BREEDS 24 (novel): Navarro's Promise
Here is Devil's description of Katie at 16, the first time he saw her: "She was all wild Irish red hair, big emerald eyes and soft peaches-and-cream skin....She was tough as hell, but she looked as delicate as a red rose." This is the mating story of Devil Black (Wolf Breed) and 23-year-old Mary Kathleen (Katie) O'Sullivan, who is a rare, lab-produced composite of Human, Wolf, and Coyote. Katie has been living as a human in Ireland, but now her Breed genetics have kicked in, and the European authorities want to drag her in for testing. In order to prevent this from happening, all of the big-wig American Breeds' leaders come to Ireland and manage to smuggle her out of the country to Lobo Reever's compound on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.
Devil is the hard-hearted, fierce Breed enforcer whose job is to be an executioner—to go after Breeds marked to die. He has always believed that he would never find his mate, but when he first saw Katie back when she was sixteen, he never forgot her. Now, the two fall immediately into mating heat, and you know what happens next.
There are also appearances by Rule Breaker, who is masquerading as Graeme, the security expert on Lobo's compound. Cassie and Dash Sinclair also turn up in supporting roles.
This is a typical BREEDS romance, with plenty of sex and a side order of dramatic action, although the action part of the plot is rather light. If you're not familiar with the series, you might be confused by some of the references. Click HERE to read my review of all of the novellas in Enthralled, the anthology in which this story is included.
To understand what's going on in this novel, you'll need to be familiar with at least the past two novels: Lawe's Justice (#26) and Stygian's Honor (#27). I am not going to summarize the action-plot lines in this review, but you can read my reviews of 26 and 27 (above) for an overview. Without providing any spoilers, I will just say that in Rule Breaker, most of those interconnected story threads are untangled and resolved.
But let's not worry too much about the action plot because in this series, it is always the romance that has center stage. This time around, the soul-mate lovers are über-alpha Rule Breaker (brother of Lawe Justice) and Gypsy McQuade, a 24-year-old human woman who hides her undercover spying activities behind a sexy-party-girl facade. As is almost always the case, our heroine had a horrific experience in her teen years that has emotionally scarred her forever. When Gypsy was 15, she sneaked out of the house to go to a party. When her beloved brother and loyal protector, Mark, followed her, both were captured by a vicious gang of Coyote Breeds. Mark was murdered as Gypsy was forced to watch, and she has blamed herself for Mark's death ever since—and so have her parents. Breed enforcers arrived in the nick of time to save Gypsy's life, and that was the moment that Rule Breaker first saw Gypsy, thus beginning an unspoken and unfulfilled attraction that has continued for the past nine years. Just a side note here: The given names in Gypsy's family are ludicrous: Her parents are Hansel and Greta; then we have Gypsy Rum and her sister, Kandy Sweet. Only Mark somehow got away with a normal name.
Rule has always vowed never to be trapped by the Mating Heat. At the very first sign, he plans to run away from his potential mate—as far and as fast as possible. When they were children, Rule and his brother were imprisoned in the Genetic Council's labs, where they were forced to witness "not just his mother's mate be dissected alive, but also his mother, because of the Mating Heat and the sceinties' determination to view the effects of it on the living body." (p. 96) Rule believes that the only way to protect his own potential mate is to avoid the actual Mating process, which would bind them together forever. Although Rule is greatly attracted to Gypsy, neither one of them has the Mating Heat scent, so he believes that he is safe in starting a sexual relationship with her. Oh boy, is he ever wrong about that!
The love affair and the action plot intersect when Gypsy is suspected of being a spy for the Unknown, a mystical—and supposedly mythological—Navajo group. In this novel, there are so many different small groups working for, against, and alongside each other that if you aren't familiar with the origin of the various conflicts and the characters in each group, you'll be completely lost. I have read all of the books and I still got lost sometimes in the convolution of story lines.
On the good side, this is a great, if tortured, love story, with an emotionally scarred heroine, an all-too-arrogant hero, scum-bag parents, and lots of twists and turns near the end (although it's pretty easy to spot the traitorous villain). Everybody gets into the act by the time the epilogue rolls around so—once again—you need to know who's who.
Rule is just as dominant in the bedroom as all the rest of Leigh's BREEDS heroes are, and Gypsy is just as submissive. This aspect of the series has always bothered me because no matter how intelligent and feisty the heroines are in the action scenes, they melt into little puddles of sexy submission the minute they hit the sheets. The story lines of the BREEDS romances are so familiar after 29 times around the block, that I was actually disheartened about what Leigh had to say about future books in a blog interview (2/5/14) on Literary Cravings: "I have about 35 additional titles and ideas listed in several different notebooks. Sometimes, it feels never-ending, but the ideas keep me excited and keep me writing as fast as my fingers can moved across the keyboard to attempt to catch up with all the characters begging for their turn." Personally, even though I enjoyed the earlier books, I'm not looking forward to reading 35 more stories that follow basically the same romantic plot.
In that same interview, Leigh describes the next novel in the series: "Next is Gideon’s book, the Bengal that’s shadowed Jonas and his step-daughter Amber as Jonas has fought to save the child’s life. If you think Jonas is manipulating, I can’t wait until you see how manipulating Gideon can be. He’s sworn he’d kill the woman-child whose blood forced him to live and in his mind, drove him insane. What he didn’t realize was that it was his Bengal driving him crazy. His mate was far too young to mate, and the animal inside him knew it. It drove the human side of his psyche slightly crazy to ensure that man kept the distance needed to keep the animal in check. Breeds are equal parts of human and animal. Always in conflict, fighting for dominance, until they come together once they find their mate and the solace they’ve sought for so long."