Series: X-OPS SERIES
Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—1
1 Her Perfect Mate (5/2014)
2 Her Lone Wolf (11/2014)
3 Her Wild Hero (5/2015)
3.5 "Her Special Alpha" (8/2/2015) (cross-over novella)
NOVEL 6: Her True Match
FORCED TOGETHER: When feline shifter Dreya Clark is escorted from the police interrogation by two secret agents, she thinks she's dodged a bullet. That sexy detective Braden Hayes caught her stealing red-handed. When she finds out what she has to do to stay out of jail, suddenly she's missing the hot cop with the piercing gaze. She's being recruited for her shifter abilities by the Department of Covert Operations.
WILL DANGER RIP THEM APART? Braden has been chasing the smart-mouthed cat burglar for years. But when Dreya's taken away, he knows their game of cat and mouse has turned deadly-serious. There's no way he'll let her go off alone. Fur flies and temperatures flare as Braden realizes Dreya is much more than she appears. Thrown together on a dangerous covert mission, this unlikely pair will have to rely on each other to make it out
In the main plot, Braden catches Dreya in the act of burglarizing yet another mansion and arrests her on the spot. Just as Braden is interrogating Dreya, Clayne and Danica burst in and take Dreya away, claiming that they are acting on orders of the FBI. Braden follows them and soon finds himself being dragged into the mysterious world of the Department of Covert Operations (DCO). Within hours, he and Dreya agree to give the DCO a five-day trial run. At the end of the five days, Dreya must decide either to join the DCO or to be turned over to Braden, who will take her back to jail. In the meantime, Braden will be Dreya's personal security guard to make sure that she doesn't slip away. Their romance plays out in the usual manner, with the two being suspicious and awkward with one another in the early chapters, but falling quickly and deeply in lust/love within three or four days. I really hate insta-love stories, but when you read paranormal romances these days, that's what you generally get.
And there is one more story line: Thorn sends Ivy and Landon to a psychiatric facility in northern Maine to determine whether Dr. Kamal Mahsood, one of the evil scientists who has managed to escape from the DCO, is making more hybrids. After their initial investigation, they bring Trevor Maxwell in to masquerade as Ivy's mentally ill brother. Trevor's job is to somehow break into Mahsood's tightly secured laboratory and rescue a hybrid and a shifter who are locked inside. (Note: Trevor meets his soul mate in the next novel, Her Dark Half, due in September 2017.)
Tyler alternates the story lines, going back and forth between Dreya and Braden's budding romance and Trevor's tense time undercover in Mahsood's hospital. Naturally, things go wrong in both story lines (because otherwise this would be a brief novella). The story line about Senator Thorn's box appears at the very end, and it leads to a huge cliffhanger ending that will shock everyone. (I know that some readers like to take a peek at the ending before they start reading a book, but if you do that here, you'll hate yourself.)
Although this plot plays out without the plethora of implausible events that generally appear in this series, Tyler once again relies on her standard method of allowing the evil hybrid "scientists" to freely set up new experimental labs in future books. If you've read the previous books, you'll know what I mean by that. Oh, wait...Now that I think about it, there is one major implausibility: Before Dreya completes her five-day trial, Loughlin sends her and Braden out into the field on a major operation. That means that Dreya gets just four training days, and Braden never really receives any training at all. Then, as soon as the intrepid couple takes care of that task (successfully, of course), Loughlin immediately sends them on an even more dangerous mission. It all seems highly unlikely and unprofessional given the level of training that the DCO demands of its operatives.
Fans of the series will love this novel because it really shakes up the DCO and the entire series story arc. Although it would be best to read the book in the context of the previous novels, you could probably read it as a standalone because Tyler includes enough explanatory information on past events to help you figure out what's going on.
Click HERE to read an excerpt from Her True Match on the novel's Amazon.com page by clicking on the cover art.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Her True Match is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.
These shifters don't change fully into their animal forms—just fangs and claws, no fur. They have enhanced speed, senses, and healing in both their human and shifter forms. According to the DCO geneticists, everyone has some animal DNA mixed with their human DNA, because in the long-ago past, animal and ancestral DNA somehow got mixed together. Only certain people manifest their animal characteristics because their genetic coding activates—for unknown reasons—during adolescence and causes changes in their physiology.
Naturally, since this is the government, a bureaucratic insider spy is mandatory. His name is Dick Coleman, and he is described as "the DCO's resident rat." (Her Perfect Mate, p. 76) Coleman reports directly back to the Committee, a sub-panel of the House and Senate Intelligence Oversight Committees, which have several members who are opposed to having shifters working for the government. In fact, they'd like to get DCO closed down completely. They distrust shifters so much that they have forced the DCO to enact a protocol that if a shifter is ever in danger of being captured by the enemy, the shifter's partner is required to kill him or her rather than allow the capture.
Along with the inevitable romance sub-plot (main plot, really), the series story arc involves a bunch of mad scientists who are kidnapping humans and shifters and experimenting on them to create their own army of enhanced soldiers—kind of like a watered down version of Lora Leigh's BREEDS mythology. (Click HERE to read my review of BREEDS.)
Here is a list of the soul mates so far:
> Her Perfect Mate: Ivy Halliwell (feline shifter) & Landon Donovan (human)
> Her Lone Wolf: Danica Beckett (human) & Clayne Buchanan (wolf shifter)
> Her Wild Hero: Kendra Carlsen (human) & Declan McBride (bear shifter)
> "Her Special Alpha": Eden Bristow (feline shifter) & Travis Dalton (human)
> Her Fierce Warrior: Minka Pajari (feline hybrid) & Angelo Rios (human)
> Her Rogue Alpha: Layla Halliwell (feline shifter) & Jayson Harmon (mostly human)
> Her True Match: Dreya Clark (feline shifter) & Braden Hayes (human)
PREQUEL NOVELLA (.5): "Her Secret Agent"
Ivy Halliwell, a former FBI agent, has burned through two other human partners since she joined DCO—one who tried to rape her and one who ignored her skills and got himself killed. Most of the human DCO agents despise her because her first partner lied about what happened, claiming that Ivy went berserk and attacked him for no reason. He got fired anyhow because the incident was caught on a surveillance camera, but his buddies still blame Ivy for his dismissal. They call her Poison Ivy and bad mouth her every chance they get. Many of the human agents view the EVAs as freaks—animals who act only on instinct. Landon doesn't listen to their poisonous gossip, though, and he adjusts remarkably well to his new situation.
The shifter-hating Committee members would like the DCO shifter program to be demolished, so they frequently set up difficult missions in hopes that the shifter-human DCO teams will fail. That's the politics behind Landon and Ivy's first mission, which is assigned to them well before they have completed their training. The Committee members hope that this lack of training will be their downfall. But guess what? Landon and Ivy are already heavily attracted to one another, and their soul-mate-fueled teamwork seems to come naturally, even without the training. (Obviously, the author included this brief mission just to put the new partners in the middle of the South American jungle all by themselves, giving them a chance to sleep together skin-to-skin in a tiny, tiny tent.)
Naturally, the romance is front and center, with Landon and Ivy falling deeply and lustfully in love within a week of meeting one another. After successfully completing their first mission, they are sent off to track down a demented "scientist" who is kidnapping genetic researchers. As their mission plays out, Ivy winds up in grave danger, and Landon has to enlist the aid of some of his former comrades in arms from Special Forces (all of whom are human), along with Ivy's wannabe boyfriend—the wolf shifter hero of book 2.
Although Tyler tells the story well, with just a few improbable situations, this is another one of those insta-love books that are so common in the paranormal fiction genre. Did Ivy and Landon have to declare their love just days after they met? Couldn't they just have a sexual attraction for awhile and hook up permanently in the background of a future book? Also, did Landon have to have the same clichéd traumatic childhood (alcoholic Mom, abusive Dad) that so many paranormal fiction characters suffer through? It's too easy for authors to fall back on these stale plot elements, and as a result, the story suffers.
Here are two of the most improbable situations:
1. Ivy's first partner makes his rape attempt on a rooftop in the middle of a surveillance mission. Why would anyone do that—cause a public ruckus in the middle of a secret mission? If he's determined to do it, why not attack her in a much more private place?
2. Clayne Buchanan makes no secret of the fact that he wants Ivy. He even starts physical fights with Landon several times, trying to establish his claim. Then, all of a sudden, he backs off when Landon says he loves Ivy (after the aforesaid week or so of knowing her). Clayne's quick and quiet retreat is highly improbable, but can probably be attributed to the fact that he is the hero of the next book, where he will be meeting and bedding a soul mate of his very own.
NOVEL 2: Her Lone Wolf
The lead lovers of the second novel are Clayne Buchanan (wolf shifter) and Danica Beckett (human). Clayne was a semi-villain in the first novel, mostly because he pursued Ivy so aggressively and approached Landon so violently. Clayne spent his childhood in a series of foster homes and eventually turned to a life of crime before being recruited to the DCO six years ago while he was in a prison cell on the verge of life imprisonment. When the sinister Dick Coleman recruited Clayne, he promised that if Clayne came to work for the DCO, all evidence of Clayne's crime would be destroyed. At the DCO, Clayne's partner was Danica Becket, and the two soon fell in love. Then, two years ago, Danica abruptly broke off the relationship and left the DCO, breaking Clayne's heart. Here are her parting words to Clayne: "What did you think, Clayne? That I'd spend the rest of my life with a freak like you and bear your pups?" Wow! Talk about cruel! Danica immediately moved to Sacramento, where she joined the FBI. From the beginning, Danica hints that she has never stopped loving Clayne, but had to make a permanent and speedy break from him "for his own good." Her inexplicable behavior was based on mysterious reasons that she never explained to Clayne and that she doesn't reveal to us until about halfway through the book.
As the story begins, Danica is involved in a major manhunt for a serial killer who murders healthy, athletic men by hunting them down and tearing out their throats. Based on her DCO experience, Danica immediately realizes that the killer is a shifter, so she secretly contacts her former DCO boss (John Loughlin) to ask for assistance. John sends Clayne to California without warning either Danica or Clayne of the other's involvement in the case. Naturally, there are some emotional fireworks at first because Clayne has had two years to build up a mountain of resentment and bitterness toward Danica, while Danica has been mourning over the loss of her true love and trying to come to grips with how deeply she hurt him.
The search for the killer soon reveals that he is a sociopathic cat shifter who decides to play a murderous game with Clayne. He taunts Clayne and the rest of the law enforcement team by leaving ambiguous clues and giving them a time limit to find him before he kills again. The leader of the California team resents Clayne's involvement, so Clayne, Danica, and Danica's partner (Tony Moretti) go off on their own to solve the case. At first, the plot seems like an ordinary police procedural, but the killer has some major surprises in store for Clayne and Danica.
A subplot involves Landon and Ivy as they keep searching for the two doctors who stole Ivy's DNA (in book 1) and are using it to create hybrids. Unfortunately, the evil doctors are killing a lot of people as their experiments continue to fail.
Once again, this is a typical paranormal romance with plenty of erotic bedroom scenes (beginning about half-way through the book) and a fairly straightforward plot—although there is a twist at the end. The Danica-Clayne relationship has a beauty-and-the-beast feeling to it because Danica is always able to step in and soothe Clayne's out-of-control temper, which can turn violent in a matter of seconds.
A hint of a future romance between Kendra Carlsen (human) and Declan MacBride (bear shifter) is hinted at in an excerpt from the third novel, which is included at the end of the book. Another hint of a future romantic heroine comes in a very slender story thread (just one scene) in which Ivy's sister, Layla, announces that—despite Ivy's resistance—she wants to join the DCO. If you are committed to the paranormal romance genre, you'll probably enjoy this book. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt.
NOVEL 3: Her Wild Hero
The love story for this novel stars Kendra Carlsen (human) and Declan MacBride (bear shifter). Kendra is a psychologist with the DCO, and Declan has been a DCO field operative for seven years. In the previous books, Kendra maintained an unrequited crush on Clayne Buchanan, the wolf shifter, but when they finally had a date and a bedding (in a previous book), Kendra realized that there wasn't any romantic spark between them. Besides, Clayne has now mated with Danica Beckett, so he's no longer available.
From the first moment that Declan met Kendra, he knew that she was the woman for him, but after seven years of rejections, he has finally decided to give up on any hope of a relationship with her. So…just after Kendra gives up on Clayne and Declan gives up on Kendra, their boss sends them off to the jungles of Costa Rica on a supposedly routine field maneuver. Gee…I wonder what will happen next?
Yes, once again, Tyler uses that tired trope of putting a couple into the jungle together—alone, embattled, and trying to keep their emotions hidden from each other. She used the same technique in Her Perfect Mate with Ivy and Landon. Kendra is a particularly clueless young woman who can't understand why Declan reacts badly when she keeps mentioning Clayne's name and gets her feelings hurt when Declan doesn't immediately pick up on her clues that her years-long rejection of him is finally over. At one point, Declan is astounded when Kendra actually asks him why he stopped asking her for a date. "Why do you think? Because [after seven years] I finally figured out you were never going to say yes." Declan, who had a really bad experience when his human fiancee found out the hard way about his bear-shifter nature, makes a decent enough agonized hero, although his behavior at the end of the book seemed somewhat out of character.
Declan and Kendra are part of a team of DCO operatives who are sent to Costa Rica to meet up with several other teams made up of U.S. military personnel and local police officers. As they make their way through the jungle, they are attacked by hordes of hybrids, and Declan and Kendra get separated from the rest. From that point on, they scramble through tough terrain with the hybrids hot on their trail. Naturally, they fall in lust along the way and eventually have a few passionate moments on the sandy floor of a dark cave.
Tyler's strength lies more with angst-filled interior monologues than with plotting. She sends her characters—the romantic couple, the hybrids, and the rescue team—stumbling around through the jungle for most of the book. Near the end, she has the good guys suddenly figure out what is going on and then explain it to one another in a page or two. What they conclude is that the hybrid situation has become much more complex than they first thought and that there is a spy within the ranks of the DCO. Unfortunately, Tyler fails to provide any build-up of suspense at all—just the rocky romance, the tediously repetitious battle scenes, and the tell-all at the end.
Another plotting weakness lies in Tyler's use of that stale trope, the Eureka Moment, when characters suddenly make huge, improbable leaps in logic to solve critical problems. There are frequent examples of this throughout the book. For example, when Declan wakes up from a healing sleep to find Kendra gone, he figures out exactly what has happened to her and where she is within moments, by making incredible leaps in logic that are based upon little or no evidence. Of course, every single one of his assumptions turns out to be absolutely correct because this hero never makes a conclusion-jumping error.
And then there is the mysterious, sexy, shifter female who shows up for 2 1/2 pages just before the big climactic showdown scene. She is a perfect example of the dreaded deus ex machina—popping up out of nowhere, solving a critical problem for the good guys, and then disappearing again into the jungle. Who is she? Where has she been throughout the story? Where did she go? Who knows—we never see her again.
The book also hints at a developing romance between Dr. Zarina Sokolov and Tanner Howland, the DCO's resident hybrid. The next book will feature Special Forces team leader Angelo Rios and Minka, a rogue hybrid shifter who is on the run in Tajikistan.
This is a by-the-numbers paranormal romance that revolves around a troubled romantic relationship and a simplistic action plot. It is quite similar to the previous two novels so if you read those, you know what you are getting. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt.
NOVELLA 3.5: "Her Special Alpha"
"The awesome Cat Johnson asked me, along with several other military and romantic suspense authors, to write series crossover novellas to help launch her new Hot SEALs Kindle World! My novella is an XOPS/Hot SEALs Crossover that can be a great introduction into the world of X-OPS or as a companion novella to readers who are already fans of the series. In it, an Army Special Forces soldier named Travis Dalton and a feline shifter from the Department of Covert Operations named Eden Bristow will team up with some of the characters from Cat's Hot SEALs series to take down some bad guys!" (Note: On Tyler's web site, she lists this novel as #3.5.)
NOVEL 4: Her Fierce Warrior
The woman tensed. As anger and fear ricocheted across her face, her eyes changed from red to green to brown in a dizzying display like nothing he'd ever seen.
> Ivy has to overcome her guilt about how her DNA is being used to turn unwilling humans into hybrids.
> John Loughlin works with Landon and Ivy to get evidence against the Intelligence Oversight Committee, the group that oversees the DCO. Several Committee members oppose having shifters working for the government, but others want to produce more hybrids to use as “super soldiers.” The bad-seed Committee members recently tried to get rid of Loughlin by forging incriminating documents that nearly turned his DCO team against him.
> Ivy and Donovan are still keeping their marriage a secret, and they haven’t told their superiors about Ivy’s capture and the DNA theft.
> Thomas Thorn, one of the suspected villains on the Committee, wants Ivy and Landon to do some dirty undercover work for him, giving them a chance to spy on him and his minions.
> Dick Coleman, deputy director of the DCO, who is actually spying for someone on the Committee, tries to experiment on Minka.
> Ivy’s sister, Layla—also a feline shifter—runs into a few bumps in her budding romance with Jayson Harmon, a former Special Forces soldier who is now sidelined after being hit in the back by grenade shrapnel in Afghanistan. Jayson will never fully recover from the severe amount of nerve, muscle, and bone damage he sustained, and he’s afraid that his physical handicaps and his inability to find a job will doom their relationship. Meanwhile, Layla still has not told Jayson that she is a shifter, and she fears that when he finds out he will end their relationship.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Her Fierce Warrior is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.
NOVEL 5: Her Rogue Alpha
He'll do anything for her. Former Special Forces Lieutenant Jayson Harmon can't believe that his war scars don't matter to beautiful feline shifter Layla Halliwell. Why would she saddle herself with a broken man?
But Layla knows that Jayson is a hero to the core, and that only she can heal his wounded soul. So when Jayson is deployed on another deadly mission, no way is Layla staying behind.
The problem comes to a head when Layla is assigned to her first field mission and Jayson has to stay behind and worry. At that crucial moment, the villainous Dick Coleman makes his move, convincing Jayson that an injection of his new and improved hybrid serum will turn Jayson's body into the flawless fighting machine that it was before his injury. Layla (along with everyone else with any sense) opposes the injection, but as soon as Layla leaves for her mission, Jayson goes ahead with the procedure—although it doesn't proceed exactly as Dick Coleman planned.
Within hours of receiving the serum injection, Jayson finds himself en route to Ukraine on a rescue mission, accompanied by his arch enemy Brian Powell, who hates all shifters and hybrids and the humans who befriend them. Their assignment is to rescue a diplomat's son who has gone into a war zone with his Ukrainian girlfriend and disappeared. The story focuses on the rescue, which is full of complications, setbacks, and betrayals from beginning to end. As the plot unwinds, Layla goes after Jayson and they, of course, work out their problems, but only after many angst-filled interior monologues.
1. Clayne and Danica are still pursuing the villainous arms dealer, Kojot. In fact, Layla's first mission is to accompany them to Scotland, where Kojot has been sighted.
2. Ivy and Landon are called in when a cat burglar breaks into Senator Thorn's mansion and steals a valuable diamond and a mysterious electronic object. The thief is Dreya Clark, a feline shifter, who has some lustful cravings for a local police detective, Braden Hayes, who is working on the case with Ivy and Landon. I'm sure that Dreya and Braden's romance will be featured in a future book.As in previous novels, Tyler includes a major scenario in this novel that is implausible, if not impossible—Jayson's miraculous "recovery" from his crippling injuries. I don't want to include any major spoilers, so I can't say more, but really, it all seemed highly unlikely to me.
If you are a fan of the series, you'll probably enjoy this book because it's more of the same. Although there are references to past events, you could probably read this as a standalone because Tyler includes enough explanatory information in context to help you figure things out.
Click HERE to read a lengthy excerpt from Her Rogue Alpha. After the publishing date (9/6/2016), you can also read an excerpt on the novel's Amazon.com page.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Her Rogue Alpha is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.