Dear Ms. Harrison:
I’ve been a fan of your Elder Races series since Dragon Bound. I’m one of those readers who is always delighted to hear that a new entry in the series is coming out and was even more excited to hear that Aryal, one of Dragos Cuelebre’s Sentinels, was going to get her Happily Ever After. Why? Because I really strongly disliked Aryal (as I think you intended) and I was really interested to see how you would make me root for her.
Aryal jumped off the page from the moment she is introduced into the series. She’s a Harpy, an Ancient, and vicious. She’s the only female on an all male crew of Sentinels, and is just as lethal as any of the guys. She’s recently won her way back onto the Sentinels in the Games, a gladiator-like competition that Dragos organized to find two additional Sentinels, as his most trusted team has been falling in love on a routine basis and leaving him to be with their mates. His remaining Sentinels all won their battles, and two new team members were added. They included Quentin Caeravorn, a Wyr Panther, and owner of the bar where Pia (Dragos’s mate) used to work.
From the moment Aryal meets Quentin, she’s suspicious. This is a bad guy. He’s shifty, clearly dangerous, and obviously up to no good. She basically hates him on sight, and will stop at nothing to prove that he is colluding against Dragos and is an imminent threat to all Dragos holds dear (including his new infant son). She begins digging into his life, leaving no stone unturned. She’s positive that she will find something. This starts off irritating Quentin, who is not a danger per se to Dragos, although he doesn’t particularly like the guy. But one night, Aryal oversteps herself by coming to his home and Quentin is enraged. So furious that he drives to the Tower (Dragos’s fortress) and attacks Aryal the moment he sees her. Aryal is delighted. This is what she’s wanted all along. To beat the snot out of this guy, who she’s sure is betraying Dragos. Sadly, the two of them decide to go at it in very close proximity to Pia, who was walking her infant son, trying to get him to sleep. Needless to say, they’ve now seriously pissed off Dragos, who has had enough of their sniping, fighting, and endless battles. He banishes both of them. His plan being that they’ll either work it out, or one of them will literally die trying.
He sends them on a mission to Numenlaur, an Elven Demense, that has been abandoned after the last battle between the Elves and the Wyr. Quentin, who has very close ties to the Elves, is suspicious of Dragos’s intent, but all Dragos wants is to be sure that Numenlaur isn’t being looted. And, he wants his Sentinels to work it out. Forced to team up with the very woman he has come to hate, Quentin must put aside his loathing for Aryal and work with her to secure Numenlaur. But as the two work together, they come to admire each others abilities. And a grudging admiration and attraction grows. They hate that they are attracted to each other, but can’t seem to fight it. And when they find that they must depend upon each other wholly to survive what awaits them in Numenlaur, that attraction boils over into something more.
Oh I liked this book. Particularly, I liked Quentin. He’s complicated, difficult, moody, loyal, gorgeous, and a consistent character. He’s an amazing foil for Aryal, because even as he hates that her tenacity has her invading his life, he’s attracted to those things that make her a pitbull. Their chemistry is really incendiary, and I so appreciated that their relationship was intense from the start. This is not a romance that turns hearts and puppies when the couple falls in love, they are tough on each other, they fight, they argue, and you never doubt that they are falling in love. I appreciated that there were no punches pulled between them.
I also liked that you somehow redeemed Aryal in my eyes. I think probably because as a reader I’d never been exposed to her inner thoughts, I didn’t understand her motivation. She has her own code of honor. It’s not pristine, it’s not shiny, but it IS a code of honor, and she lives by it. When she gives her loyalty, it’s forever, and those she loves, she protects, no matter what. I found her to be admirable. And I found myself rooting for her to find her way with Quentin. I really liked that Aryal’s edges were only slightly softened by love. But her ferocity and her deep well of love was uncovered as well. While her nature is doesn’t change, her ability to love is uncovered for the reader. It really was lovely to experience.
I should also note that the title is not really indicative of BDSM. The sex is down and dirty, but it never really ventures into what I would call BDSM. I do not think that this book stands alone well. Plus, reading the series is a treat that I think readers should experience. But I think that regular readers of the series will be pleased with this entry and will happily come back for more. Kinked gets a B+ from me, and a happy recommendation.