A- #BookReview: The Hero She Wants by Anna Hackett

A- #BookReview: The Hero She Wants by Anna HackettThe Hero She Wants (Unbroken Heroes) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Unbroken Heroes #2
Pages: 220
Published by Anna Hackett on January 25, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

The last thing he wants is to trek into the jungle to save the President’s daughter.
Shepherd “Shep” Barlow left the military behind. All he wants is to stay on his Colorado mountain—alone, with no interruptions, and no people. He especially likes to avoid people.
Then his former commander arrives, asking him to risk his life on a deadly mission to Central America. A mission to rescue the archeologist daughter of the President of the United States.
Once a member of a covert Ghost Ops team, Shep has the skills to get in quietly and rescue Ms. Sinclair. And as much as he wishes otherwise, he can’t leave an innocent woman in danger.
Hayden Sinclair loves her work. It keeps her far away from the liars, cheats, and phonies in Washington D.C. But when she’s abducted from her archeological dig in Nicaragua, she’s plunged into a life-or-death situation. Her captors plan to use her as a bargaining chip, and Hayden knows she has to escape.
What she never expected was to collide with the world’s biggest, grumpiest rescuer.
On the run in the jungle with six and a half feet of rugged, muscular, scowling man, she finds Shep rude and annoying. But as her captors ruthlessly hunt them, she also discovers a man who’ll risk his own life to protect hers.
Neither of them are looking for love, especially when they have to fight to survive…besides, there could never be a happy ending for the daughter of the President and a grumpy, battle-scarred soldier, could there?

My Review:

Archaeologists make the best protagonists – because there are just SO MANY WAYS they can get into trouble. Just ask Indiana Jones – or better yet, his father, Professor Henry Jones.

That rule certainly applies to this author’s work, as her very first heroine, in her very first book, At Star’s End, was an archaeologist among the star-scattered human diaspora. It’s a theme that has cropped up again and again, not just with the entire Treasure Hunter Security series (distant ancestors of the crew in that first book, but, also in this latest work with Dr. Hayden Sinclair, expert in pre-Columbian Central American history.

An archaeologist who also happens to be the daughter of the sitting President of the United States.

Hayden was determined to go on this dig, and determined to do it as a working archaeologist and not as a visiting dignitary or show pony or whatever. This is her job, and she’s determined to do it well and more importantly without a whole squad of Secret Service agents guarding her every step.

No matter how much, as it turns out, she might need them. Or, at least her teammates and fellow archaeologists do. Or did.

After all, the kidnappers plan on keeping her alive so that she can be auctioned off to the highest bidder looking for leverage on the U.S. President. The rest of her colleagues are merely…collateral damage.

Hayden Sinclair, is tied up and held captive in the middle of a compound full of the men who just killed her team and her friends. She should be at her lowest ebb – and she kind of is. But that doesn’t stop her from rescuing herself.

Only to walk straight into the arms of the one-man rescue team that has been sent to take care of that job FOR her.

Shep Barlow may be just a bit behind on Hayden’s jailbreak, but he’s EXACTLY the man she needs to walk beside her every step of the way home. No matter what it takes. No matter what he has to give up.

Because he’s the hero she wants, and she’ll do anything and defy anyone to keep him. Even her own father. Even Shep himself.

Escape Rating A-: This whole, entire series so far gives me a giant earworm. Everytime I even think about either of the books in this series so far, I get the chorus of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” playing in my head. Or even better – or worse depending on persistence – the scene from Shrek II.

Although Hayden doesn’t actually NEED a hero. She’s already rescued herself. Not that she can’t use Shep’s help and survival skills, because she certainly can. But she’s no delicate flower and doesn’t need anyone who will treat her like one.

The title of this entry in the series says it all. Hayden doesn’t NEED a hero, but Shep Barlow is certainly the man she wants – precisely because he knows better than to treat her like she needs rescuing. Not even her father is able to figure that out.

What makes the story in this one such a compulsive page-turner is the way that Hayden and Shep jump together out of the frying pan and into yet another fire, over and over again, as her kidnappers do their damndest to close off all avenues of escape.

What makes the romance in this one sing and zing is that this is a romance of equals in spite of the heroine-in-jeopardy start, a romance that has to carry both partners’ heavy baggage until they finally figure out they can drop it all and hold onto each other for dear life. For the rest of their lives.

The Unbroken Heroes series has been terrific so far, beginning with The Hero She Needs and continuing with this second book, The Hero She Wants. The third book in the series, The Hero She Craves, is coming in June and I expect that terrific streak to continue. What I’m loving about this series so far is that, although the link in the series is through those heroes, it’s the heroines who stand up, take charge, and participate oh-so-actively in their own rescues.

There are no delicate flowers here, and that’s the way I like it. One of the other things I like is that this particular set of heroes has interesting friends in some very high and dangerous places, like Hayden’s father-the-president, and the stories have high stakes that extend beyond the mutual rescue and the heart stopping romance.

Which is reminding me quite a lot and very much of M.L. Buchman’s romantic suspense series(es), particularly his Miranda Chase series, where smart civilians find themselves walking the halls of power to find the loves of their lives and keep the country safe along the way. So if you’re looking for something to tide you over between Anna Hackett’s heroes, consider this a recommendation for M.L. Buchman’s books as excellent readalikes with lots to explore.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting for Anna Hackett’s next entry in her action/adventure romantic suspense Fury Brothers series, Burn, coming in March.

Review: The Hero She Needs by Anna Hackett

Review: The Hero She Needs by Anna HackettThe Hero She Needs (Unbroken Heroes Book 1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Unbroken Heroes #1
Pages: 223
Published by Anna Hackett on December 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

The last thing he expects to catch in his river is a billionaire heiress.
Loner Boone Hendrix left the military with ghosts that haunt him. He lives with his dog Atlas on a farm in Vermont. Alone. Just the way he likes it. Until he rescues a half-drowned, beautiful brunette from his river.
Gemma Newhouse is the daughter of the richest man in America, and from the abrasions on her wrists and her drugged state, she’s on the run from someone dangerous. She’s nothing like Boone expected—sweet, smart, and likes baking—and she ignites a fierce need inside him.
Being a member of a covert Ghost Ops team taught him deadly skills, and he’ll use them all to keep her safe.
Gemma can’t remember the last twenty-four hours. All she knows is that someone abducted her. Someone dangerous. Her only goal is survival and she’s used to taking care of herself. She’s a constant disappointment to her driven, successful parents. She doesn’t want a brilliant career, all she wants is to bake and make people smile.
Finding herself in Boone’s strong arms wasn’t on her plan. Nor was his rugged face, hard body, and gold-brown eyes. She sees how much he’s cut himself off from life, how he believes he’s broken.
Thrust together, she realizes this quiet hero will do anything to protect her. Despite the danger around them, they can’t resist their growing attraction, but her captors are hunting her…
And Boone is the only thing standing in their way.

My Review:

When Gemma Newhouse runs away from her mysterious captors in the middle of densely forested nowhere, she doesn’t have time to hold out for a hero, she needs one right NOW. She doesn’t know there’s one just down the river – literally – so she does her damndest to get herself out of her kidnappers’ hands.

She doesn’t merely find one hero, she finds two. Or rather, one of those heroes pulls her out of the river that has been carrying her away from whoever grabbed her off the street in Los Angeles – just not as far or as fast as she would have liked.

If she were still conscious, that is.

But Atlas is a Very Good Boy, so he alerts his human that there’s something in the water that needs to be rescued. Which is exactly what Boone Hendrix does. Because that’s what he does – even if, or especially because – there was no one to rescue him when he needed it the most.

But, maybe that’s now after all, and maybe Gemma is that rescue. If he can just keep her alive long enough to deliver her to safety and figure out who is after her and why. While somehow managing to keep his hands off of her – even if that’s exactly where she wants them to be.

Unless, just maybe, she’s his rescue too.

Escape Rating A-: I always love it when the heroine rescues herself or is an active participant in her own rescue. Which is EXACTLY what Gemma Newhouse does. Everything that happens in this action adventure romance happens because first and most importantly, Gemma Newhouse put on her big girl panties and escaped from her captors.

She’s not a badass agent, she’s not a cop, she’s just a more-or-less ordinary woman that a bunch of asshole men believe is at their mercy for reasons she doesn’t even know yet. But as soon as she can get her feet under her after the drugs she was injected with even start to wear off – she’s off and running.

Boone – and Atlas – are her reward for taking care of her business. She just doesn’t know it yet.

The romance between Boone and Gemma is sweet and hot and funny, all at the same time. (Although a lot of that fun is that Gemma doesn’t want Atlas to witness any of the human’s ‘funny business’.)

Speaking of Atlas, he is a very good boy and is every bit as fine and good at the end of the story as he was at the beginning – if not a little better because he has two humans to spoil him instead of just one. So don’t worry about Atlas.

There’s more than enough to worry about between Gemma and Boone. Gemma is a combination of poor-little-rich-girl and bird-in-a-gilded-cage, but again, she’s doing a damn good job of filling her own well of purpose and happiness and kicking the door off the gilded cage. (OTOH, if she’d kept the bodyguards her dad wanted her to have she probably wouldn’t be in her present fix. OTOH, that might just have resulted in a couple of dead bodyguards as the stakes in all this are pretty high.)

It’s also excellent and different that Gemma’s relationship with her wealthy parents is still a loving one even though that relationship has a bunch of sharp edges in it. They’re not terrible, she’s not a misbehaving fuck-up, it’s just that they are not remotely on the same wavelength and everyone gets a bit hurt by it. Except for her parents’ megabucks, that relationship feels grounded in the real, which made it more interesting and all the better to empathize with.

Boone is one of the author’s classic too-damaged-to-think-he’s-good-enough heroes. He used to be a member of Vander Norcross’ Ghost Ops team (Vander’s book is The Powerbroker), and those ops left plenty of scars that may never heal. So Boone’s got a bad case of the I’m-not-worthies when it comes to a relationship with Gemma, but he’s all in on saving her life and is absolutely the right man for that job.

So, soft and sweet but with a core of steel goes head to head with hard and brittle with a core of marshmallow. The sweet treat that gets baked in that fire means that a good time is had by all the characters and absolutely for the reader as well.

I had a great reading time with this first entry in the author’s Unbroken Heroes series, and I can’t wait to see what happens with her next hero early next year.

Review: Keep by Anna Hackett

Review: Keep by Anna HackettKeep: A Grumpy Single Dad Romance (Fury Brothers Book 2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Fury Brothers #2
Pages: 250
Published by Anna Hackett on October 19, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

My boss is a tough, grumpy bounty hunter—and a hot single dad—and now he’s sworn to keep me safe, whether I like it or not.
My name’s Macy, and I always look on the bright side of things. Life’s too short not to. Super grump extraordinaire Colton Fury is the total opposite. Luckily for him, along with the muscled bod, tattoos, and rugged face, it works for him.
When I start getting creepy calls at the office and someone breaks into my house, it becomes clear I’m a target, and Coltsort of…loses his mind. He turns even bossier and more protective.
Now I’m living with him and his super cute daughter, and trying very hard to remember that I can’t let myself fall for him.Before long, there’s kissing, touching, and a whole lot more. Colt tells me—okay, more like growls at me—that he doesn’t do relationships. And I promise him no strings or complications.
Every day that passes, the complications are growing and I’m starting to realize I want them. All of them.
But soon, it’s not only me in danger, and it’s not only Colt who’ll risk it all to save the people he loves.
The Fury fierce, loyal, and live by their own codeFive men who grew up in foster care and became brothers by choice. They vow to always have each other’s no questions, no doubts, no hesitation. They protect their own…always.

My Review:

Colton Fury and Macy Underwood are each firmly of the opinion that they have their lives together all by themselves. Separately, that is.

Neither of them does relationships – at least romantic relationships. Macy’s certainly all in on her job as Colt’s office manager, wrangling the arrangements for his frequent trips to capture the latest escaped criminals while coercing him to deal with the resulting paperwork as often as needed.

Macy feels needed, the job pays well, and the problems she left behind in San Francisco are well back in her rearview mirror. Or at least she believes they are. And believes that big, tough successful bounty hunter Colt Fury – along with his equally fierce and protective brothers – take care of their own when anything goes wrong.

As evidenced by the way they all gathered around Dante Fury and HIS bartender turned love-of-his-life Mila when her past troubles came calling for her in the first book in the series, Fury.

Colt, on the other hand, doesn’t do relationships because the way he sees it his life is already full up. Not with romance, because he doesn’t think he deserves that, but with the loyalty of his brothers and the heartwarming and heartstopping love between Colt and his niece-turned-adopted-daughter, seven year old Daisy Fury. Making sure that Daisy has everything she needs is a full time job all by itself, and he thinks he can’t afford to split his heart’s focus to find a more adult kind of love.

When Macy starts receiving prank calls she assumes it’s nothing that needs anyone to handle it besides herself. Just like her free-spirited mother taught her.

At least until the pranks escalate to life-threatening accidents, and Colt Fury can’t stop himself from stepping in and taking over Macy’s security and a bit more of her life than either of them ever planned on. Not that they haven’t both had entirely too many seriously hot daydreams about all the delicious possibilities.

But Macy’s ex didn’t take no for an answer then, and doesn’t plan on taking one now that he’s chased her down to New Orleans. Unless the Fury Brothers take him down before its too late for both Macy AND Daisy.

Escape Rating B+: I liked Keep better than Fury because I was able to get inside Macy’s head in a way that I wasn’t Mila’s or even Dante’s. I also enjoyed Macy more as a character because she was getting on with her life and living her best one in spite of the EvilEx™ lurking behind her in San Francisco. She’s not focusing on him, she’s not constantly looking over her shoulder at him, she’s not even thinking much about him until he turns up like a bad penny and puts himself back in her life.

One of the fun things about this series so far is that the romances haven’t been insta-love. We enter the story at the point where the relationship turns so fast on its dime that it almost seems that way, but Colt and Macy have been working together for months when their story begins. They are already part of each other’s lives – and part of each other’s daydreams even if neither of them is willing to admit that.

Well, Macy is willing to admit to the occasional sexy daydream, but recognizes that it’s not a good idea to go there because they work together. Colt, on the other hand, has a bad case of “I’m not worthy” that he’s only able to start getting over when Macy needs him to protect her.

There’s also a bit of ‘Kidfic’ mixed in, as Colt is an excellent dad to Daisy, and part of the whole Fury Brothers brotherhood is wrapped around taking care of little Daisy Fury. When Macy goes all in on being another one of Daisy’s caregivers it gives the story a gooey center that just worked for me. (I’ve been reading a whole lot of 9-1-1 fanfic recently, in spite of having never watched the TV series, and a whole lot of that fandom is kidfics – which are awesome if the kid is awesome and Daisy so is!)

Of course Colt gets over his stupidity in thinking that he’s a) not good enough for Macy and b) gets to make that decision for her. Meanwhile, Macy, in spite of a bit of stupid decision making over a threat to Daisy, manages to rescue the little girl and sets up her own rescue quite handily in the process, proving to herself and the reader that she’s the perfect addition to the Fury Brothers’ family.

One final comment. This series so far has books with VERY long subtitles. The subtitle for Dante’s book, “a fake dating workplace romance” was only true for a little while. Not that it wasn’t a workplace romance, but the fake part of their fake dating didn’t last very long at all.

Very much on the other hand, Colt is a grumpy dad from the very first page of his story until the last. Grumpy is part of Colt’s core personality. That grumpiness hides a heart of marshmallow when it comes to his family, but he’s a grump through and through. That gets to a place of being considerably happier in his grumpiness over the course of this story adds just that extra bit of sweetness – albeit still covered in a crusty – but delicious – exterior. (Come to think of it, Colt is a bit like a s’more – or at least Macy certainly thinks so!)

Ending this entry in the series on a high note, at least for this reader, it looks like business mogul Kavner Fury will be going head to head with Treasury Agent Coleman in the next book in the Fury Brothers series, sometime next year. I always love it when the heroine is able to kick ass and take names alongside the heroes, so I can’t wait to see Coleman do her level best to take Kav down – one way or another!

Review: Fury Brothers by Anna Hackett

Review: Fury Brothers by Anna HackettFury: A Fake Dating Workplace Romance (Fury Brothers Book 1) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Fury Brothers #1
Pages: 286
Published by Anna Hackett on September 3, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

I’m not looking for a hero, and definitely not a fake relationship with my new boss, nightclub owner Dante Fury—over six feet of dark, hot, and dangerous.
But he isn’t taking no for an answer.
The plan was to run, live under the radar, survive. My life’s been destroyed by some very bad people and everything I know is gone—career, friends, family. I thought I could hide as a bartender at New Orleans’ hottest new club, Ember.
I can’t trust anyone, but after I’m attacked, Dante is determined to play protector by claiming me as his. No one would dare touch the woman of one of the Fury brothers. Suddenly, I’m living at his place, and he’s touching me, kissing me, taking care of me…
Dante makes it very hard to remember this relationship isn’t real. He makes my heart race, but he’s way out of my league, and he’s protecting his own broken pieces.
Nothing this fake should feel this right.
The bad guys won’t give up, but I’m starting to think the biggest danger to me is Dante Fury.
The Fury fierce, loyal, and live by their own code. Five men who grew up in foster care and became brothers by choice. They vow to always have each other’s backs; no questions, no doubts, no hesitation. They protect their own…always.

My Review:

In spite of the subtitle, the ‘fake dating’ between Mila Clifton and Dante Fury doesn’t last very long at all because there is nothing fake about their attraction to each other even before they attempt to ‘fake date’.

The only people they are really ‘faking’ are each other, as Mila is on the run from some very bad people who have left a trail of dead bodies behind her in their pursuit of a woman who worked too hard and heard too much on one dark night she wishes she could get back.

Dante Fury doesn’t seem to believe in love – or at least doesn’t believe that it’s for him and his four brothers, men who survived foster care by sticking together and protecting themselves from anyone and everything.

Now the Fury Brothers protect their corner of New Orleans from anyone who thinks they can bring bad shit onto their turf. Cleaning up ALL of NOLA is WAY beyond even the Fury Brothers’ capacity, but keeping their own territory secure is right up their alley.

At first Dante does his level best to convince himself that he’s only looking after Mila because she’s ‘one of his’, a bartender who works at his nightclub, Ember. But he’s only fooling himself and it doesn’t take him long to realize it.

Mila, on the other hand, has seen every person she’s turned to while she’s been on the run get murdered, one after another. She trusts herself, and fears for anyone that her pursuers might believe she’s gotten close to. So she doesn’t.

Not until Dante Fury wraps his protection around her and refuses to let go – or to let her slink off into the night. No matter who or what stands in his way. Not even Mila herself.

Escape Rating B: It’s no secret that this author’s science fiction romances are my favorites, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get a lot of reading pleasure out of her contemporary, action-adventure romances, sometimes in spite of myself.

Fury is one of those ‘in spite of myself’ kinds of reads. Which means that any negatives I bring up are a ‘me’ thing and quite possibly not a ‘you’ thing.

Except maybe this first one. Fury is told in alternating first-person perspectives that switch between Mila Clifton and Dante Fury – which makes sense because at the beginning they aren’t on the same page with each other. Come to think of it, at the beginning they aren’t even on the same page as themselves!

But I didn’t really feel like I was in either of their heads, so the ‘I’ voice didn’t quite work for me. It’s also not the author’s usual style and I wasn’t expecting it. I DO like first-person narratives, even dual or dueling ones, as you’ll see in my review of Prophet later this week, but I couldn’t get into either Mila’s or Dante’s heads in spite of being, well, in their heads.

I do have to say, and this is completely a me thing, that being in Mila’s head was particularly uncomfortable because of the ‘heroine in jeopardy reacting by running’ trope isn’t one of my favorites, although I was grateful that this time it didn’t go all the way into the trope by having Mila on the run from a stalker or an abusive ex. Still, it makes for a reactive rather than a proactive heroine, and that’s just not my jam.

Which means I liked the whole thing a LOT better once Mila started standing up for herself and standing her ground. Especially because she was totally, completely and utterly in the right – it just took the Fury Brothers standing with her to get her to take back her life and I was absolutely there for that part.

Two things I do love about this series so far are the setting AND the vibe between the Fury Brothers. I always love a story set in New Orleans, and even the glimpse we get of the city in this first outing has me itching for more.

And the Fury Brothers themselves are fascinating, both in their origin story and in the way they’ve pulled together and pulled themselves up in spite of their rough starts in life. The whole concept of them creating a solidly bound family of choice and the way they maintain it and even add to it is fantastic, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of them.

Which means I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Keep, which is looking like it will be Colt Fury’s story about raising his niece while running away from the paperwork involved in his own business – along with the determined woman who will hunt him down and make him take care of ALL his business – including, most definitely, herself.

Review: Hex by Anna Hackett

Review: Hex by Anna HackettHex by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Sentinel Security #6
Pages: 256
Published by Anna Hackett on June 13, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

She’s the genius hacker known as Hex.
He’s a ghost—the deep-cover spy known only as Shade.
They generate a dangerous level of white-hot sparks, but he needs her help on a deadly mission.
Jet “Hex” Adler loves being a goddess of all thing tech. She provides her team at Sentinel Security with intel and comms, and she’s good at it. No, brilliant. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to be stuck in the office while her guys are in the field, but computers, tech, and drones are her thing. If only she had the same luck with men.
And that does not include a certain hot, cocky, annoying spy.
Cain aka Shade is dedicated to his country. He does the hard, dangerous work so others don’t have to. He came from nothing, he’s alone, unattached. A man like him has nothing to lose. For Cain, life is always about the mission. It can never be about a certain small, smart, feisty hacker.
But now he needs Jet for an important assignment to stop high-tech drone schematics falling into enemy hands.
Of course, Jet will do anything to help save the world…okay, not the entire world, but a lot of innocent lives. Even if it means going undercover with the man who knows how to push every one of her buttons. But as they work together, dodging danger and bad guys, their scorching attraction explodes…and Cain will realize that for the first time in his life, someone is more important to him than his mission.

My Review:

This last book in the Sentinel Security series has been teased – as has its heroine Jet “Hex” Adler – from the earliest days in the series when she, and we, were introduced to CIA undercover operative Shade, as he gave the occasional assist to his former CIA colleagues Killian “Steel” Hawke and Devyn “Hellfire” Hayden on their way to their HEA in Steel.

When her story opens, Hex is the only member of the Sentinel Security team who hasn’t found somebody to love. She’s been burned more than once by too many men who only seem to be interested in her for the ways they can change her, with Brandon the douche having been the worst of the lot.

Brandon left her psyche with a few scars, and left Hex with the uncompromised desire to find someone who will love her exactly as she is, smarts, sass, petite cuteness and everything else in her sometimes contradictory package.

She doesn’t think Cain Cavanaugh, AKA Shade, could possibly be that man. Which doesn’t explain why, in spite of his dark codename, he lights up her hormones every time they cross paths or even just exchange annoying texts.

But there’s a job to do, as there always is for Sentinel Security. And for once in her career, both with the CIA and now with Sentinel Security, Hex is going to be the one going undercover instead of staying safe and managing all the tech that keeps the rest of her team and found family as safe as she can make them.

She’s off to an international tech conference to exchange a stolen data chip for a high-level sting on the evil broker who plans to sell it to the highest – and equally evil – villain. With Shade as her partner keeping her safe from everyone who is out to get her – especially himself.

A job at which he is both not exactly successful and utterly unsuccessful at the same time. But that’s OK because Hex is perfectly capable of rescuing herself from the bad guys – and doesn’t feel any need whatsoever to protect herself from Shade.

Escape Rating A-: The previous book in this series, Excalibur, just wasn’t the tropes I was looking for, for reasons that I don’t need to get into here.

Very much, and very happily, on my other hand, Hex turned out to be EXACTLY what I was hoping for, with its badass hacker heroine who rescues herself, and the even more badass man who is certain that he’s got too much blood on his hands from too many dark places to be remotely worthy of her.

Of course, he’s right and wrong at the same time. He might not quite be worthy of her, and possibly no one is – I really loved Hex – but he is a worthy man and he’s what she wants and he should definitely know better than to stand in her way. It was terrific watching him figure that out – finally – so they could both take a chance on love. Just like the rest of the members of the Sentinel Security team have done through the course of the series.

Now that Killian Hawke (Steel) and his handpicked team have finally found their HEAs, the action shifts to the Fury Brothers in the author’s next action-adventure romance series, coming in September.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to her next science fiction romance (always my personal faves), Knighthunter, book 2 of the Oronis Knights series, coming OMG NEXT MONTH! Squee!

Review: Sentinel Security: Steel by Anna Hackett

Review: Sentinel Security: Steel by Anna HackettSteel (Sentinel Security #4) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Sentinel Security #4
Pages: 272
Published by Anna Hackett on January 26, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

His skills and ruthlessness made him a legend.

The dark, dangerous former spy.

Now the operative turned billionaire known as Steel collides with fiery agent Hellfire when they discover they’re both on the kill list of a deadly assassin.

CIA agent Devyn “Hellfire” Hayden came from nothing and made herself into one of the CIA’s best deep-cover agents. She’s dedicated to her country. She’s always on the move. She’s a loner. Just the way she likes it. Letting people close is a weakness and she’ll never be weak again.

But when she finds herself under attack by an assassin targeting the world’s best intelligence agents, it sends her straight into the path of the only man who tempts her. The dark, lethal Killian “Steel” Hawke.

Killian Hawke rose through the ranks of the CIA, and knows his name is whispered in fear by his enemies. But when his sister needed him, he left and started Sentinel Security. He protects all those he considers his: his sister, his friends, his employees, and his clients.

But there is one stubborn redhead he also wants to claim.

As Devyn and Killian work together to unmask the assassin hunting them, they are forced to confront their white-hot attraction and their violent need to protect each other. Killian is tired of dancing around what he feels for her. Now that she’s in danger, he’ll do whatever it takes to make her safe, claim her heart, and possess her soul.

My Review:

Lovers of the Sentinel Security series have been teased with the inevitability of this story from the very beginning of the series, every bit as much as Killian “Steel” Hawke and Devyn “Hellfire” Hayden have been teasing each other from the first time they met. Back in the day when they were both among the CIA’s best agents.

But when they first laid eyes on each other, Hellfire was an agent on the rise, and Steel was all too aware that he was on the edge of burnout and that his days with the agency were numbered. He didn’t need the temptation, and she couldn’t afford the distraction. Or the other way around. Or both.

Definitely both.

So he turned away and went on his way, out of the CIA and into building his own top-flight, high-end, security business, Sentinel Security. While she continued her rise through the ranks of the CIA to become the best of the best – just as he once was. And still very much is, just in a slightly different and frequently adjacent sphere.

Every time they’ve run into each other – occasionally just about literally – since the Sentinel Security series began, they’ve drawn the kind of sparks off of each other that were bound to lead to one hell of a fire.

If they can just get out of their own ways. As long as they can get themselves out of the sights of an assassin who only thinks he can claim to be the best by taking down the best.

He thinks he can prove he’s in their league. Hellfire and Steel are about to show him just how much he’s not.

Escape Rating A-: First and foremost, I adore this author and her work and am always thrilled to have a new story in whichever series she happens to be working on.

Second, I always love the romance that features the leader of whatever group that series happens to be featuring, so I’ve been waiting for Killian’s story since the series began. (I’m just grateful I didn’t have to bite my nails through quite as many stories as in some of her previous series.)

Third, while I was always intending to read Steel this week I had one book absolutely disappointingly fail, so I was both thrilled and grateful to pick up Steel and dive right in. I knew I would enjoy it, but it turned out to be the perfect book at the perfect time.

Just as Killian Hawke turned out to be, not the perfect man but the perfect man for Hayden. Someone she could trust to have her back in a firefight, who would pull her up when she needed it instead of beating her down when she was already there. Someone who loved her and appreciated her for the kickass woman she was instead of trying to make her be less than in any way, shape or form.

Because she’s perfect for him just as she is. If she was anything less or anything different, she wouldn’t be the woman, the person he needed at his side.

But it isn’t ever going to be easy – and neither is this operation. Someone has a list of the top agents for every spy agency around the world and is planning to assassinate the “Top Ten” on the list. A list that Hellfire and Steel are both on.

The assassin has already eliminated two of their colleagues, had a go at a third, and now they are next. Which means that they are following the trail of their would-be assassin while he’s trying to pull them into his trap. The stakes are the highest, the tension is off the charts and the pages are turning as fast as the reader can flip them.

It’s a race to the finish; either his – or theirs. But together they can conquer anything. Even each other’s doubts, fears and demons. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. Yet another terrific action adventure romance from an equally terrific author.

As always, I’m already looking forward to her next book, Knightmaster, the first in the Oronis Knights series. I’m always up for good science fiction romance and I know that’s just what I’ll get in March. And Sentinel Security will be back in April, and I’m sure it will be another pulse-pounding romantic adventure!

Review: Sentinel Security: Striker by Anna Hackett

Review: Sentinel Security: Striker by Anna HackettStriker (Sentinel Security #3) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense
Series: Sentinel Security #3
Pages: 276
Published by Anna Hackett on December 17, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

He's a hot British billionaire.
The rich, muscled, former special forces soldier.
He's a temptation she doesn't want and can't afford, but now she's working undercover in his company to catch a rogue arms dealer.
Former MI6 agent Hadley "Striker" Lockwood found a new life in New York working for Sentinel Security. Her work fills a tired, jaded hole inside her. Life is just how she likes it, and she definitely has no desire for a man to mess that up.
When her next assignment sends her back to London to hunt a dangerous arms dealer, she finds herself not only face to face with a darkly tempting billionaire, but going undercover as his newest employee.
Bennett Knightley left the SAS with dark scars scratched on his soul and a determination to help in different ways. His successful company Secura makes high-tech gear for soldiers around the world, but now it's under attack. Shipments are going missing, and his people are being targeted.
Enter Hadley-intelligent, stubborn, beautiful, and with walls a mile thick. Bennett's never been tempted to mix business and pleasure, but with Hadley in the office he's torn between their mission and claiming the maddening woman for himself.As Hadley and Bennett close in on their enemy, they fight hard against their overwhelming attraction. She's been burned before but the hot billionaire is getting under her skin. With Hadley, Bennett feels parts of himself coming back to life-now he has to not only convince her to trust him, but convince himself he deserves her.

My Review:

Once a member of Britain’s elite SAS (Special Air Service (the UK’s equivalent – more of less – of the US SEAL Teams), when Bennett Knightley retired from service he took his skills and determination from the front lines and created a highly profitable, high-tech company that specialized in the business of making the best protective equipment on the market for the military and the people who support them who are fighting the same good fight that he once did.

It’s also his way of exorcising his own demons. In honor of the friends he couldn’t protect in the past, because there was never enough good equipment to go around, he’s providing the best protection he can in the present and the future and making sure it goes where it will do the most good.

But someone has Bennett’s company in their sights, diverting his shipments and corrupting his people, putting that same protective gear in the hands of the very forces that Bennett is desperate to protect people from.

And swaying the court of public opinion to make it seem like Bennett is just another money-hungry capitalist selling out to the highest bidder no matter how dirty their money might be.

That’s where Sentinel Security, in the person of Hadley Lockwood, codename Striker, comes into the picture. And into Bennett’s company Secura, working undercover as a communications executive so she can see where the place has been infiltrated and hopefully get a lead on who has a serious desire to hang Bennett out to dry in as many ways as possible.

They’re supposed to work together. And they do. Entirely too well and not just in the office. But Hadley refuses to trust any man with her heart, while Bennett is still paying penance for all the people that he could not save.

All the while, there’s clearly someone out there who thinks Bennett hasn’t paid nearly enough. In spite of the threat, neither Hadley nor Bennett can resist reaching out for a present neither of them ever expected – even though they both know that any future is far from guaranteed.

Escape Rating A-: The two types of this author’s stories that I like best, whether they are science fiction romances like her Galactic Kings series or action adventure romances like Sentinel Security. The first, and the one I always await eagerly, is the romance that features the leader of whatever group the series is following. In the case of Sentinel Security that’s Killian “Steel” Hawke and his book is up NEXT! YAY!

But the other type, and one that manages to happen more than once in each series – after all, when it comes to leaders there can usually be only one – are the romances where the female half of the impending duo is every single bit the elite operator that the male half is – if not a bit more so as in The Medic.

Those elite operators who are so deliciously often the hero of her romances are just so kickass and badass that any woman who tangles romantically with them who is not just as badass in her own right sometimes gets a bit damselfied. Not because she really is, but because in comparison she really does need protection and a lot of it for whatever fix she’s stuck in.

Sentinel Security agent, formerly of MI6, Hadley “Striker” Lockwood does not need protection. She’s an expert either in providing that protection or in making sure that the villains wish they had a whole lot more of it than they actually do.

So Hadley doesn’t need Bennett to protect her from danger just as he doesn’t need Hadley to protect him. But they each are more than capable of watching each other’s backs in the middle of an operation as well as stealing each other’s hearts in their all too brief downtime.

Which makes Striker just the kind of romance of equals that I always enjoy. In this story, they’re both equally capable of taking down the villains. And they are both equally wary of putting their hearts on the line.

So if you love the kind of romance where everyone kicks ass, takes names and puts down the villains on their way to a well-earned happy ever after, Striker is a winner.

And I’m utterly thrilled that the head badass at Sentinel Security, Killian Hawke, is going to be forced to acknowledge that he’s met his match in every possible way in Steel, coming in January. That’s next month. YAY!

Review: Conqueror by Anna Hackett

Review: Conqueror by Anna HackettConqueror (Galactic Kings #4) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Kings #4
Pages: 276
Published by Anna Hackett on November 6, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

After two years of alien captivity, Evie is free, but her captors have changed her. Now struggling to control a terrifying new power, her only hope is one formidable, dangerous alien king.

Logistics manager Evie Mason is no longer a prisoner on an alien space station, but she’s far from Earth, suffering nightmares, and fighting to ignore the growing power inside her. She just wants to be normal, but when she comes face to face with the intoxicating ruler of the planet Taln, normal isn’t an option. He speaks to the power inside her, and ignites a fierce desire she’s never felt before.

Conqueror Graylan Taln Sarkany is the king of Taln and its people, who can control the geological forces of their planet. He’s dedicated to protecting Talnians from his evil father and uses his immense power to command the rocks, soil, and earthquakes. But Gray must always keep a part of his power leashed. The part that’s too volatile, too enormous, too dangerous. Then one small, tough woman from Earth threatens all his control.

As a final, violent showdown with Graylan’s father draws closer, Gray and Evie are swept into a whirlwind of power and passion, their powers connecting them in ways neither of them understand. With Gray’s brothers, their mates, and allies by their side, they will fight, and Gray will unleash everything he has to protect his planet, his people, and Evie.

My Review:

There is clearly something very wrong with King Zavir Sarkany, but his four sons are all very, very fine indeed. And they’ve banded together to do something about ‘not-so-dear and not-so-old dad’. They’re going to pay him back for all the damage he’s done to their solar system, their individual planets, their people, their families and themselves.

Unlike their tyrannical father, the Sarkany brothers all put themselves last behind the needs of their respective peoples. Their joint problem is that the one thing all of their planets’ peoples need most is to eliminate the man who fathered their respective rulers. Preferably before he manages to destroy all of their worlds so he can ‘get his sons back’. Zavir is delusional. And narcissistic. But unfortunately, quite charismatic when he want to be and extremely powerful all of the damn time.

Nevertheless, his sons have managed to beat back Zavir’s seriously overclocked, over-enhanced and over-genetically-engineered constructs on Zhalto (Overlord), Damar (Emperor) and even on Zavir’s space station based experimental monstrosity lab (Captain of the Guard). Now it’s time for the Sarkany brothers to get together and kick him off Taln and out of their lives for good.

No matter what it takes.

But in his quest to rule his planetary system and his sons, Zavir managed to sow the seeds of his own destruction. There’s something about the women from Earth that both enhances his horrific experiments AND makes them easy to genetically engineer. He intended to create weapons, and they are. But the moment they get free of his scientists’ clutches, each one of them has bonded with one of his sons, giving them yet one more reason to fight him with everything they have.

In this final story in the Galactic Kings series, Conqueror Graylan Taln Sarkany is juggling the protection of his world, the plot to destroy his father, the healing of Earth-refugee Evie Mason (her rescue is part of Captain of the Guard) and fighting his attraction to this woman who is still in mourning for the ‘normal’ person she used to be.

It’s a lot for any person to handle, but Graylan eventually gets the message that he’s capable of conquering anything and anyone – as long as he has Evie by his side.

Escape Rating A-: As Conqueror is the final book in the Galactic Kings series – and a marvelously cathartic one at that – this is not the place to start the series. Start with Overlord because the whole thing is just a terrific science fiction romance read from beginning to end.

Or, if you’re in the mood for a big reading binge, you can always start with Gladiator, the first book in the Galactic Gladiators series. Why? Because the wormhole that brought so many Terrans from the Jupiter outpost to their system all the way across the galaxy is just a gift that has kept on giving, with Conqueror just the latest in a long and wonderful line of interstellar romances.

A line which seems to be continuing in the Oronis Knights series early next year. But we’re not there yet.

The story in Conqueror has all the captivating elements of the previous books in the series. Evie Mason was rescued from the clutches of Zavir’s evil scientists – who honestly make the Nazis look like fluffy bunnies by comparison.

Her blood was used to make Zavir’s experimental creatures even more powerful, and she was genetically engineered to have the same capabilities as the people of one of the planets in the Sarkan system – in this case Gray’s planet Taln. She’s not ‘normal’ anymore by Earth standards and she can’t go home – even if she could.

She wants payback. She also, surprising even herself, wants Gray, although she knows that it can’t possibly lead anywhere. He’s a king and she’s basically a refugee. Also, he’s being an idiot and pursuing an arranged marriage because he thinks it will be easier if he doesn’t love his spouse. For…reasons. As I said, idiot.

So their reluctant romance is a big part of this story, but what makes this one so much fun is that it’s all about finding a final solution for Zavir – and the conflict that Gray and his brothers all have about plotting to kill their father. Who really, really needs it but is still their father. Who can be very, very charming and very, very twisted, sometimes even at the same time.

Their solution is not the one that I was expecting. At all. Which is terrific. That it’s a take on events in Star Trek: Next Gen brought a smile to my face even as I breathed a huge sigh of relief that all was well that ended well. (Although the solution in STNG is about to be undone in the final season of Picard, so who knows? Zavir could be back, too…)

If you are looking for kickass, action-adventure romance in a science fiction setting, where all the protagonists take charge, take names and definitely get the hardest and most heartbreaking jobs done with style and sass, the Galactic Kings – and their queens! – are all winners in love and war and every single one of their stories is a fantastic read!

Review: Mission: Uncovered by Anna Hackett

Review: Mission: Uncovered by Anna HackettMission: Uncovered by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, romantic suspense
Series: Treasure Hunter Security, Team 52, Norcross Security
Pages: 150
Published by Anna Hackett on 11-1-2022
Purchasing Info: Author's Website
Goodreads

Amber Butler is out to prove herself: to her sister, herself, and especially to her bosses at Treasure Hunter Security. If her mission involves trekking into the desert with someone from the covert black ops Team 52, she’ll do it.

But what she doesn’t expect is for that someone to be her smoking hot Vegas one-night stand.

My Review:

Amber Butler is good at what she does – she just believes she has a difficult time making good choices. She’s having a difficult time letting go of the fact that one of her choices went so very wrong that her sister Peri had to hire Treasure Hunter Security (that story is in Unmapped) to rescue her from the deadly black-market antiquities ring, Silk Road.

Amber believed the job they hired her for, to trek to Antarctica to locate a buried treasure that was a lot more than it seemed – even as her current employers turned out to be a lot worse than they seemed.

Amber took a few hits to her confidence, but in the end Treasure Hunter Security saved the day, Peri met the love of her life, and Amber got herself a new job with people she can trust – that very same Treasure Hunter Security.

After all, she’s an accomplished wilderness guide and occasional treasure hunter. She’s a perfect fit for their organization. Not to mention her about-to-be brother-in-law wants to keep an eye on his future sister-in-law, and her sister wants her working with people who can be trusted.

It should be a win-win-win, but Amber’s still not quite trusting herself. She wants to be seen as a responsible adult and earn her place at THS. But as Amber isn’t currently trusting her judgment or her choices, her plan is to put her nose to the proverbial grindstone, keep her eyes on that prize, and swear off relationships until she feels like she has her act together.

A set of resolutions that flies out the window at escape velocity when THS sends her on THE perfect job for her with the man she never expected to see again. Her last wild one-night stand before she started her new job and made all those oh-so-responsible resolutions.

Treasure Hunter Security has teamed up with their friendly rivals at Team 52 to hunt down a deadly ancient relic in the desert surrounding Lake Mead. Team 52 has brought their newest recruit to team up with Amber and reach Montezuma’s real – and really toxic – revenge before the villains can reverse engineer the old formula and create a weapon of bioterrorism like the world has never seen.

All Amber has to do is guide the hottest man she’s ever slept with to find a relic that’s been lost for centuries in a cave that’s been underwater for decades while resisting every impulse in her body to jump him again. And again.

But Team 52 agent Garrett Webb has plans of his own. His resolution is to tempt Amber to break every single one of hers. Before, during and after they get the villains put down.

Escape Rating A-: If you’ve followed Anna Hackett’s interconnected series, or at least her contemporary action adventure romances, Mission: Uncovered is a terrific coda for all of them. It’s not just that the mission is a joint operation between Team 52 and Treasure Hunter Security, but the Norcross Security folks get to mix in a bit as well. So for fans, this novella is a real treat.

For readers new to the author, Mission: Uncovered is a terrific introduction. While the references to the previous series are fun, the main story is completely new. Amber and Garrett are both new to their respective organizations, still trying to find their places.

Including, they each secretly hope, with each other.

The relic they have to retrieve is itself both old and new. On the one hand, yes, it’s THAT Montezuma. On the other, the cave in which the relic has been hiding all these centuries was at least partially submerged by the construction of Hoover Dam. Falling lake levels may have revealed the formerly hidden entrance.

What makes the story so much fun – in addition to the historical references which I always love – is the romance between Amber and Garrett. They’re both emotionally wounded and neither completely trusts their own judgment when they first meet. It takes them both time and trust to realize that they’re better together than either would be separately, and then they have to be able to trust themselves to decide to give it a go.

So a lovely romance where two people rescue each other into an HEA that is very much earned.

If the author’s work intrigues you, and I hope it does, there are plenty to choose from and all of them are terrific. If you’re specifically interested in Mission: Uncovered, there’s a lovely little bit of a dilemma to get it. This story was written specifically to be a free offering from the Protector Romance Book Club, and if you want it RIGHT NOW you’ll need to join the Book Club to get it – along with the December introductory novellas from another author contributing to the club. Which does sound like a whole lot of win. If you are willing to wait and/or work your binge reading way through Treasure Hunter Security and Team 52 and Norcross Security first, Mission: Uncovered will probably be available at some point in the future. But why wait?

Review: Pets in Space 7 by S.E. Smith, R.J. Blain, Grace Goodwin, Skye MacKinnon, Carol Van Natta, Honey Phillips, Carysa Locke, S.J. Pajonas, JC Hay, Kyndra Hatch

Review: Pets in Space 7 by S.E. Smith, R.J. Blain, Grace Goodwin, Skye MacKinnon, Carol Van Natta, Honey Phillips, Carysa Locke, S.J. Pajonas, JC Hay, Kyndra HatchPets in Space 7 by S.E. Smith, R.J. Blain, Grace Goodwin, Skye MacKinnon, Carol Van Natta, Honey Phillips, Carysa Locke, S.J. Pajonas, JC Hay, Kyndra Hatch
Format: ebook
Source: publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, science fiction romance
Series: Pets in Space #7
Pages: 1369
on October 4, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Pets in Space® is back for a new year of adventures!

Pets in Space is back and better than ever! Featuring 13 original, never-before-released stories from some of today's bestselling science fiction romance authors, starring your favorite sci-fi pets. These furry, feathered, and slightly alien friends are always ready for a new adventure with their two-legged human and alien companions. From dogs to cats to sea creatures and unicorns, these romantic tales show that pets are more than just animals – they’re family.

This limited-edition anthology includes stories by some of the biggest names in science fiction romance. New York Times Bestseller S.E. Smith and USA Today Bestsellers R.J. Blain, Grace Goodwin, Skye MacKinnon, Carol Van Natta, Honey Phillips, Carysa Locke, S.J. Pajonas, JC Hay, and Kyndra Hatch, plus Leslie Chase, Winnie Winkle, and Candace Colt.

The Pets in Space 7 authors continue their vital support of HeroDogs, the non-profit charity that improves quality of life for veterans of the U.S. military and first-responders with disabilities.

★ Don't miss out — grab this limited-edition anthology before it's too late! ★

Exclusively in Pets in Space 7:
◆“Wynter and the Stone Dragon” by S.E. Smith: Love blossoms between a human king and an alien princess when a portal between their worlds opens.
◆“Life-Debt” by R.J. Blain: Hybrid human Viva and her pet fox have two rules: no names and no attachments. Why does the handsome man she rescued makes her want to break both?
◆“Marked Mate” by Grace Goodwin: An elite hunter pursues a dangerous criminal on an unsuspecting Earth, only to be distracted by a mysterious woman and her furry pet.
◆“Alien Abduction for Unicorns” by Skye MacKinnon: Unicorns are real, and alien Bruin is sexy as the stars. Can Scottish tour guide Tara forgive them for kidnapping her in the name of science?
◆“An Entanglement of Griffins” by Carol Van Natta: A space pirate and a pet sanctuary owner suspected of grand larceny get help from genetically-engineered griffins to recover the goods and find love.
◆“Cyborg Rider” by Honey Phillips: Can a bioengineered mole named Eglantine find a way to rescue the scientist and the cyborg who are depending on her?
◆“Healer Heart” by Carysa Locke: A telekinetic healer on a mission and a telepathic killer who is afraid to feel must trust an intelligent cat to help them save a group of children from death.
◆“Myra’s Big Mistake” by S. J. Pajonas: She’s burdened by a lifetime of disappointment. He’s been her secret admirer for years. Will a roll of the dice lead to a cosmic courtship?
◆“Desert Flame” by JC Hay: Dr. Cerridwen Lewis is prickly, foul mouthed, and quick to anger; in other words, she’s everything Captain Kal and his pet scythewing ever wanted.
◆“Death Angel” by Kyndra Hatch: How do you choose between your people and your mate? Especially when you're a Korthan cyborg captain and your human mate unknowingly holds the key to lasting peace or unending war?
◆“Written in the Stars” by Leslie Chase: Megan isn’t looking for love, especially not from an alien mercenary just passing through. But love, and her winged cat Nebula, have other plans.
◆“Liquid Courage” by Winnie Winkle: Powerful sea witch Morgan is determined to save her beloved ocean creatures from thieving aliens. Tony offers to help, but he's got secrets.
◆“Rhea’s Conundrum: A Witch in Space” by by Candace Colt: Eccentric witch Rhea only dreamed of the stars. So how did she and her snarky cat end up in a junk-picker spaceship with sexy alien captain C'tloc?

My Review:

Pets in Space is always an utterly marvelous treat. Every year an absolutely stellar group of science fiction romance writers get together to create this annual collection of space ships and adventure, featuring romance between humans and/or aliens, ably assisted by companion creatures, whether animals or AI, whether furry or feathered or something out of this world.

The proceeds from the sale of each Pets in Space collection go to charity, specifically to Hero Dogs, an organization which provides trained service dogs to heroes, specifically to wounded military veterans and first responders.

So the book supports a terrific cause, and the stories within are always out of this world. This is the seventh collection, and it contains a lucky THIRTEEN science fiction romance novellas in a whopping 1369 page book.

That’s a lot of book, and a lot of treats to savor until the next one arrives!

For me, the annual collection is a reading delight that will last through lots of reading time, especially over the winter with a cat in my lap and a cup of tea or hot cocoa at my side. It’s much too big for one sitting or even one weekend. I always want to take my time and enjoy every page.

This is a book that requires a plan of attack!

I confess that I always read the cat stories first. Partly because it’s always fun to imagine what cats would have to say if they could talk. And because my own feline overlords wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m supposed to reassure them that they’re the best cats in the universe and they aren’t shy about telling me so!

But seriously, I generally do read the cat stories first – as I did this time around. I save the stories about other animals, and in worlds I’m not familiar with, for times when I can dive into the towering TBR pile – or add to it – to get stories in the same worlds featured in the collection that are new to me.

So I’ll be treating myself to more of Pets in Space 7 over the months ahead.

Howsomever, I can’t leave you without making a few review-type comments about those three cat stories, “Healer Heart” by Carysa Locke, “Written in the Stars” by Leslie Chase and “Rhea’s Conundrum: A Witch in Space” by Candace Colt.

“Healer Heart” was interesting because it contained some elements of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, particularly her genetically engineered and ruthlessly trained assassins, the Arrows. In the universe of the Telepathic Space Pirates there is also a group of genetically engineered assassins. And like the Arrows, some of those born and bred killers want more from life than just death. Which is where telepathic healer Nayla and the hunter cat Rasalas come in. While she personally wants to help one particular assassin, her assignment is to help assassin-trained children before the training is too deeply ingrained to be countered. She helps the kids with dogs, but it’s the cat pushing her to make things right with the man who broke her heart trying to protect her from himself.

There’s just so much to love in this one. Nayla is beating her head against the wall using her own gifts and training to help people who are determined to blame her for every break from tradition; the man she loves is terrified he’ll kill her if his training overcomes his reason; and the kids she is able to help are heartbreaking but hopeful. This universe is an absolute mess but this healer seems to have a cure for at least a bit of what’s ailing it.

“Written in the Stars” revolves around a woman stranded on a failing space station with her vast collection of books, her flying cat, and her determination to save up enough money to get back to something a little bit more like civilization. Megan is plucky beyond belief, and lucky beyond reason, as she finds both someone to love and a purpose for living in helping to rescue the space station from itself. Her winged cat Nebula is both very cat and very reminiscent of some famous literary felines, as Nebula is an intergalactic traveling version of the winged cats in Nebula-Award winning Ursula LeGuin’s lovely Catwings series.

Last but not least, “Rhea’s Conundrum: A Witch in Space” by Candace Colt. This one was my favorite because Rhea is a witch of a certain age who learns that love has not passed her by, and that she is not yet ready (if, admittedly, she ever will be) to settle down and help raise her grandchildren. Her conundrum is a devastating one, as the necklace that powered her journey to C’tloc’s spaceship can either take her back to her home or power his spaceship so that he can get back home, but not both. If she leaves, he’ll die. If she stays, by the time she manages to get back to Earth her family will probably be long dead. She can only live one life, and she has to make a bittersweet choice between loves – with the help of her very snarky cat. This one was a heartbreaker.

Escape Rating A: This collection is always a Grade A read, no matter when I pick it up or where I choose to dip into it at any given time. The stories are always a delightful range of styles and worlds and pets, and this year is no exception.

That it supports a wonderful cause while giving hours if not days of reading delight is just icing on a very lovely reading cake – with a puppuccino on the side.

But Pets in Space 7 is, as always, a limited edition. So if any – or hopefully ALL – of the stories appeal to you, be sure to get your copy before they fly off to the stars for another year. Because every collection, every year, is a feathery, whiskery, winged delight!