Monday, July 5, 2010

State of Mind by Libby Drew

TITLE: State of Mind
AUTHOR: Libby Drew
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 65k)
GENRE: Gay paranormal erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Dedicated to keeping peace, the Organization is comprised of Gifteds – men and women with some form of special mental ability. Grier Crist has dedicated years of his life to it, and after all this time, is one of the best. So when he discovers the Organization has been hiding treacherous secrets from him, he does the only honorable thing he can. He quits. Quitting, however, is not an option, and the Organization comes after him, labeling him both a murderer and a traitor in order to get its agents to comply. Alec Devlin is utterly devoted to the Organization, but when he finds Grier, everything he has ever believed in is called into question. Now he has to decide whether to believe the lies, or do something about it…

Well-paced action carries me a long way in stories. While I can enjoy slower, more thoughtful character pieces, too, I love the sense of getting swept into the events, being thrust from one sequence to another. It’s a carryover from movies I like to watch and other genres I like to read. Getting a romantic arc in an action-packed book? Icing on the cake.

Action is the top draw in this paranormal. Grier and Alec are Gifted, men with special mental abilities, that work for a conglomerate called the Organization. Grier is older – thirty-eight – and the story starts with him on a bomb site, a conference center where innocent people were killed. He’s convinced the Organization is at fault, and decides on the spot to quit and go into hiding. He knows he’ll have to run from them. Nobody quits and gets away with it. Sure enough, they send a younger agent, Alec Devlin, after him. Alec has the ability to hide himself from other Gifteds, and he gets under Grier’s radar almost right away. When Grier realizes who he is, he manages to overpower him, and create a tenuous truce when he reveals that the Organization lies about some of the most basic things they take for granted. From there, it’s a race to safety, with everybody and his brother out to get them.

The action is fast, clever, and relentless. From the very first paragraph, the reader is thrust into the moment, and it rarely lets up. So focused on the plot, the characters don’t even get to have sex until close to the end, though their attraction simmers from the moment they meet. There just isn’t time for it to happen, and the author respects the action enough not to break at a foolish place just to get them into bed. Scenes are short, and perspective changes often, not just remaining in our two heroes. We get Nora, Alec’s Monitor; Ethan, the Organization head; Nicolas, Grier’s friend; and more. Some perspectives work better than others, and more than once, it’s not clear that the author has switched at all until a page or two into the scene. For the most part, though, they serve to thrust the plot forward, providing ancillary information necessary to make the climax understandable. Nicolas in particular fares as one of the better choices, an intriguing character worthy of his own story.

Alec and Grier are individual enough to stand out from each other in the course of the story, though once the story is done, there’s a vague sense of uncertainty left in both of them. I know that Grier is an honorable man, wanting to do the right thing, but I’m never entirely sure why, or what it was that molded him into the man he is. There are allusions to what it might be, but nothing concrete. Alec is just as likable, though his characterization doesn’t seem nearly as smooth. More than once, Grier refers to him as too trusting – which he is – but once we learn about his past, it’s hard to believe, especially when someone who is aware of that past suggests that he’s learned not to give openings to get hurt. That suggests a lack of a trusting nature to me, and makes it harder for me to get a good grasp on him afterward. It just doesn’t fit, and jars an otherwise enjoyable character.

There’s a sense of sameness when it comes to the setting and plot, and in a less action-packed story, that might have been a problem. It wasn’t for me. The chemistry between Alec and Grier sizzles from the start, and I was glad the author waited for them to come together. With as much action as she threw into it, it wouldn’t have been right for it to happen sooner. I’m labeling this an erotic romance, because when the sex does happen, it’s very explicit, and lasts for longer than a page or two. There might not be a lot of it, but it’s hot and definitely doesn’t fade to black. And for this reader, very much worth the wait.


8/10 – Swiftly plotted and well-paced

Hero #1

7/10 – Surprisingly honorable, though often felt like there was more to him than I actually got

Hero #2

7/10 – A study in contrasts, though his trusting nature never seemed to make sense considering his background

Entertainment value

8/10 – Though the plot and characters are fairly standard, I got swept up in the action and their mutual attraction enough to really enjoy myself

World building

7/10 – There’s a lack of time in this that niggles at the back of the brain, and it’s not hugely original, but enough was there for me to stay interested



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