Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “You belong to me and no one else.“
This is my first time reading Monica Burns and I was instantly captivated. My review partner, Mandi, read the first two books of this series and raved about them so I decided to try one. Even without prior knowledge of this world and occupants I was immediately drawn into the heady atmosphere of suspense, intrigue and romance from page one. A well written fantasy with a lush world filled with complex and multi dimensional characters. The smooth writing and descriptive detailing drew me in and I found myself becoming heavily vested in the characters outcomes. I was pleased by the time and effort Ms. Burns takes in developing her characters and their relationships to their world and one another.
Cleopatra Vorenus is a skilled assassin within the Sicari. Always feeling like an outsider looking in on the Sicari world, when she learns some disturbing information from her mother, the Prima Council, it pushes her over the edge. She decides to take a dangerous assignment to get away and to instigate some of her own plans. Cleo is determined to free her friend’s sister who was taken by the Praetorians to use as a breeder and her contact is in Rome. While obtaining the needed information, she is ambushed and saved by stranger.
Dante Condellaire, the Tribune of Rome and heir to the Sicari Lords curses Cleo when he sees her strike the death blow to a man he has spent months gathering information on. He too is on a rescue mission; to save his assistant’s daughter who was captured by the same Praetorians for the same reasons. Dante is shocked when he first sees Cleo. Her beauty speaks to him in ways no one has ever before. But Dante knows who Cleo is, better yet, who her father is and that requires some careful diplomacy.
The flames of their attraction burn out of control though Dante continuously pushes Cleo aside due to the vow he took at age fifteen; a vow of chastity to prove his loyalty to the Sicari. He is a man who likes order and who’s emotions are kept under strict control while Cleo is an angry disillusioned young woman who lives in the eye of a hurricane that is her life. For the first time in his life he is unsure what the correct path is. Cleo has no idea of Dante’s vow so she is hurt by his hot and cold emotions. During all this they are also involved in a rescue and uncovering a plot involving a mysterious text that could alter the lives of the Sicari and the Praectorians forever.
Cleo and Dante are superb together. Ms. Burns does a wonderful job a encouraging their romance in a slow yet outrageously steamy fashion. I loved that Cleo is the experienced lover while Dante is the virgin. Hallelujah and pass the cornbread. The sexual tension in here had me on edge, waiting to see if Dante would succumb or abstain. The secondary romance between an older couple who have struggled through numerous trials and obstacles for their love also had me held in it’s rapt attention as they found their way back to passion and one another.
While the the romance(s) are introduced fairly early on and run parallel to the main storyline -they don’t over shadow but rather enhance our over all reading pleasure. As I ventured deeper into this world I found the mystery to be very appealing; filled with plenty of action and suspense. There is so much going on-long held questions being answered and subplots being closed.Yet even for my lack of background I never felt overwhelmed or lost. Ms. Burns writes a nice balance of world and characters that combines to produce an addicting dramatic fantasy that oozes with betrayal and absolution.
As I raced towards the ending, I felt like I was on a roller coaster; my stomach pitching and rolling as each new clue and scene unfolded. No one is spared as Ms. Burns cleans house and I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the decisions being made. The ending satisfies the story wholeheartedly but leaves enough open to assure me that the next in this series will be on my list of must have reads for 2012.