Megan’s Mark by Lora Leigh
(Berkley, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-425-20964-4
**
This book tries really hard, but unfortunately Megan’s Mark missed the mark with me.

Megan Fields is a law enforcement officer with a small-town Sheriff’s department in the southern New Mexico of the near future. Megan has eschewed the excitement of big city police work to patrol the almost empty desert because she is a powerful empath. The feelings of others flood her to such an extent that it nearly paralyzes her – making her a liability to herself and others in dangerous situations.

While disobeying orders and investigating an apparent double murder on her own, Megan is surprised when she’s fired on by people she could not sense. Fortunately, she’s saved by someone even more arrogant and violent than she – Braden Arness.

Turns out that Braden and the murderers who were lying in wait for her are genetic creations known as Breeds. Created in the laboratory by the evil Genetics Council to be soulless killing machines, Breeds are an almost superhuman combination of human and animal genes. The bad guys are Coyote Breeds who, for some reason, work for the Council that treats Breeds like expendable meat and heaps unspeakable abuses on them.

Braden is a Feline Breed – part human, part lion – who works for an organization trying to free Breeds from the evil clutches of the Genetics Council. Oddly enough, being near Braden seems to shield Megan from the overwhelming deluge of emotions she normally cannot control. Oh, and as we’re frequently informed, he also makes her womb (and points south) “spasm” on a regular basis. Which is only fair, since Braden gets an erection the moment he sets eyes on our girl and pretty much stays that way for the rest of the book. Actually, Megan seems to have this effect on quite a few men, although it was never quite clear why.

Which brings me to my first reservation about this book. I found the eroticism kinda, well, clinical. While the hero and heroine should certainly generate some heat right from the get-go, this author concentrates on repetitive descriptions of the effect they have on each other’s genitals and forgets that the most important sex organ (of readers as well as characters) is the one between their ears.

One of the difficulties in reviewing an erotic novel, obviously, is that it’s even more difficult to enjoy if it doesn’t speak to the reviewer’s particular taste. While I’m always up for an interesting exploration of power issues (of which Megan has many), the sex essentially becomes about domination. Megan has no choice about hooking up with Braden, because he’s inoculated her (albeit unintentionally) with some kind of powerful Breed hormone that compels her to have frequent sex with him or go insane. And Braden uses her sexual thrall to more or less coerce her into anal sex, the objective of which is to prove that he’s the boss of her. Not everyone will find it distasteful, but the spine says this book is a paranormal ‘romance’ and that didn’t seem particularly romantic to me.

But I had other problems with the book, as well. Megan is supposed to be one of the new breed of action heroines, but she was a male stereotype in a girl’s body. According to the book, she became a cop mostly because she wants to kick ass and fight and shoot people. She pisses and moans because the boys are a bunch of big meanies who won’t let her play with the good toys, like guns that can actually kill people. For an empath, Megan has astonishingly little empathy.

Braden is a cardboard alpha and, as a result, while they’re hunting bad guys and spasming and so forth, they only have one conflict between them (You can’t tell me what to do!/Oh yes I can!) It would have been nice to see some actual character growth.

The pace is fast and the shoot-em-up adventure will please some readers, although to me it read as though the author had watched too many cheesy action flicks.

There was lots of yelling and running around, but in the end I didn’t feel as though this book when much of anywhere are all.

-- Judi McKee


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