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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Karin Harlow: L. O. S. T. Series

Author: Karin Harlow
Series: L. O. S. T. Series (SMR, Romantic Suspense)
Ratings: V4; S4; H2
Publisher and Titles: Pocket Star
      Enemy Lover (2010)
      Enemy Mine (2011) 

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 9/27/11 to include a review of the second book in the series: Enemy Mine. That review follows this overview of the series so far:

     This is a first and foremost a paranormal romance series, but it is a special ops kind of series as well. In this world, a covert organization (Last Option Special Team, aka L.O.S.T.) exists to eliminate enemies of the U.S. who are beyond the usual limits of the justice system. L.O.S.T. is made up of super warriors (primarily men) who have made some severe blunders in their former lives and have accepted membership in L.O.S.T. in order to get a second chance. In each book, a couple meets in a swirl of lust, participates in a series of dangerous escapades, and eventually achieves their HEA

     In Enemy Lover, the heroine is Angela Giacomelli, who was a Baltimore cop when she was raped and mutilated by a human trafficker. When Angela recovered from her injuries, she sought out her attacker and killed him, for which she was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Angela's fellow officers and even her boyfriend turned their backs on her, so she feels as if she has nothing to live for. As the story opens, a fearful Angela is in a bus on her way to prison when she is kidnapped by a phony prison guard and winds up in the war room of L.O.S.T. headquarters surrounded by big, scary dudes. The leader of L.O.S.T. (Mr. Black, aka the Godfather) talks Angela into joining his group. He then rehabilitates her, changes her name to Jax Cassidy, and sends her out on missions with the rest of his team, all of whom are big, handsome, well-trained male warriors who also came from sketchy backgrounds. In one of her first missions, Jax is sent to take down Marcus Cross, a henchman for Lazarus, the leader of the Solution, another secretive quasi-military group that is not nearly as honest and patriotic as L.O.S.T. Naturally enough, Jax and Marcus immediately fall for one another even though they lie to each other and mistrust each other most of the way through the book. Matters are further complicated when Marcus reveals to Jax that he is a vampire. Not only that, but the villainous Lazarus, who is an older, stronger, and really crazy vampire, is Marcus's maker and master. The loving couple must learn to trust one another while they decide how to take down Lazarus. 

     In Enemy Mine, the heroine is Selena Guererro, a half demon/half human who leads a double lifeactually a triple life. First and foremost, she is a spy/tracker/killer for Los Cuatro, which, on the surface, is a Latino humanitarian organization. She also kills demonic Hellkeepers in order to collect their hearts in a magical necklace so that she can gain enough strength to kill her demon father, Paymon. Finally, she is a mother who must keep her daughter's existence hidden both from the child's father and from her own father. Talk about a rough life! The hero is Nikko Cruz (aka Johnny Cicone), one of the L.O.S.T. warriors. Eight years ago, Nikko (then called Johnny) and Selena were lovers. When she became pregnant, her demon father tried to force her to give him her soon-to-be-born child's soul in exchange for her life and Nikko's. To keep them both safe, Selena had to make it appear that she got rid of the child. She did this to make Nikko hate her enough to leave her—so that he would be safe from her father. She pretended to have an abortion, and when she told Nikko, he not only turned against he, he killed her (at least that's what he and the police department thought). Nikko was on his way to prison for that murder when L.O.S.T. reached out to him. For all these years he has lived with his hatred for what Selena did to his unborn child and with his guilt for having murdered her. So, as you can imagine, both of their minds are raging with angst-filled guilt and self-loathing thoughts. In the opening scene of the book, the situation between Selena and Nikko is re-opened when he is nearly killed while trying to highjack a load of uranium, and she injects him with vampire blood to save his life. Now he knows that she is alive and that she works for a different team than he does. A Russian mobster has stolen the uranium and plans to sell it to the highest bidder, one of whom is a demon who wants to use it to kill as many humans as possible and become king of the world. The uranium plot line is constructed so that Nikko and Selena are forced to work together for the good of humankind (as is so often the case in these paranormal romances). Needless to say, the road to their HEA is extremely rocky (but very erotic).

     L.O.S.T. is a straightforward SMR series with most of the typical characteristics: smart, kick-ass independent females; hard-nosed, handsome, alpha males; protagonists with tragic pasts; and loads of angst-filled interior monologues. The special ops theme does make it a little bit different from the usual SMR series by adding more than the usual action and suspense. In book 1, the characters (especially the vamps) have a tendency to avoid all contractions in their spoken dialogue—always awkward and unnecessarybut this problem doesn't occur in book 2. The plot lines are well constructed, with an effective presentation of expositional material and plenty of action. If you like paranormal romance with plenty of passion and adventure, you'll enjoy this series.

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