Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators #3
Published by Anna Hackett on December 6th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon
Fighting for love, honor, and freedom on the galaxy’s lawless outer rim…
Raised from birth to be a soldier, Kace Tameron is a disciplined, military-trained gladiator. He is on contract to the Kor Magna Arena to hone his fighting skills on the blood-soaked arena sand and then return to the military. He lives for one thing: to protect his planet, and on his world, love is forbidden. But then he collides with a feisty redhead from Earth who threatens to shatter his legendary control.
One moment, Rory Fraser was an engineer on a space station circling Jupiter and the next, she is abducted by evil alien slavers. After suffering at the hands of the Thraxians, she is rescued by her friends—with the help of the tough gladiators of the House of Galen. Rory finds herself outrageously attracted to straight-laced Kace. He is a skilled fighter, ultra-disciplined, and a hero at heart—but she knows passion beats within him, if only he’ll let it loose.
Rory is obsessed with finding another fellow abducted female from Earth, but as she asks questions, she finds herself ducking bullets and explosions. Someone wants Rory dead. Kace steps in as her protector, and together, they embark on a dangerous mission that will take them deep into the bowels of the arena, and deep into a scorching desire…both of which could lead them to lose not only their guarded hearts, but their lives as well.
When Rory Fraser holds out for a hero, she ends up with two – the clean-cut warrior Kace and the robotic dog he gives her. Both the man and the dog save Rory’s life, and more than once at that. And I think that Hero the robotic dog adds just that special something that makes Hero the book my favorite (so far!) of the Galactic Gladiators series.
The overall arc of the series was set in the first book, Gladiator. In a not too distant future, an intergalactic slave ship rode an unstable wormhole from the arena planet of Kor Magna to our own solar system. In a lightning raid, the Thallaxians hit a Terran space station orbiting Jupiter, and grabbed as many of the personnel as they could manage before beating a hasty retreat before the wormhole closed.
Kor Magna is over 200 light years from Earth. There is no going back.
So one by one, the crew of that station have been rescuing each other from deeper and deeper pits of hell on Kor Magna. Gladiator was Harper’s story. In many ways, she was the lucky one, because she was “bought” by the House of Galen and immediately freed. Harper rescued Regan, and her story is told in Warrior. Regan, in her turn, rescued Rory.
Although many of the trappings of the Kor Magna Arena sound a lot like the gladiator fights in Imperial Rome, there’s much more under the surface. The fights are not to the death, and the better Houses spend a lot of money on high-tech healing equipment and excellent healers. The gladiators are an investment, and the Imperators of the better Houses want to protect that investment.
The House of Galen is more than just one of those “better” Houses. All of the gladiators are free – no slaves among them. And while on the surface they swagger just as much as any other group of gladiators, under that surface they invade other Houses, and even worse places, to free those who are abused or who just aren’t meant to be gladiators.
In other words, they are Big Damn Heroes.
Kace Tameron is one of the biggest. Not that all of the gladiators aren’t big, especially in comparison to the human women. Humans in general seem to be smaller than the galactic average as represented on Kor Magna. But Kace is one of the military volunteers in the arena. His planet sent him to Kor Magna for two year’s worth of special training. But his planet, locked in perpetual warfare, has done a good job of brainwashing him into believing that the fight is all there is, and that duty is honor and honor is duty.
Rory Fraser breaks through all that conditioning. She’s been freed from horrific captivity, and she wants to live. And she wants Kace to take that step forward into living life to the fullest right there with her. If he can.
Because he’ll break her heart if he can’t.
Escape Rating A-: I loved this one. I definitely think it’s the best of the series so far, and I can hardly wait for more.
One of the things that made this particular entry in the series so special was the introduction of little Hero. Rory is an engineer, and she always wants to tinker and fix things. When Kace gives her Hero, it shows both the love that he is trying to run away from, and also just how much he understands her. Hero is both someone she can love and something she can tinker with, all wrapped into one dog-shaped package.
Hero may be mechanical, but he acts just like a dog. And it’s awesome and sweet. I’ve been looking for a word equivalent to anthropomorphic to describe Hero. There is no attempt to make the robot seem human, instead, the robot is completely DOG. Caninomorphic?
One of the other things I really liked about this particular story is that neither of the characters gets into the “I’m not worthy” shtick. Kace has been programmed to believe that love is basically a hormonal imbalance wrapped up in a distraction. And he’s right in that Rory certainly does distract him. But it’s never about thinking he’s unworthy, it all about thinking that love doesn’t exist, and that he’s not supposed to emotionally connect to anyone. Likewise, while Rory is finding her footing, she has some pretty good and realistic ideas about how to earn her place in the House of Galen. She has both engineering chops and mixed-martial-arts skills. She never doubts her ability to make herself useful. Her only frustrations are getting Kace’s head out of his gorgeous ass and following the clues to the next enslaved human.
In each book, the ending foreshadows the next one, as each heroine rescues another human, who finds herself safe in the arms of one of the gladiators of the House of Galen. So I think I know who’s next. And hopefully saw some foreshadowing of the one after that. And they both look marvelous!