My rating: ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
This novel is an intriguing blend of categories: There is a difficult romance between the cop Shane and the “contracted companion” Aki. What makes the relationship even more difficult is that this is post World War III America, and both these men have been victims of weird science genetic experiments.
Shane is rough around the edges, a former soldier whose genes were manipulated during the war so that on a fairly predictable cycle, he is forced to change/shift to animal form, praying every time he doesn’t hurt anyone. Now a cop, he is on the trail of a serial killer, someone who is murdering young men. For relaxation and relief from his stresses, Shane visits the brothel “Hidden Gem.” Though he is seen to by more than one contracted companion, his favorite is Aki.
Aki, a refugee from the concentration camps in the South where people with special abilities were held and experimented on, is also a psi. He cannot touch Shane without feeling his mind and emotions, or anyone for that matter, and has to rely on a specialty to get by. He’s cute and popular and his best friend Candy and he make a good team when it comes to entertaining large groups of rich men.
I don’t read much fantasy or science fiction anymore; at one time in my life, that was all I read. But I adored the worldbuilding in this story, masterfully done. I love mystery, so the serial killer angle had me pushing past the early stages of the setting to get to the meat of the story. Shane is hard to like at first–though that’s purposeful, and Aki and Candy have mostly fun scenes together.
The story–both the romance and the mystery–makes captivating twists and turns of plot so well done I didn’t want to put it down. 😀