I was actually surprised how much I liked this story.
My expectations were low - because of the setting with the playmate and the hockey player.
But it turned out to be a really good read.
I liked Faith. She didn't pity herself, didn't throw her sob story around, she stood by her decisions to work with what nature gave her (her body, her beauty) to make a decent living.
The romance processed a bit quick, but since it was clear it would be a fairy tale like story (not with "real" people who meet, talk, get to know each other in normal situations) it fit with the whole plot.
The second installment of a trilogy has the hardest role -- the first introduces us to the world, the characters, the conflict -- basically sets the stage for everything in the series. The third has to tie up everything and give a satisfying conclusion. The second has to build on the first and make the audience want to read the end. There needs to be a clear arc to the book (or what's the point), yet the conclusion has to make us thirst for more. It's also bound to be the most overlooked entry in the trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back being one of the exceptions that proves the rule). As such, Defying the Prophet fulfilled most of the duties of the second installment, and was entertaining enough -- but man, I just wanted more from it.
I also usually find it difficult to talk about the second installments more than the other two, so here are some general observations as I put off any real analysis off until I finish the series.
I was surprised -- and pleased -- at how quickly Michaels wrapped up the Civil War story in this book -- I really expected it to go on much longer. I'm not entirely certain I liked the mechanism by which he did it -- but I can't say I disliked it, but it almost seemed a bit too easy. Oh well, he uses the state of military readiness of the various human governments to be able to respond to the looming alien invasion in an effective manner.
The battles between the human factions were good. The battles between Raknii and humans was great. Seriously great -- particularly the first one. I'm not sure Michaels could've sustained things there longer without sacrificing quality, but I wish he did. Thankfully, there's more to come on this front, and I can't wait to see how things go there.
I didn't find the plots involving the internal developments and movements with Raknii as compelling this time around -- and they were my favorite parts of the first book. We also didn't get as much of them this time. Still, I appreciate what he's doing with the Raknii overall and would willingly read more about them beyond this series.
Meanwhile, at least a few people in the USA have started to figure out just how the AI that runs things for them undermined them in the lead-up to the Civil War -- and during it. They still don't seem to have a great idea what they're going to do with that knowledge however . . .
My biggest problem with this book is that at a certain point it was like Michaels realized -- "you know what I haven't included in this series? Romance. I'd better fix that." -- and then, bang-zoom, we've got two love stories going. One page it's all political/economic/military intrigue and action and the next it's political/economic/military intrigue and action plus hearts, flowers, and anatomy. Which was awkward enough, but then those love stories just weren't that well-executed. He reminded me of Aaron Sorkin's attempts at romantic comedy in Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Newsroom -- I loved almost every other thing Sorkin did in those shows, but man . . . romance just isn't his thing (I'm not even going to mention Studio 60, because that was just bad all around) . Michaels tried -- and I appreciate the effort, and could enjoy what he was going for, they were sweet, but I just don't think he nailed the telling (and, yes, Mr. Michaels, if you read this, feel free to summarize this as "He favorably compared me to an Oscar Winning writer").
So we've got an interstellar conflict to wrap-up; at least one species' culture is going to be changed by this conflict; some internal shake-ups to go along with that among the Raknii; at least one human government responding to the sentient AI; the sentient AI up to something new; and a couple of other dangling plotlines -- and 340 pages to do it all in. Wrath of an Angry God is going to be a busy, busy conclusion -- should be a fun ride. This? This was good, but it's clearly the middle volume and really the poof's going to be in whether Michaels can stick the landing. My guess is that he can, but we'll have to see.
Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post -- thanks Mr. Michaels.
Sarah moved around behind him. Her subtle perfume blended with the smells in the kitchen. “Do you think my label is okay?”
“They’re not judging your label. They’re judging how well the food and wines complement each other.”
“You’re right.” He set the bottle down and turned to greet his friend, but she wasn’t there. In her place stood a siren—that’s the first word that came to mind—in tight leggings that hugged her hips and bared her midriff, and a fitted shirt that tied under plump breasts, showing a hint of cleavage.
What the hell?
But it was the hair that got his attention.
“What have you done to your hair?”
She twirled in front of him, letting her hair swing from side to side provocatively. It looked lighter, and it looked like she had way more hair. “Where are your glasses?”
“I’m wearing contacts. Do you like this look?” She batted her eyelashes at him and moved closer.
He stepped back, aware of an unaccustomed heat he’d never felt in Sarah’s house before. She was his friend. She shouldn’t look like this.
She seemed to be waiting for his answer, but he didn’t know what to say.
She laughed and put her hand on his chest. It left a warm spot there. He couldn’t back up any more, because the edge of the counter was biting into his backside.
“Do you think people will believe we’re a couple now, Mr. Hot Guy?” Her voice was low and sexy, her soft mouth curved into a secret smile.
“Geez, Sarah. You didn’t have to change your appearance.”
“Sure I did. We’re supposed to be a couple in a committed relationship. I have to look like the girls you date. I have to be warm and affectionate, and look at you like you’re my dessert course.” She paused and ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “Let’s see. What would you be? A chocolate soufflé, puffed and pretty on the outside and dark and intense on the inside, with flavors that slide over the tongue and linger there to be savored later, making you crave more.”
The room was suddenly hot. How would he concentrate on wines when she looked—and talked—like that? And how would he keep guys at the resort away from her?
His eyes fixed on her cleavage. “Could you go put on a sweatshirt or something? We need to get down to business.”
Sarah laughed, showing dimples in her cheeks. She had dimples? Why hadn’t he noticed before?
“I’m sorry Sam. The deer-in-the-headlights look on your face is priceless. But you’re going to have to get used to the new Sarah…at least for a week. We need to be convincing. Isn’t that what you said last time you were here?
He shoved his fingers through his hair. “Did I?”
“No more playacting right now. Pour the wines, and let’s start tasting with food.”
This is the 4th book in the Love In Wine Country series. This book can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment and understanding, I recommend reading series in order.
Sarah & Sam have been best friends for so long, they do not have room to think of more. Now, with this sudden surprise he has thrown her, she is re-thinking everything. She hates that he is trying to control her life and she is so done.
Sam does not know where these feelings are coming from. He only knows he has never thought of Sarah this way before. The future looks bleak without her in it.
Interesting story. I felt drawn to both characters early on. I was rooting for them almost right away. This series is just so sweet and the pace moves right along. I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!
***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review.