For one magic summer, Genny Valente escapes to spend time as a wildlife observer in the untamed mountains. Little does she know that a beast more fearsome than any leopard lurks in the forest . . . a man, one of the Chosen Ones, betrayed by his gift and tormented by his memories. John Powell has fled his fate and his duty, yet in Genny he sees his one chance for redemption. He will stalk her, kidnap her, love her as only a savage can. But when a new betrayal threatens, John must call on the powers he swore he’d never use again. Then only Genny can save him–if she dares.
Christina Dodd’s new release continues the saga of The Chosen Ones who are in the battle against The Others, both groups composed of people who were once Abandoned Ones and, according to the ancient legend, were the targets of the forces of good and evil and given “gifts” to assist in that timeless war. All of the characters in the novels are tied to these two groups in one way or the other.
Genny Valente is the daughter of a former executive who conned and robbed his way right out of the Gypsy Travel Agency, the organization which provided “cover” and financing for The Chosen. Kevin Valente is a man who has no conscience about his former criminal acts and certainly not about using his daughter to gain his own ends. She, on the other hand, longs for the love of a parent and the value that such a relationship would have given her. Now, having completed her undergraduate and master’s programs in business, an academic major she never wanted and insisted upon by her dad, she has been “given” a graduation present (not really a present) when her dad presents her with a summer trip, being a part of an exploratory team but a situation which is clearly a set-up. This journey would allow her to be “free” of his pressuring and the business world she has come to abhor. Now she can spend the entire summer in a remote part of Russia observing and photographing the illusive and almost extinct lynx. (She had always wanted to be a veterinarian.) Her only task required of her by her father is to talk John Powell, one of The Chosen Ones who has gone into self-imposed exile, to return to New York City and finish out his commitment of seven years.
What really grabbed me about this novel was what I would call a deeper-than-normal look at the human factor in all these fantasy world doings. In Dodd’s signature way, each of the characters, no matter how seemingly minor their role in the story may appear, had a critical reason for being a part of the context. The Russian lady whose expedition into the Urals took Genny into the deep and ancient forests, the team members whose presence seems innocuous initially but who become more important as the story infolds, various persons in the tiny Russian community who waft in and out of the pages–all are a complex weaving of presence and influence that is far too involved to outline here. Suffice it to say that each one was there for an important reason which gradually becomes clear as the story progresses. John is there, too, having returned to the locale where his earliest, albeit unhappy memories, were rooted. Here he lives the life of a hermit, barely surviving, but determined to hide from the world, the Gypsy Travel Agency, and himself. Genny “blows the doors off” his inner self–accepting him as a friend, pushing him beyond his comfort zone, forcing him to see himself through her eyes. His reputation as a lover–coupling with women is only by necessity for him–has preceeded him, but even though she is attracted to him, she is more concerned about him as a person. And, 0f course, he is seduced by her in a way that sort of comes at him when he least expects it and to a degree for which he is not prepared emotionally.
This is a novel about courge: courage to take up your life even when it appears that there is no hope for the future, courage to move beyond the boundaries set by other people, courage to leave behind hopes for relationship that can and will never be, courage to be who you are in the truest sense of that concept. John and Genny must take a journey of discovery about themselves and their place in the world, and while that journey brings them together for a while, it also forces them apart so that they have no option but to become whole before they can truly compliment one another.
Dodd is one of those authors that brings an amazing level of writing expertise to each project she undertakes. Her imagination is awesome and her plot situations and story line development are consistent and creative. The characters are rooted in legend and fantasy, yet they sparkle with the authentic humanity with which a reader can relate. Even the gifted have tempers and jeolousies, they scrap and bicker like kids, they jostle for position and prominence perhaps more than ordinary beings, but they are individuals so very much like people we know in real life. Dodd has built in story line surprises galore so as in all her novels, the reader dare not get too comfortable that the happy ending is in sight. Just as in real life, we have to work for that.
So I recommend this novel as a great read, a worthy addition to one’s romance library, and one that has whetted my appetite for other novels in this series. I don’t think a lover of fantasy and romance will want to miss this one. I give this novel a 4.75 out of 5 rating.
You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.