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Hot Blooded

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Wild Rain

Conspiracy Game
by Christine Feehan
(Jove, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-14216-6
This is typical Feehan fare, including the things I enjoy most about her writing and the things I enjoy least.

Jack Norton is a GhostWalker, a physically and psychically enhanced super-soldier, created (as were all the other GhostWalkers, including Jack’s twin brother) by the megalomaniac Dr. Whitney, who may or may not be dead. Jack is captured by rebels in the Congo after rescuing his brother from their clutches, and for some reason, Jack allows himself to be brutally tortured and beaten him for several hours before he escapes.

When Jack finally decides he’s had enough, he heads for Kinshasa. Oddly enough, the Flying Five, an aerial circus act is performing there, and one of the Five is Jebediah Jenkins with whom Jack served in the SEALs. Jack wonders if this could possibly be a coincidence, or even a trap, but his wounds and blood loss are starting to catch up with him and he knows he’ll need help getting to safety.

Jack is astonished when the first member of the troupe he meets is Briony Jenkins and she has skills that mirror his – including the ability to camouflage herself by changing the color of her skin and hold her breath for twenty minutes. She has GhostWalker powers but no idea who GhostWalkers are. Even more disturbing is Jack’s instant and very forceful awareness of her as a woman, and the desire to protect her. Jack has always been a dedicated loner.

Briony is not only extremely strong and agile, which comes in handy when she’s performing in her family’s act, she’s also a powerful empath. As a result, she spends almost all her time in intense physical and mental pain from the emotional clamor around her. For this reason, her family believes she’s autistic.

Miraculously, being near Jack seems to block out the barrage of painful emotions from the rest of the world. Although they can read each other’s minds, she doesn’t even know what Jack is feeling unless he lowers his guards and allows it. Jack is, in GhostWalker parlance, an anchor – someone who filters out the psychic noise for the others.

In fact, their meeting is not a coincidence. Briony is a GhostWalker, but she was adopted out to the Jenkins family so that Whitney could see how someone with her talents and sensitivities fared in the ‘real’ world. She and Jack have both done so well that Whitney would very much like to take his experiment to a new level – starting with their child.

This book certainly has many of what I think of as Ms. Feehan’s ‘signature’ elements. Jack is an alpha male – a powerful, confident control freak who’s genetically programmed to respond to one specific female. Briony is a strong, independent woman who’s uncomfortable both with his domination and the sense that their attraction to each other is pre-ordained.

Their emotional and sexual connection is strong and intense. Christine Feehan at her best does this very, very well, and this book has it in spades. I enjoyed Jack and Briony’s romance very much.

Considerably less involving are the lengthy info-dumps disguised as conversations. Some contain background information; however, in one bizarre instance we’re treated to a six page description of how Whitney gained access to the GhostWalkers’ computer system to spy on them.

Although I liked Jack and Briony and enjoyed their interaction, I was less delighted with her martyr complex. Even though being in front of crowds is agonizing for her, she insists on being part of the family heritage. This might have been more compelling had the family business been, oh, curing cancer or eliminating world hunger. Torturing herself to be part of a circus act seems more than a little mis-prioritized.

All in all, however, I think this effort will likely please this author’s fans, and would also be an okay place to start for those interested in trying the series; it’s an excellent example of what Christine Feehan is up to these days.

-- Judi McKee

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