Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau
F/F Romance, Futuristic
August 8, 2011
Guest Review by Jill Sorenson
Thanks for having me at Smexy Books! I hope you enjoy this guest review.
I was excited to read Rulebreaker for several reasons. Cathy Pegau is a debut author and this is the first f/f romance published by Carina Press. Rulebreaker is also the first non-erotic f/f novel I’ve come across. Like m/m, most f/f is erotic.
The story begins with a bang. Liv Braxton, the heroine, is in a bank in Nevarro, a sort of futuristic Wild West. There’s a robbery in progress, with an intriguing twist—Liv had also planned to rob the bank that day. A group of dangerous professionals gets the drop on her and leaves with a secret stash.
Although the men are masked, one of them cops a feel and calls Liv a pet name. It’s her ex, Tonio Calderon.
This great setup highlights the strengths and weakness of your story. Liv is a strong, unique heroine. She’s a con artist with a conscience. Tonio is a sexy rogue and I can smell hero all over him. I love reunion romances! The only problem is that Rulebreaker is supposed to be about a relationship between two ladies.
Tonio visits Liv later with an interesting proposition. He’s working on the heist of a lifetime and his crew needs a smart, sneaky female to join them. Liv knows it’s a risky proposition but she’s an adventurous gal. After signing on, she learns that her task is to infiltrate the offices of a major corporation and seduce its VP.
The corporation, Exeter, researches safety products for Nevarro’s corrupt mining industry. There’s some secret new air filter being tested, with deadly (?) results. Liv is to collect information that can be used to blackmail Exeter.
Exeter’s VP, Zia Talbot, is a woman. Liv doesn’t normally swing that way, but Zia is hot, and Liv is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
I wasn’t sure why Tonio’s crew assumed Zia would go for Liv. Because she’s a lesbian, and Liv is attractive? If Zia had a reputation for boffing her secretaries, I’d have found this premise a little more believable.
Before I go further with the plot, let me say that the writing and world-building are excellent. The futuristic details add a lot of flavor but don’t overwhelm the story. There is a stylish, sexy quality to the writing, despite the fact that there is very little sex. Rulebreaker reminded me of a George Clooney caper film. It’s compelling and charismatic.
Liv’s chemistry with Tonio heats up the pages. Beneath his scoundrel exterior, he’s a nice guy, and he has unfinished business with Liv. Unfortunately, Tonio outshines Zia, the “real” love interest. By the time she enters the picture, in the second half of the story, it’s too late. I wanted Liv to get back with Tonio.
The scenes between Liv and Zia didn’t work for me. Liv has much better chemistry with Tonio. He is her ex, and dangerously off-limits. In comparison, Liv is required to seduce Zia. I kept thinking that it would be really hot if Liv and Tonio argued about the job and ended up in bed. Actually, that almost happens. Instead, Liv goes through with the plan and sleeps with Zia. The sex is sensual but not explicit.
Inter-office, boss-secretary affairs are not my favorite and I just never warmed up to Zia as a character. She’s involved in more shady business dealings than an Exxon executive. She also treats Liv like a pet and buys her pretty things.
What I disliked most was how Liv changed from an independent, free-thinking reprobate to a submissive little assistant. She enjoys making Zia coffee and micromanaging her schedule. It felt like an abrupt departure from the first half of the book. The resolution was less than satisfying for this reason.
Rulebreaker rates pretty high as a futuristic novel with romantic elements. But I wasn’t sold on the relationship between Liv and Zia.