Wicked Attraction (The Protector #2) by Megan Hart


This title may be purchased from Amazon

Ewan Donahue has made a lot of mistakes, but making Nina Bronson want to leave him has been the worst. With the initial threats on his life out of the way, he doesn’t really need her protection, but hiring her to take care of him again is the only way to get her back in his life. When Nina shows up ready to work —and nothing else — Ewan’s determined to win her back. If he can break through the walls his earlier betrayal built, maybe they can have another shot at love. When it turns out that this time, it’s Nina who’s being targeted for danger and possibly death, Ewan’s the one who has to keep her safe.

Rating: C+

Wicked Attraction is the second book in Megan Hart’s The Protector trilogy in which the three books tell one overarching story – which means there are spoilers for book one in this review.

In Dangerous Promise, the author made a terrific job of building her vision of the world of the late twenty-first/early twenty-second century in which the books are set, and of introducing her two principal characters. Nina Bronson is ‘enhanced’, a human with superhuman abilities that are the result of experimental technology implanted in her brain which allows her to control her physical and emotional responses and bodily functions, and to be stronger and faster than normal human beings. Because of the advantages given her, she – and the other fourteen former soldiers who underwent the same treatment – are barred from returning to the armed forces and the only work open to them is as bodyguards. When Nina is hired to protect billionaire businessman Ewan Donahue, it’s the ultimate irony because he’s the leading opponent of enhancement technology. The laws which have been passed owing to his persistent lobbying and political influence have banned the creation of any more enhanced, and prohibit the application of upgrades – which means that ultimately, all fifteen of them will break down and die. But these laws are unpopular in some circles, many groups believing the experimentation should be allowed to continue; and it’s this belief which led to the mountain of death threats against Ewan from which Nina was hired to protect him.

Even more ironic, however, is the fact that not only is Ewan now a passionate opponent of enhancement, he’s the one ultimately responsible for it. Nina is unaware of this until quite late in the book – and of course, once she discovers the truth, is devastated. She fell in love with Ewan and his deception inflicts the sort of pain she hasn’t experienced in years and had hoped never to feel again. As soon as his safety is assured, she leaves, wanting nothing more to do with him – but fate takes a hand when she is offered a lucrative contract on behalf on an anonymous client. She isn’t surprised when that client turns out to be Ewan Donahue, intent on getting her back into his life by hook or by crook.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

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Dangerous Promise (The Protector #1) by Megan Hart

This title may be purchased from Amazon.

Nina Bronson used to be all human — until the experimental surgeries and internal technology that saved her life and enhanced her as a soldier also forced her to leave the army for private service. Now she and her peers are facing slow, painful deaths unless their technology is upgraded, and the one man keeping those upgrades illegal and unavailable is an obnoxious billionaire. A man too gorgeous for his own good.

A man she’s supposed to guard with her life.

Ewan Donahue is the public voice speaking out against the enhancement procedures of injured soldiers. But when his lobbying leads to death threats, he needs someone to protect him around the clock. He doesn’t want to rely on an enhanced soldier—Nina’s tech goes against everything he stands for. But he really doesn’t want her to be beautiful like she is. Doesn’t want her to suffer like she will.

Doesn’t want to succumb to the searing desire he feels for her.

As a series of attacks on his life send them to a remote cabin, their close proximity brings them together in ways they never imagined. They know they must prevent the need simmering between them, resist each other at all costs. But when tensions are high and danger is close, passion burns hottest of all…

Rating: B

I don’t read much sci-fi romance, but I like it occasionally, and when I read one of my fellow AAR reviewers’ take on Dangerous Promise, it sounded really intriguing.

Set in a near future (a date is not specified, but I’m guessing late 21st/early 22nd century), Dangerous Promise introduces readers to kick-ass female bodyguard Nina Bronson, one of fifteen former soldiers who were all ‘enhanced’ using newly invented nano-technology which both saved their lives and has given them greater strength and stamina and the ability to control their physical and emotional reactions and bodily functions.  When Nina joined the army at nineteen and signed documents allowing her body to be used in the event of her death, she’d assumed it meant organ donation – not that she’d be brought back from the dead by having a number of nanochips implanted in her brain and nervous system.

Not long after she and her fellow ‘enhanced’ were created and the implications of the tech were fully understood, laws were passed outlawing any further implantations or any further development of the tech.  Nina and her fellows are thus the only enhanced humans in existence, and as the tech gradually decays, so will they, as they’ve effectively been denied access to the necessary upgrades.

Billionaire businessman Ewan Donahue is the highest-profile, most vocal of those who oppose the development of enhancement technology, and he’s a very visible target for those who believe the tech should be available to others – especially one organisation who wants to use it to build legions of super soldiers.  Being threatened is nothing new to him, but when the number of death threats he receives increases, leading to the deaths of not one, but two of his bodyguards, he approaches the elite ProtectCorps agency and hires Nina as his personal protection.

Both are well aware of the dichotomy inherent in their situation and make no bones about it.  But what Nina doesn’t know is that while Ewan now speaks out against the enhancement tech, he’s the one responsible for developing it in the first place.  Desperate to help his sister Katie, who was dying of Dementia, he invented and programmed the original software that connected to the brain and nervous system that should have allowed Katie to regain control of her mind and body… but sadly, the breakthrough came too late to save her.  After her death, and finally realising the implications of what he’d done, Ewan came back to reality with a thud and realised how messed up it was to want to play god with people’s lives – and made sure the program was shut down.

But their positions on either side of the debate don’t prevent a powerful attraction developing between them.  They are together 24/7 and spend a lot of time talking about many different things, including the ethical implications of the enhancement tech and Nina’s very existence.  Nina finds Ewan very attractive and her enhanced abilities allow her to work out that that feeling is mutual.  She isn’t averse to having a sexual relationship with him and is safe in the knowledge that she can turn off her emotions and just enjoy the sex… but for Ewan, it’s different. He’s come to know and like Nina as a person, and is falling in love with her, deeply and completely.  There are a number of superbly-written steamy scenes between them, and before very long, Nina starts finding it more and more difficult to keep herself aloof and begins slowly to open up and allow herself to have the sort of feelings for Ewan she’s never had for anyone.

Of course, the path of true love can never be allowed to run completely smooth, and with Ewan’s secret hanging in the air between them, the book concludes on a dramatic and heart-rending cliff-hanger with the story to picked up in book two, Wicked Attraction.

Ms. Hart establishes the background to her story brilliantly, and her world-building is superb.  The earth of the time the book is set is recognisable, but has suffered a second Cold War, environmental disasters as the result of an abortive attempt to colonise the Moon, and something called Gray Tuesday, when an unknown hacker destroyed ninety percent of the world’s servers and back-up data, wiping out bank accounts, personal data and generally causing untold chaos.  She also explores the importance of memory to who we are – the nanochips that give the enhanced their increased abilities can also be reprogrammed so parts (or all) of the person’s memory can be erased – and the idea that Nina and those like her are regarded with suspicion and hatred, and that they are somehow ‘lesser’ because of what they have become.

Dangerous Promise is an action-packed, sexy read based on a well-developed and intriguing premise which features two flawed, interesting characters with great chemistry.  I’m hooked, and will definitely be snapping up books two and three to find out how everything turns out.

The Best of 2017 – My Favourite Books of Last Year.

It’s something of a tradition to put together a “favourite books of the year” list around Christmas and New Year – I’m a little late with mine this year, but here’s the Best of 2017 list I put together for All About Romance.  Did any of them make your Best Books of 2017 list?

I had to make some really tough choices – here are some of the books that also deserved a place on the list, but which I just couldn’t fit in!

Touch of Red (Tracers #12) by Laura Griffin (audiobook) – Narrated by Tavia Gilbert and George Newbern

This title may be downloaded from Audible

When crime scene investigator Brooke Porter arrives at the home of a murdered woman, the only thing more shocking than the carnage is the evidence that someone escaped the scene. But where is this witness now? A thorough search of the area yields more questions than answers, and before Brooke even packs up her evidence kit, she’s made it her goal to find the witness and get them out of harm’s way.

Homicide detective Sean Byrne has seen his share of bloody crime scenes, but this one is particularly disturbing, especially because Brooke Porter is smack in the middle of it. Sean has had his eye on the sexy CSI for months, and he’s determined to help her with her current case—even if it means putting his attraction on hold so he and Brooke can track down a murderer. But as the investigation—and their relationship—heats up, Sean realizes that keeping his work and his personal life separate is more complicated than he ever imagined; especially when the killer sets his sights on Brooke.

Rating: Narration – A: Content – B

Touch of Red is the twelfth book in Laura Griffin’s Tracers series of standalone romantic suspense novels, and is one of only four titles in the series available in audio (the others are books one, two and eight – I have no idea why those in particular). While that’s rather frustrating for anyone wanting to embark upon a long-running series, it could actually turn out to be a good thing, because if the publisher is planning on recording the other books, there’s the chance that they’ll use the same excellent dual narrator team of Tavia Gilbert and George Newbern to perform them.

Each book in the series boasts a self-contained suspense plot and a romance that reaches an HFN or HEA by the end, so there is no need to worry about cliffhangers; and although characters from earlier books do make an appearance – par for the course with series books – the author gives the listener enough information to explain how they relate to the current story and its characters, so it’s not strictly necessary to have listened to or read the previous books. Linking the books together is the Delphi Center, a high-end, high-tech forensics facility that is usually called in by the San Marcos PD to help with their biggest and most difficult cases.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Tramps and Thieves (Murder and Mayhem #2) by Rhys Ford (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon

Whoever said blood was thicker than water never stood in a pool of it.

Retiring from stealing priceless treasures seemed like a surefire way for Rook Stevens to stay on the right side of the law. The only cop in his life should have been his probably-boyfriend, Los Angeles Detective Dante Montoya, but that’s not how life – his life – is turning out. Instead, Rook ends up not only standing in a puddle of his cousin Harold’s blood but also being accused of Harold’s murder…and sleeping with Harold’s wife.

For Dante, loving the former thief means his once-normal life is now a sea of chaos, especially since Rook seems incapable of staying out of trouble – or keeping trouble from following him home. When Rook is tagged as a murder suspect by a narrow-focused West LA detective, Dante steps in to pull his lover out of the quagmire Rook’s landed in.

When the complicated investigation twists around on them, the dead begin to stack up, forcing the lovers to work together. Time isn’t on their side, and if they don’t find the killer before another murder, Dante will be visiting Rook in his prison cell – or at his grave.

Rating: Narration – A+: Content – B+

I so enjoyed Murder and Mayhem, the first book in Rhys Ford’s series about the cop and the (ex) cat burglar, that I was tempted to move straight on to book two, Tramps and Thieves immediately it came out. But then I told myself to be a good little reviewer and listen to some of the other things that were – admittedly – ahead of it on my TBL. So I did. But now here I am to tell you that, in spite of some similarities in the plotline (someone is Out To Get Rook), Tramps and Thieves is every bit as entertaining as Murder and Mayhem; Dante and Rook are every bit as engaging as they were before and Greg Tremblay’s narration is every bit as awesome.

At the end of Murder and Mayhem, L.A. detective Dante Montoya and Rook Stevens, the ex-thief who’d haunted Dante’s thoughts for years, were an established couple – although it was clear that things weren’t going to be plain sailing for the rather mis-matched duo. Falling in love with someone who spent most of his life on the wrong side of the law is something Dante never expected, and loving the acerbic, vulnerable and complicated Rook has turned his life upside down. But in a good way.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Poison Evidence (Evidence #7) by Rachel Grant (audiobook) – Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

It was supposed to be paradise….

Ivy MacLeod has the perfect opportunity to test her advanced remote sensing technology: mapping a World War II battle site in the islands of Palau. The project is more than an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise. It’s also an opportunity to distance her reputation from her traitorous ex-husband.

But foreign intelligence agencies will kill to possess her invention, and paradise turns deadly when her ex-husband’s vicious allies attack. In desperation, she turns to Air Force pilot Jack Keaton. But is he the bigger threat? Jack might be protecting her as he claims…or he could be a foreign agent. Her compass is skewed by his magnetic pull and further thrown off when she learns her own government has betrayed her.

Stranded on a tropical island with a man whose motives remain a mystery, Ivy must decide who is the spy, who is the protector, and who is the ultimate villain. She longs to trust the man who rescued her, but she’s risking more than her heart. Choose right, and she saves her country’s secrets – and her life. Choose wrong – and she risks nothing short of all-out war.

Rating: Narration – B+: Content – A-

Note: In my review of Cold Evidence, I mentioned that there was a teeny bit of a cliffhanger at the end, which would play out in the next book. Because the two stories are linked by this plot point and a few recurring characters, there will be some small spoilers for Cold Evidence in this review.

Rachel Grant is – in case it’s not obvious by now – my go-to author for romantic suspense. She’s got the knack of getting the balance between romance and plot just right; the pacing in her books is spot on, just the right mix of fast-paced action and calmer periods of reflection or love scenes, and her characters are strong, likeable and easy to root for. In this series, she’s drawn strongly on her background as an historian and archaeologist, and many of her characters work in those professions, as marine archaeologists, military historians and the like, all of which I find fascinating. In Poison Evidence, the seventh book in the Evidence series, we meet Ivy MacLeod, a highly intelligent, self-confessed tech-geek with a passion for geological and geographical archaeology, who works for NHHC (Naval History and Heritage Command) and whose latest invention – a complex computerised mapping system using infrared and Lidar she nicknames CAM – is about to undergo its first field test in the small Pacific island nation of Palau.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

War Games (Valiant Knox #4) by Jess Anastasi

This title may be purchased from Amazon

When one of her pilots is shot down behind enemy lines, Lieutenant Theresa Brenner will stop at nothing to save her before she’s captured and tortured, even if it means being part of the dirtside team led by Colonel Cameron McAllister. Bren might respect the way the colonel commands his men, but she’ll never trust Cam—no matter how charming he is—because he was responsible for her brother’s death.

Colonel Cameron McAllister has a covert mission behind enemy lines to team with the Ilari rebels and overthrow the bloodthirsty dictator who’s torn their planet apart. The last thing he needs is to get sidetracked searching for a downed pilot, especially since it means having Lieutenant Theresa Brenner tag along. Not only doesn’t the frosty pilot have the ground game to keep up with his seasoned group, she’s a potential distraction with all those gorgeous blond curls of hers—and she might be just like her brother, whose foolhardiness got his men killed.

Rating: C+

Having thoroughly enjoyed Jess Anastasi’s Atrophy (book one in her Atrophy series), I’m keen to read more of her work, so while I wait for the next Atrophy book to appear, I decided to pick up War Games, which is the fourth and final novel centring around the UEF battleship Valiant Knox. I haven’t read the previous books, and the author includes enough information here for newbies to be able to work out who is who and how they relate to each other; although I suspect I’ve probably missed some of the explanations and backstory to the war going on between the UEF and the CSS – and I admit, I wouldn’t have minded a glossary of the acronyms!

CAFF (and this one is in the book! – Captain of the Fighter Force) Theresa Brenner is discovering that her recent promotion is not all it’s cracked up to be, as she is spending more time behind a desk shovelling paperwork or on the deck of the Valiant Knox giving orders than she is actually flying with her fighter squadrons.  But her wish to be out in the field is granted in the worst possible way; one of her pilots, Sub-Officer Shen, is shot down during a skirmish with the enemy, and ejects from her fighter, leaving her stranded on the nearest planet, Ilari.  Knowing that if Shen is captured, she’ll be tortured in a CSS rededication camp, Bren (as she prefers to be called) immediately applies for permission to mount a rescue.

Commander Yang (hero of Escape Velocity, book one in the series) is reluctant to give the order; he’s just received information that the situation on Ilari is being further complicated by the newly emerging rebel forces, and that operating behind enemy lines is more dangerous than ever.  But Bren is adamant – even going so far as to say she’ll go to look for Shen herself – when help comes from a most unexpected (and unwelcome) quarter.

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.