get itchy for fabulous science fiction, I just reread them!

There All Along by Lauren Dane and Megan Hart (Berkley, December 3, 2013)

I did want to address the cost of the books – the ebook editions are strangely expensive (like around $11) which I don’t understand at all, but there are mass market paperbacks for each of them with a normal price of $6, and honestly, whatever you pay, they are utterly worth it. I have most of mine in paper format, but considering where they rank in my list of favorite series, I’m going to slowly add the ebook versions since I like to have both formats for books I consider to be romance classics, and these fit the bill.

Many thanks to Lauren Dane for being such a kickass writer that she can do multiple genres with aplomb. She has another (what sounds like) science fiction story (unrelated to the Federation chronicles) coming out this week in a duology with Megan Hart, There All Along, and Dane’s story “Land’s End” about a lone gunman and the woman who’s town is attacked, sounds amazing – I’ve already pre-ordered it!

If you enjoy science fiction, love science fiction erotic romance, or just plain love Lauren Dane, do yourself a favor and get the Federation Chronicles on your to-read list ASAP. This a phenomenal series by a phenomenal writer – you’ll love it!

Check Out the Time-travel Novella Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser This Holiday Season

25 Nov

All right. Today is clearly Entangled Publishing day, but how can I help it when there are so many great books and novellas coming out? Their Ever After line “features paranormal, sci-fi, and horror novellas, all with the romance you’ve come to love from Entangled–just in a shorter format.” So while the Flirt line is more contemporary and thrillers (with historical shorts mixed in), Ever After is more the things that go bump in the night (or which science creates).

Christmas Past by Susanna Fraser (Entangled Ever After, November 25, 2013)

This particular story I would categorize as a short since it’s around 40 pages, yet it’s so deftly written that I found it particularly gripping. I had first read Susanna Fraser when I was fascinated with a historical author comfortable with tackling an interracial romance in A Dream Defiant (published by Carina Press). I was extremely impressed with the historical verisimilitude and research she utilized for that hot and emotional historical, so much so that I was eager to try this ARC when Entangled offered the opportunity.

While her latest work, Christmas Past, is also set during the Napoleonic Wars, that event is only a minor backdrop to the bigger, more fascinating story. Sydney Dahlquist is talented enough to be trained as a time-traveling scientist and her Ph.D. thesis requires her to head to Portugal during the time of the Peninsular War to gather blood samples from soldiers. Successfully masquerading as a British widow living in Lisbon who wants to nurse her countryman under the circumstances, she’s horrified by the realization on Christmas Eve that her time machine is well and truly broken.

Her training has made chillingly clear what she must do. Destroy the machine and its contents (her technology and samples included) and then take the fast-acting poison which will insure she does not disrupt the historical timeline. As she comes to terms with committing suicide, she looks at her family pictures on her iPad one last time… and hears a gasp – coming face to face with the handsome rifleman, Captain Miles Griffin who has flirted with her while she has been tending the sick. She knew she interacted more with him than she should have, but she’s flabbergasted when he not only believes her story but is adamant about convincing her to reject her Protocol.

Miles does believe Sydney – a portrait that changes and looks like actual people as well as the changed accent and mannerisms of this stunning woman all add up to her story being true. While he escorts her to the German company’s Christmas dinner he attempts to take away a little of her sadness and remind her of what she could have, particularly when she seduces him back in her rooms afterward. But will she listen to him or will her sense of duty – which he understands all too well as an officer – override the pleasure and future he can offer?

Not only did I love the voice in this fresh short which combined science fiction and Regency (and I confess to love time-travel romance), but it had the Fraser trademark of excellent historical research. As with the previous book I read, she focuses more on the average person rather than the proliferation of nobles which seem to populate other novels set in this time period, and I for one find that simultaneously fascinating and welcome. In mere pages, the reader finds herself sympathizing with Sydney’s plight and truly liking both the hero and heroine tremendously – while being torn apart by Sydney’s dilemma. It’s impossible to not imagine what you might do in a similar situation and the solution at the end of the story is a smart twist that brought a smile to my face.

Consider trying a taste of Susanna Fraser if a time-travel romance you can read while roasting your turkey (and my goodness, don’t you deserve a break?) appeals to you. She’s even hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $50 gift card to the reader’s choice of online bookseller so you could find yourself with lots more books to read while chowing down on yummy leftovers!

Many thanks to Entangled Ever After for letting me enjoy such a terrific short prior to its publication and to Susanna Fraser for writing yet another story with her outstanding historical research and wonderful characters. Happy reading!

S. E. Gilchrist’s Darkon Warriors a Great Addition to Erotic SciFi Romance

8 Jun

Awakening the Warriors by S. E. Gilchrist (Escape Publishing, May 1, 2013)

I love scifi romance (the hotter, the better) but it’s often of variable quality. The good news is that it appears that there is a growing market for it, particularly in e-book form, so I’m seeing more and more out there. When I received the NetGalley short story, Awakening the Warriors, I confess I was so intrigued with the premise and the author’s voice that I went out and purchased the author’s full-length novel and other short and devoured all of them!

First off, I need to be upfront and mention that the author, S. E. Gilchrist, doesn’t have an actual name for this series so, to make it easy on myself, I’m just calling it the Darkon Warriors series since that’s the obvious binding factor. Maybe she didn’t want to imply that there was an order to the books since they technically could be read independently with little confusion, but I think it helps the reader to have the books clearly labeled in an order, so I’d encourage her to at least add that information to her Goodreads account. :-)

The Darkons are a dying species who used to rule a large amount of territory but now are fighting the Elite Forces, a military controlled by a dictator who would enjoy seeing the Darkons completely extinguished from the galaxy. It may happen without his interference; the Darkons lost all of their women and children six years ago to a horrible virus and have been, um, “unawakened” ever since despite exposure to the females of other races.

Legend Beyond the Stars by S. E. Gilchrist (Escape Publishing, January 1, 2013).

I think it’s to a reader’s advantage to begin with the full-length novel, Legend Beyond the Stars, to get a sense of the world and the Darkon backstory. Captain Alana Knight awakens from her space stasis to more than just the requisite stomach cramping. It’s quickly apparent to her and the other female colonists supposedly bound for a new world that something is wrong. They’re no longer with the other colonists – no older women or men – leaving only women in their late teens to thirties in the spaceship transporting them to an unknown system.

Alana takes charge, finding the other leaders among the women and beginning to pump the aliens caring for them for more information. They discover that the space traders transporting them are not just providing a travel service but rather trade in flesh, a situation brought home when a group of extremely large alien males, clad in black armor and wearing helmets obscuring their features, inform the women that they have been purchased and are now Darkon slaves.

All the women take tremendous exception at this, with Alana shoving to the forefront and informing the leader, identified as one Commander Tarak El Rajan, that he is sadly mistaken if he thinks they will be slaves to anyone considering that they’ve been duped. The hard feelings lessen a little after they are taken on board the more comfortable Darkon ship, The Ark, and the men take their armor off. That they are all gorgeous provides at least a distraction from the women’s fear, which is further lessened when it’s made clear that, in Darkon culture, no man would ever take an unwilling woman.

Much to her dismay, Alana finds she’s not unwilling, and that there is a powerful connection between her and Tarak. He doesn’t understand why she’s not elated to be his slave and is baffled by her information that, in her culture, women are equals who fight alongside men. Before they all died, Darkon culture sequestered their women who were quiet and caring. But Tarak finds, along with his men, that human women, unlike any they have previously found, are capable of “awakening” Darkon men, and it’s not long before all but the youngest (Elise is only seventeen or eighteen) are “claimed” by the men. Alana’s spunky sidekick Jess is actually tied to two hot warriors and she’s not letting it worry her too much (who would?).

milky-way-67504_640The relationship between Tarak and Alana is obviously the focus, even as the political and social piece unfolds. Tarak is an uber-Alpha, so if you don’t like a man who finds it hard to let go of the “you’re my slave” piece, you probably won’t enjoy this book. His redeeming characteristics come in the form of his POV which reveals that while he’s saying that over and over, in actuality he is experiencing a tremendous amount of attraction and affection for this woman who frustrates him with her insistence on being treated as an equal. Alana naturally vacillates between her overwhelming attraction for Tarak, who can really burn up the sheets, and her knowledge that nothing can come of a relationship between too people so unequal. It’s that inequality which leads to much of the mistrust on her part, compounded by the fact that Tarak is the heir to the Darkon throne, and she doesn’t buy into a fairy tale ending.

Great world-building and compelling characters can be found in this novel. Aside from the mention of Jess’s menage relationship, I actually thought this book could have easily been labeled “scorcher” as much as “erotic” with the level of explicitness and language choice for it’s smoking hot sex scenes. All of the sex was very appropriate to the storyline and the characters’ relationship, making it always steamy and often a little heartbreaking as these two people struggled to express their love for one another.

Gilchrist did an excellent job at seeding conflict beyond the interpersonal throughout the book as well. There is a lot of evil in this world between the forces opposing the Darkons as well as their own brand of villain (who will make you shudder at how horrible they are). I loved that the only unmated Darkon warrior was Tarak’s slightly older second-in-command who was clearly attracted to Elise, but too much of a gentleman to make a move on someone so young. I’m hoping a future book will be their story set a few years in the future!

The Portal by S. E. Gilchrist (Escape Publishing, March 1, 2013)

Technically, the next book in the series is the short story (only 31 pages or so) The Portal, and people have expressed a lot of dissatisfaction about this one. It’s actually a very sweet tale of a Darkon warrior who had a brief interlude with a young salvager months before and has been looking for her since. I think that much of the complaining is due to its length (readers always want more) and the fact that it does jump back and forth in time. I wished for more heat, as the sex scene that bonded the two together was extremely brief. A little more of a tie-in to her having “awakened” him would have also helped, particularly if it had been made clearer that his experience was the cause of his pursuit.

The short story, Awakening the Warriors, has none of those problems, and even though its a mere 46 pages it packs quite a bit of heat between its e-covers. Fran is a geologist who signed on with a corporation to travel to a new world when her transport was intercepted by the Elite Forces. She’s being held in a cell with a group of other women of various species and they are becoming more horrified by the minute. Some of the females were taken away a few days ago and the remaining prisoners are beginning to think that it’s for experimentation. Word has gone out that a group of human women have succeeded in awakening the fierce Darkon race and clearly there is one government who would like to see them die out. The fact that their are Darkons in the next cell can’t be a coincidence.

prison-58320_640Because the only other human female is a sickly girl of 15, the other prisoners tell Fran it’s up to her to sneak into the nearby cell of the Darkons, who are regularly whipped and beaten, and use her sexual wiles to “awaken” them. Talk about pressure! By the time she breaks into their cell, she can tell one of the men is already dead and the other two are covered in blood. She washes away the blood and tends their wounds, all the while wondering at their beauty. While their encounter is out of necessity, Fran is astonished at the heat and tenderness with which they treat her. She’s attracted to both of them equally and it quickly becomes clear that Jerrell and Quain have no trouble with the idea of her being with both of them. Yet Fran knows that she plans on leaving for home at the first opportunity since there’s no future with two men with whom sex was a means of helping them literally break their chains and escape. Or is there?

This is a very tasteful and tender menage that is further understood after reading Legend Beyond the Stars. I would have liked to see a stronger tie to the overall story arc, namely with explaining why the warriors were being beaten – combined with the missing female prisoners, were the Elite Forces attempting to discover more about how or why the rumored Darkons were awakened?

Speaking of tiny discrepancies, in Awakening the Warriors, the point of Fran stealing into the adjoining cell with the Darkons is that if she “awakens” their lust, they will possess increased strength and fighting ability, enough to overcome their injuries and help the imprisoned. In Legend Beyond the Stars, while there was a LOT of awakening going on, this added piece was unaddressed. The warriors were certainly loyal and focused on the women with whom they bonded, but no one made reference to enhanced abilities. Hmmm.

Nevertheless, I greatly enjoyed this author’s style and the world-building in which she engaged in all her works. I would say that anyone who loved Evangeline Anderson’s erotic Brides of the Kindred series might also find fun in the pages of Gilchrist’s science fiction romance (although keep in mind the men are waaayyyy more alpha than Anderson’s Kindred men!).

Countdown to Christmas: A Galactic Holiday Gets a Big Christmas Star as a Great Holiday Read This Season

6 Dec
A Galactic Holiday Edited by Angela James (containing novellas by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail, and Sasha Summers) (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

A Galactic Holiday edited by Angela James (containing novellas by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail, and Sasha Summers) (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

I want to make sure to represent a variety of reading tastes in my “Countdown to Christmas” feature this season and that means including the major subgenres of romance. Erotic romance and contemporary romance are the easiest holiday books to find, but what about something a little less common? Science fiction romance is one of the toughest to locate but I enjoy it when I can come across it. Maybe it’s all that Star Trek I watched growing up, but I love the idea of romance in space or a futuristic earth. No matter where or when, love still looks the same, which is perhaps why science fiction romance is so appealing.

Just like in Romancing the Holiday and Red Hot Holiday, Carina Press editor Angela James picks a roster of strong writers with chops in the science fiction romance subgenre to entertain us with the trio of novellas in A Galactic Holiday. Unlike the other two anthologies which had authors with whom I was already familiar, I hadn’t read any work by these three women, a situation I am already beginning to remedy.

As always, Carina does you the courtesy of giving you total flexibility. You can buy this anthology and get all three stories (for under $7 at Amazon.com and I imagine other vendors are comparable) or you can buy each individual story for $2.99 if one of them doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. Individual story titles below link to the single story option while the title of anthology will take you to the collection.

How the Glitch Saved Christmas” by Stacy Gail

In looking at her Goodreads page, Gail seems to be a relatively new author on the romance scene, with a speciality in science fiction and steampunk. Color me her latest fan, because this story kicked serious ass.

Reina Vedette lives in a futuristic Chicago which has been ravaged by two waves of deadly flu. Androids are everywhere and many people choose to accept body modifications – bod mods – which help them do their job or offer some kind of advantage. Having been at death’s door as a child, Reina remembers the feeling of machinery keeping her alive all too well. Having attained a valued reputation as a top flight detective who relies on her instincts and gut, she has no desire to add machinery to the way she solves crime.

How the Glitch Stole Christmas by Stacy Gail (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

How the Glitch Saved Christmas by Stacy Gail (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

But the Chicago police force has different ideas. While they can’t require officers to get bod mods, they have made clear that no one will advance in the force without them. Reina is demoted down to to a level one detective while her less talented officers embrace the edict and get promoted above her, harassing her with their newfound power when they know she’s still better than they are. Sitting at the top of the pack is Edison Wicke, who even Reina would grudgingly admit was a top detective and her fiercest rival before he added modifications. Handsome, cheeky, and great at his job, he represents everything about the force Reina has come to despise, so she’s less than thrilled when she’s forced to partner with him on a strange case of burglary, a case where the burglar broke into a home not to steal anything, but rather to leave a tree and presents for a poor family.

Edison Wicke is beside himself that Reina is partnering with him on this case. He transferred from the Lincoln Park precinct specifically to be near her, both due to her outstanding detecting ability and her lush beauty. Over the last two years, she’s acted like he’s barely there and he knows the recent directive to employees has made her the target of every schoolyard bully in the force. He wants to use this case to prove to her that they would be great together, both in solving crime and in bed. The question is, can she get past her prejudice to see their potential?

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod. If you don’t find yourself falling for both Edison and Reina, then you have a heart colder than any android I know. In a richly painted world (and one I hope to see much more of in future stories), Edison and Reina are caliente hot despite a Chicago blizzard outside. Gail’s writing is strong and tight with her novella showing that mark of truly outstanding writing in that you don’t feel anything is missing – we see each emotional step of our hero and heroine unrushed and each plot point is fully fleshed out. It’s masterful enough that I’m buying the other Gail stories listed on Goodreads to see if her writing holds up elsewhere. Color me her newest fan!

Galileo’s Holiday” by Sasha Summers

Galileo's Holiday by Sasha Summers (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

Galileo’s Holiday by Sasha Summers (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

When tugger Riley lands on the icy surface of Galileo to repair her ship, she doesn’t expect her whole life to change, but a slaver ship’s cannons destroy the only home she’s ever known in a shocking minute. She’s saved by Leo, a big trader who has made the small Galileo colony his temporary base, and who saw both ships arrive and went to investigate. It’s a good thing he did or Riley would be in captivity right now, her tugger skills gone to waste.

Brought into the fold of this warm community, complete with children – which Riley has never seen in person before – she’s amazed at the taste of real food, the fresh air, and most of all, the hot feelings Leo generates in her. She’s annoyed at the way her body craves him and his very presence soothes her, but he hardly seems to mind. The colony is thrilled with her expertise as Riley seems to be able to fix virtually anything, but when a threat looms which could hurt these people and the peace they have given her, Riley will do anything to help them, even if it means losing Leo.

Summers, like Stacy Gail, seems to only just recently have begun publishing, and I’m pleased Carina Press has chosen to promote her talents. This novella was told solely from Riley’s perspective, which is not something I usually like (I’m a fan of the switching POV so I can understand both the hero and heroine’s perspective) but she made it work for me. I loved Riley, and Leo was a sexy outsider who no woman would have hesitated to go into outer space with. Both of them had a strong sense of personal honor and Summers conveyed their shared values extremely well. “Galileo’s Holiday” refers to the colonist’s celebration of Christmas which was utterly sweet and as a librarian, I loved how the book that survived all that space travel and however many centuries was being interpreted in such an interesting light. This was a well-written, heartwarming tale of love and space adventure.

Winter Fusion” by Anna Hackett

Winter Fusion by Anna Hackett (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

Winter Fusion by Anna Hackett (Carina Press, December 3, 2012)

Savan Bardan is the tough negotiator from a planet that is all about individual pleasure and dispassionate choices. Having seen so many of his men killed in the intergalactic wars when he was a space marine, he has plenty of experience shutting off his emotions and it serves him well in his current official capacity. Headed to the cold Perman planet to trade for their ice crystals which offer an almost unlimited source of energy, he knows this deal is going to be difficult. The Permans blame him and other members of his government for delaying the timing of their membership in the trade organization, a delay which cost them countless lives lost to curable illness if they had been allowed to trade for medicine. Savan also knows that the beautiful Perman negotiator Brinn Fjord has never hidden her intense dislike for him or anyone else from his homeland. His boss’ suggestion that Savan seduce Brinn into getting the crystals is nothing short of ludicrous – she’d never look twice at him with anything but contempt in her eyes.

Brinn can’t believe she’s stuck chaperoning around a man she feels is responsible for the death of her father to illness, and on her planet’s most important holiday, Yule, brought over by the original settlers from their planet of Scandinavia. Savan Bardan has never expressed any emotion, and she’d easily believe that he was a synthetic creature devoid of any feeling, but she has a duty to her people to get the very best price out of him for their crystals even if she has to sit there and seethe with hatred.

At least that’s what she feels until they actually start spending time together. Hearing about the lack of any family structure on his home world and the billions of people who have died if technology is rushed upon a new planet makes her begin to see that he’s not without emotion, he has only known pain and suffering, with no balance of love and family. When the two of them are faced with numerous attempts on their lives on their journey to the ice caves to view the crystals, there’s no denying the strong attraction between them. But between the looming secret of Savan’s instructions and the fact that Brinn could not leave her family and world, their future seems bleak, unless they both are willing to compromise.

Wow, if the Perman world starts exhibiting signs of global warming, I guarantee you it is due to the off-the-charts hot sex between Savan and Brinn! This is definitely the more erotic story of the three and it has you forgetting they are on an ice planet. Brinn’s journey into empathy and Savan’s inkling of understanding what a real emotional connection can offer a union is so beautiful and heartwarming, it leaves you with the most wonderful ache in your chest. I loved the idea that Permans were the descendants of the Scandinavian settlers who didn’t mind the idea of an ice planet, with Norse gods, runes, and holidays persisting centuries later. This was an outstanding story by Anna Hackett, who seems to have been writing a few years more than newcomers Summers and Gail, but still largely in the short story and novella range for her otherwise paranormal romance offerings. She needs to do more science fiction as this story was wonderful.

Overall, I would actually say this anthology was the best holiday one Carina has put out this month, with three stories of truly outstanding quality from three relatively new writers who I hope are destined to produce many more stories for our consumption. Turn on the tree lights and snuggle up with some hot chocolate and your ereader to enjoy this fabulous addition to the holiday romances out this season! :-)

Lisa Marie Rice Puts Plenty of Danger in Her New Release, Heart of Danger: A Ghost-Ops Novel

31 Oct

Heart of Danger (Ghost-Ops #1 – Mac and Catherine’s story) by Lisa Marie Rice (Avon, November 6, 2012)

I’m a big fan of Lisa Marie Rice, particularly for the way that she paints her alpha males and gives a series an overall story arc connecting her characters, usually the male protagonists.

When I found out a few months ago from her blog that she would be releasing a new series this fall, I immediately pre-ordered the book from Amazon and then sat twitching next to my iPad (luckily for me, the Kindle version of the book was released on October 26th whereas readers who prefer print are having to wait until November 6th). Swamped with work and at a conference this weekend, I was actually grateful that Frankenstorm kept me out of work for two days, and even used some of my precious iPad charge after the power went out reading this long awaited novel!

If you like Lisa Marie Rice novels (and I have read all of them – yes, that’s right, I actually have every one of her books), this book and series will offer you the familiar ground Rice always covers and yet it adds an interesting twist. We have our usually brusque, violence-is-his-job male who falls for the elegant, soft female so hard, he can’t remember what his miserable life was like before her. I know some people get critical of Rice using this trope every time, but guess what? This totally works for me.

In Heart of Danger, the setting is the not-to-distant future where Dr. Catherine Young is stranded on the side of a mountain in the vain attempt to try and reach a ghost, the disgraced Tom “Mac” McEnroe, team leader of Seal Team Six (yes, that one) who was accused with other members of his team of the ultimate betrayal to his country. He disappeared years ago, but Catherine’s interaction with a patient in her dementia pharmaceutical study has led her to right to Mac, and as her vision has caused her to believe, he comes to find her.

Dangerous Passion by Lisa Marie Rice (HarperCollins, August 4, 2009) – where Rice first experimented with a slight paranormal element in the attraction between her protagonists

The problem is, he’s totally pissed off, and a big, scary ex-S.E.A.L. is a little overwhelming. No one should have been able to find Mac and his team, yet this doctor about to expire from hypothermia in the winter storm has somehow made it up the mountain to their secret community. It’s not just his life Mac has to protect but the dozens of people who hide alongside him in the mountain, so he’s got to ignore the fact that this is the most gorgeous woman he’s ever seen and instead suspect her of foul play.

But in paranormal/sci-fi tradition, Catherine gives us one of our twists. She has the ability, and always has had it since childhood, to be able to touch someone’s skin and feel their character and emotions. The mysterious patient in her research ward touched her skin by accident and was able to force his thoughts into her mind, showing her he was the former commander of Mac’s team and, while the survivors thought he had betrayed them into disgrace and exile, in actuality he seems to be as much of a victim, unable to speak and close to death. Catherine has literally fallen in love with the Mac this man has revealed to her in his memories, and even while the reality is scaring the bejesus out of her, her body cannot help but react to his presence.

The evil villain provides both our story arc and the sci-fi element. The pharmaceutical company Catherine works for is involved with some very, very illegal research. She thinks that her mystery patient has dementia but her scans reveal surgeries not recorded in his medical file and while dementia symptoms exist, his brain scans show he should be fully functional and able to speak. What Catherine doesn’t know is that the head of the company is taking the drug Catherine is developing to amplify the neurons ability to communicate in her dementia patients, and instead using it to create hopped up super-soldiers, in the hope of helping the Chinese take over the world. (Unsurprisingly, their economy has superseded our own in the future.)

Midnight Man (Midnight series #1) by Lisa Marie Rice (Ellora’s Cave, November 1, 2009)

Mac seems like a cross between Midnight from Midnight Man in his air of command and physically reminds me of Douglas Kowalski from Midnight Angel because of his facial scarring. Rice always does a great job of making even the heroes who are clearly not physically beautiful appealing by explaining their aura of danger and laser-like attention to the heroine (let’s not forget their amazing bodies – that book cover doesn’t seem far off the mark). The sex in her books is always highly chemical, full of off-the-charts heat, a little fast and rough but these joinings always brings our hero/heroine closer together – they literally cannot get enough of each other. With Catherine’s ability to sense emotions through skin, this physical connection takes on a whole other dimension.

Just like in past series, we have two other characters, team members of Mac’s, who future books will flesh out. Nick will be the focus of the next book, I Dream of Danger, due out in July 2013, and while he seems emotionless, we discovered through Catherine’s touch that Nick is still in love with and worries about a woman he knew before he became a ghost. Happy-go-lucky Jon may seem like a surfer dude on the outside, but he’s unable to trust due to some betrayal of his past and I look forward to reading his story as well. There are a lot of interesting secondary characters (like former Oscar-winning actress and now cook, Stella, who I adored) that would either be potential partners for the men or great characters to explore in future books, so I’m interested to see if Rice stops at a trilogy or ends up with multiple books or novellas in this series.

With other supposedly dead members of their former team found at the end of this book, the revelations as to the level of conspiracy and the role of the pharmaceutical nemesis should be rather substantial.  It will be interesting to see how the romantic suspense plot develops as a result of this ongoing explanation, one which seems far more elaborate and substantial than anything Rice has taken on in a series before.

While we will have to wait and see the other books in the series to determine if Ghost Ops can compete with such fabulous classics as Midnight Man or Dangerous Passion, Rice is taking on new territory while relying on tried and true approaches to characterization will undoubtedly have her diehard fans adding this series to their bookshelves. I know I was happy to do it. Thanks, Lisa!

You’ll Want To Get In Bed with Undercover Alliance by Lilly Cain

19 Jul

Undercover Alliance (The Confederacy Treaty, #3) by Lilly Cain (Carina Press, June 25, 2012)

It’s easy to have a little trepidation when approaching a science fiction erotic novella. Science fiction, by its nature, is about world-building and a writer has to devote valuable word count toward while also developing their characters and the rapid attraction between them. Add to this dilemma the fact that Undercover Alliance is the third in a series and I was sweating bullets that had nothing to do with the warm summer weather.

In the excellent hands of writer Lilly Cain, however, I had nothing to worry about.

I was shocked that this beefy novella was around 100 pages since the emotional and intellectual journey it took me on felt equivalent to a full-length novel. It’s also a terrific value at a smidgen over $3 for the Kindle version; I’ve paid a lot more for writing that was not this good.

A space-travel capable Earth has made contact a few months prior to the books events with the Inarrii, a people bound by complex clan systems filled with warriors who follow a strong code of honor in order to reflect well on their families. The Inarrii are also covered with swirling tendrils of what looks like henna tattoos but are in actuality a system of visible nerves which give them outstanding sensitivity, particularly sexually. This is vital to their health as Inarrii must experience regular sexual release in order to deal with stress and maintain mental and physical health, a fact of life which endows them with a freedom and openness to sexuality reflected in their honest approach to life.

Sarina is a damaged Inarrii warrior, looked upon with pity by her people. In a battle during the previous book in the series, a portion of nerve system was damaged beyond repair, making her unable to orgasm, despite her healer’s best efforts. Denied the work as a warrior she loves, she knows that she is a ticking time bomb with her people waiting for her to go insane. When she is given a token assignment to guard a minor human who is part of the legal team negotiating the treaty between their planets, she takes it in the hope that her diligence and ability will be proof of her continued competence.

The Naked Truth (The Confederacy Treaty #2) by Lilly Cain (Carina Press, June 13, 2011)

John Benning is not what she expected however. A good looking, sleek bodied male who can move silently and knows martial arts doesn’t seem the typical prototype for a lawyer consumed with the fine print of contracts. She knows he’s not what he seems yet she can’t help feeling sexually attracted to him. The discovery that they share a mental bond, a rarity between two different species, means that she might be able to obtain orgasm with him by riding his pleasure and through it attaining her own.

John can’t believe the beautiful woman who is his bodyguard. She’s clearly a consummate warrior and her direct sexual approach is refreshing, even as they continually experience one attack after another. Sarina clearly knows he’s lying about being a minor player in the negotiation process, but due to the nature of his mission he is unable to tell her that he is a high-level spy. Ever since losing his partner years ago, John has only worked alone and for good reason – he can’t afford to be distracted worrying about someone other than himself. But this Inarrii beauty might be his undoing.

The emotions, and not just attraction and love but growing tenderness between our hero and heroine, are carefully built and bring the reader into a realm of total belief regarding a relationship between these two. The larger political conflict is easily understandable and introduced with a minimum of exposition but it’s the almost anthropological approach to understanding the Inarrii where Cain excels. When science fiction becomes erotic, it always runs the risk of seeming tawdry or sensationalist, but the reader comes away with a strong respect for the differing approach to sexuality the Inarrii possess, an understanding which does not diminish the hot attraction between the main characters.

I’ll be purchasing the previous books in this series in order to enjoy this world even more and to also revel in Cain’s writing. Both the science fiction and the erotic romance side of this equation will be quite the pleasurable experience thanks to her!

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