I absolutely love that Gena Showalter is expanding her Alien Huntress world with this spinoff series. This story serves as a great introduction for new readers, but also fits very well with the existing books. It has a sexy, unloved alpha-male... and a tortured heroine who hasn't allowed her difficult life to diminish the light of her spirit.
Vika grew up under the cruel hand of her father, the owner of a traveling circus. His menagerie once held exotic animals. Now, members of otherworld races are caged and subjected to humiliation and torment. Vika abhors her father's actions, but he is too powerful for her to stop. When she has tried, it has earned her beating after beating, including one viscous attack that took her hearing. She realizes she must plan her escape quietly --and in the meantime, offer what kindness she can to the prisoners.
Solo is an otherworlder who works as a black-ops agent, essentially killing people who need to be killed. He grew up only knowing love from his adopted parents. Everyone else turned their backs on him, calling him a freak and a monster. Just moments after he was tasked with tracking down some missing aliens, he was incompacitated and sold into the circus.
At first, he lashed out, but it did no good. And slowly, he began to see the goodness in Vika. She seems to see him as no one ever has, and her gentle crush on him has an effect he can't ignore. The two grow closer and plot their escape. But can they really get out from under her father's thumb?
I enjoyed the romance. It was actually very sweet. Vika is innocent to the ways of love, but it felt much more genuine than with so many ingenue heroines. She has to compromise what she knows is right in order to survive, but she hangs onto her humanity no matter the cost. Solo is solid mildly-tortured hero. He had a solid foundation with his adopted parents, so he wasn't completely wrecked. But he struggles with the rejection of others and his assassin work doesn't leave him feeling altogether worthy of love. It's quite nice to see them each find the love they never thought they would have.
There's not a lot of sex, though we did have some toward the end. I would imagine it would be hard to work in, with Solo in a cage for so much of the book. Also, notably lacking, is Showalter's fabulous wit and snark. This story is much more somber.
There's a good set-up for future books, centering on the other members of Solo's team who have gone missing. And we're even treated to a cameo from Dallas! Overall, I enjoyed it and look forward to the next installment... especially if it centers on John.
Rating: B*ARC Provided by Pocket Books