Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone #2
Published by Anna Hackett on August 18, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon
Rescued from alien slavers, the only place she feels safe is in the brawny arms of a big, gruff cyborg.
Astrophysicist Dr. Jayna Lennox’s life imploded the day her ship was attacked by aliens. Through months of captivity, she’s survived by shutting down and not feeling. Then she’s freed by the House of Rone cyborgs and finds herself in the arms of huge, tough Mace. Struggling to heal, Mace is the only thing that makes her feel safe. The only person who makes her feel like she isn’t broken. But there are more of her crew members imprisoned in Carthago’s desert, and Jayna will have to delve into her darkest memories to help save them.
Born to fight and bred for rage, Mace barely survived his gang-ridden homeworld. Thanks to Imperator Magnus Rone, he’s found a place at the House of Rone. Unlike the other cyborgs, he feels, but only anger and annoyance. When a small, wounded human woman works her way under his skin, Mace finds himself feeling things he’s never felt before…along with a powerful need to keep her safe.
Jayna vows to help find her fellow humans, even if it means revisiting her nightmares and being part of a dangerous mission into the desert. But as the passion between her and Mace explodes, she finds herself with two battles on her hands: the battle to free the humans from their captors, and the war to win Mace’s scarred heart.
When it seemed like the Galactic Gladiators series was coming to an end, back with Imperator, I said that this was a series that could potentially go on forever. By the end of Imperator, all of the human refugees that were kidnapped through the temporary wormhole had been rescued from the Thraxian slavers, and the slavers, or at least that group of them, had been broken.
But that didn’t mean that there couldn’t have been other groups of humans kidnapped from Jupiter Station or the surrounding space that had also been kidnapped, whether by the Thraxians or by some other group of evil, space-vacuum-sucking scum.
Cyborg romance is one of the more interesting, and potentially challenging, spinoffs of science fiction romance. The House of Rone is a gladiatorial house on Kor Magna, founded by the cyborgs that their imperator, Magnus, rescued from the experimental program that produced him and his inner circle of trusted operators.
(BTW, Magnus found his own HEA in Cyborg with one of those rescued from Jupiter Station.)
One of those challenges when it comes to cyborg romance is in the way that cyborgs can embody the tough, supposedly unfeeling alpha male stereotype – and the ways that they subvert that stereotype – and their own programming.
The cyborgs produced by the program that Magnus and his friends Jaxon (Sentinel), Acton and this story’s own hero, Mace, escaped were programmed not to have emotions. In fact, one of the factors that forced them to escape was that their programming was either failing or imperfect – and that they felt at least some emotions in spite of it – to varying degrees. With Jaxon (hero of Sentinel) having the most and Acton (clearly intended as the hero of the next book in the series) having the least.
Mace seems to fall in the middle of that emotional spectrum, which seems fitting as his cyborg enhancements, just like his emotions, are hidden on the inside.
He doesn’t expect to feel anything for Jayna, the human woman he helped to rescue from the Edull. (The Edull seem like much, much nastier and disgusting cousins of the Jawa traders in the first Star Wars movie – the ones who captured C3PO and R2-D2 at the beginning of the film.)
But of course she just gets under his skin. And very much vice versa.
As is the case with many of the books in both the House of Rone and the Galactic Gladiators series that spawned it, these two people with scars on both the outside and the inside discover that they make each other strong in their broken places.
And that even a cyborg who isn’t supposed to feel anything at all is capable of falling in love – even if it takes someone from halfway across the galaxy to help him finally figure it out.
Escape Rating B+: As is often the case with this author’s series, there is both an individual romance in this short novel and progress on an overarching story for the series.
In Defender, the romance is between Mace and Jayna, a cyborg defender – hence the title – and the woman he comes to defend – and love.
The story is both Jayna’s journey of healing after being captured, enslaved and experimented upon, and Mace’s journey to become more than just a battle-scarred warrior with some serious anger-management issues.
That they have to grope towards a relationship before they get to seriously groping each other is part of the journey – and part of the fun.
At the same time, Defender also links to the previous books in the combined series and provides hints of where the story goes from here. While it isn’t necessary to read the whole series to enjoy this entry in it, reading a couple, particularly Gladiator (the original kickoff) and Cyborg (Magnus Rone’s own story) should provide enough background to get the worldbuilding. But the series as a whole is a whole lot of fun, so why wouldn’t you read the whole thing?
The overarching story for the House of Rone revolves around the search for survivors from the ship Helios, the supply ship that was operating near Jupiter Station when the wormhole opened. That search has led the allied forces of the House of Galen and the House of Rone to the Edull, a race of sand-sucking tinkers, engineers and scientists who usually spend their time salvaging mechanical scrap. They do, however, keep slaves, which is how they seem to have acquired the Helios survivors. The Edull seem to find the humans interesting – to the point of buying them to experiment on. Jayna was rescued, but there are more humans hidden in the Edull’s secret capital city – and it’s the mission of this series to find that city and rescue all of them.
I can’t wait to see them finally succeed!