Callan Lyons is a science experiment, created by the evil Genetics Council. He is one of the Breeds, a group of humans whose DNA was mixed with that of the world's most deadly animal predators in an attempt to produce the perfect soldier. Conceived in a test tube, carried by a surrogate and born in a laboratory, Callan and all the other Breeds spent most of their lives growing up there, having all manner of atrocities committed against their bodies in the name of science and greed. In his late teens, Callan was finally able to escape along with five of his fellow Breeds by blowing up the lab. All of them carry feline DNA with Callan being a lion Breed, and since their flight from the Council, he has acted as the alpha male leader of the group that has become his pride. He has been attempting to live a quiet existence in a remote mountain home outside a small Kentucky town, but the Council has been relentlessly pursuing him and everyone else who was involved in the project. When Callan's surrogate mother, Dr. Maria Morales, a former Council scientist, is found murdered, it seems that they may have finally caught up to him.
Merinus Tyler is a tough, independent-minded journalist who works closely with her father and seven brothers at her father's newspaper. Dr. Morales was a close friend of Merinus's father and had arranged for a box of damning evidence on the project to be delivered to him in the event of her death. Ever since receiving the box, the entire Tyler clan has been tirelessly investigating the claims in hopes of exposing the Council's evil deeds. After months of digging, they finally feel they have enough evidence to bring the Council down, but in order to do it, they will need to convince Callan Lyons to come forward and tell the world exactly what he is. All of the Tyler men have powerful connections including Merinus' uncle, a U.S. Senator, and believe that they can offer him the best hope of both survival and leading a semi-normal life. Merinus desperately wants the assignment, and the Tyler men eventually agree that as a woman, she would have the best chance of persuading Callan to place himself under their protection, since she would likely be viewed as less of a threat. With their blessing, she eagerly travels to Callan's hometown and immediately places him under her watchful surveillance, playing a dangerous cat and mouse game with him.
Callan's heightened senses tell him right away that Merinus is following him, and from the moment he first lays eyes on her, his body begins to react in strange and unpredictable ways. After rescuing Merinus from an attack by Council soldiers, Callan begins to feel a possessiveness that he has never before experienced, and cannot resist giving the lady a kiss even though she is unconscious. Merinus awakens the next morning with a strange but pleasant taste on her lips and a fire in her body that cannot be quenched. She and Callan are drawn together by an unrelenting intensity which leaves them both in agonizing need of the other. Even after joining in the blazing passion of the "mating frenzy," they still hunger for one another in a way neither thought possible. While the torturous flames continue to consume them, the Council soldiers are closing in with the intent of taking Merinus for the child her body may now carry, and the ultimate betrayal of one close to them may have brought the soldiers right to their door.
Tempting the Beast was only my second read of an erotic romance and my first by Lora Leigh and Ellora's Cave publishers. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, and while I can't say that I was shocked by anything within it's pages, I was caught a little off guard by the raw intensity of the sex scenes that I felt were generally lacking in any significant tenderness. I thought that those scenes and the story in general fell short on creating an emotional connection both between the hero and heroine and the book and it's reader. When some gentler scenes finally appeared they were very brief and over far too quickly to suit my taste. That said though, I did not necessarily find the intense sex scenes to be out of place in the context of the novel, especially given the hero's animal DNA. However, because of them and the lack of what I would term true romance, I had a hard time buying into the idea of these two falling in love. One moment they are purely lusting after one another in the "mating frenzy" while fighting the whole idea of having to be together at all (especially the heroine), and the next she is declaring her love for him out of the blue, with him following suit shortly thereafter. I actually like that the author stated their love was not a result of the chemical/hormonal reaction taking place in their bodies, but she didn't really build enough of a relationship between them to make it believable for me. I guess that since this book is still marketed as a romance, I expected a few more truly romantic moments. As I am still new to the erotic sub-genre though, perhaps this is par for the course depending on the author and/or publisher.
While I certainly didn't dislike Callan and Merinus, the hero and heroine, neither can I say that I found them to be particularly relatable either. Both characters were fiercely independent alphas, and perhaps this is why their relationship just didn't gel for me. They spent a large part of the book fighting for dominance which brought a whole new level of intensity to their relationship. Given the very unusual and dangerous circumstances in which they found themselves, I would have preferred to see them spend less time fighting for control of one another and more time working together to find solutions. Callan was an extreme alpha male who needed to be in control at all times, which again I did not find to be out of context given his animal traits and his status as leader of his pride, but ultimately I think he was just a little too alpha for me. I just tend to like heroes who have a slightly softer side even if they are alpha, and when Callan showed his rare but brief moments of tenderness, is when he was most likable to me. Merinus was also a very independent alpha female who was far more than a simple spitfire heroine. She vehemently warred against any kind of male dominance in her life at all, though she certainly cried quite a lot, which to me seemed rather contradictory to her nature. This certainly isn't a complaint though, because it was in these moments of vulnerability that she was most likable to me. In my opinion, Merinus's character was under-developed though. I never really got a true sense of who she was and what made her tick. For instance, I admired Ms. Leigh's choice to make Merinus a contemporary virgin, but I found myself wondering why she was. Had she made a conscious choice; was it because of her busy career; did she have difficulty getting dates due to her dominant personality; or was there some other reason altogether? I just felt that a few more details of a personal nature would have made Merinus a more compelling character. Overall, I found Callan and Merinus to be interesting, but they fell short of engaging much more than my intellect.
While it may seem that I have a lot of criticisms of this book, I did find the underlying plot to be fascinating. The whole idea of humans who are part animal with their evil creators relentlessly pursuing them, is the stuff that great sci-fi movies are made of. In this respect, I have to give Lora Leigh kudos for her creativity. Though there were certain elements that reminded me of other books I've read, this particular plot was definitely very unique. I found myself wishing that more time had been devoted to exploring this aspect of the story and less to the sex, but then I suppose that would defeat the purpose of an erotic novel. When I take this book for what it is, a science-fiction thriller liberally laced with explicit erotic sex scenes, I can honestly say that Lora Leigh is a talented author. It certainly held my attention, and likely contains far more plot than many stories in this sub-genre. That said though there were a few things about the writing that I thought could have been better. First, the editing could have used some additional work. Practically every novel I read has some sort of typographical errors, and this one had an abundance of those, but there were also a few times where the author unnecessarily repeats herself and several places where I thought that passages could have been worded a bit more clearly. Also, the heroine's vehicle changed from a Jeep to an SUV and then later to a Blazer. While SUV could potentially be interchangeable with the other two, a Jeep and a Blazer are certainly not the same thing. I know this is a fairly minor thing, but for some reason, at the time I read it, I found it to be rather distracting. Secondly, I thought that the villain was far too easy to spot. I had this character pegged almost from the moment they first appeared in the story. Lastly, the author seemed to be overly fond of certain words using them repeatedly and making me wish that she had made use of a thesaurus. Overall though, these things were mostly mild annoyances and didn't seriously detract from the main story.
Tempting the Beast is the first book in the Breeds series. It introduces an intriguing cast of secondary characters many of whom get their own stories. There is Taber, a panther Breed, who becomes the hero of book #2, The Man Within; Tanner, a Bengal Breed, who is the hero of book #9, Tanner's Scheme; and Dawn, a cougar Breed, who is the heroine of book #14, Dawn's Awakening. Tempting the Beast also introduces Kane, Merinus's brother, and Sherra, a snow leopard Breed, who have a previous relationship that they get to rekindle as the hero and heroine of book #4, Kiss of Heat. There are currently a total of 15 novels and short stories in the Breeds series with more to come. According to Lora Leigh's website, she wrote the Breeds series out of order chronologically and it has been printed by two different publishers, making the ordering of the books confusing to some readers. For the proper order in which the books should be read, check out Ms. Leigh's website. While Tempting the Beast had it's share of weaknesses, I found the overall creativity of the plot to be stimulating and the characters were engaging, making me want to know more about them. These two aspects, coupled with an open-ended epilogue, have sufficiently peaked my interest to prompt me to continue the series to see where this riveting story might lead.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language and sexual situations, including domination/submission and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive.
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