Monday, July 19, 2010

With a Touch by Rhiannon Leith

TITLE: With a Touch
AUTHOR: Rhiannon Leith
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 40k)
GENRE: Futuristic paranormal menage erotic romance
COST: $4.50

As a psychic, Eva is a powerful tool for the Guild in maintaining order, but when she gets a new assignment to get information from a known terrorist, all hell breaks loose. Rafael Dante is as powerful a psychic as she is, and with the inside help of Aidan Valetti, a Security officer, manages to break free of his captivity and kidnap her away from the Guild’s protection. The story he weaves is incredible. Eva wouldn’t believe it if she couldn’t see it in his mind. What he and Aidan offer overwhelms her, but both men are determined to free her of the Guild’s control…

The single word that comes to mind in regards to this long novella is tasteful. It has a lot going for it, and while it’s definitely better than some of the stories I’ve read recently, it still has at least one major flaw to keep it from being anything memorable.

In a futuristic society, Eva is a psychic with the Guild, the organization responsible for bringing order to a world on the brink of disaster. The Guild “hires” psychic children from families, to utilize their skills in every possible way, most often in extracting necessary information from others who are reluctant to give it. Powerful in her own right, Eva is surprised when she gets a change in assignment, to a Security detail in one of the sublevels. She accepts, and is shocked when one of the officers there is the same one she’d collided with when she first arrived for work. Then, she’d felt his desire for her, a fantasy she’d plucked from his mind at the physical contact, and it rattles her a little as she approaches her duty. What rattles her further is the man they want her to question is the most notorious Hedonist, a group of terrorists intent on destroying the Guild. His name is Rafael Dante, and he has powers as strong as – if not greater – than hers. She can’t get through his defenses without touching him, but as soon as she does, she discovers he’s been tortured and maligned, and while he hates the Guild, he’s not the violent man she was led to believe. She confronts the commander in charge of the investigation, but immediately, hell breaks loose. The guard she’d bumped into – Aidan – takes down the others in the room, and together with Rafael, try to get Eva out of there. They manage to escape to their stronghold, and have to work to convince her they never meant to kidnap her. They wanted her to come of her own free will, because getting her free of the Guild’s control was her dying father’s last wish.

The prose in this is by far its greatest strength. There’s sensuality in every word, even in the midst of action scenes. It’s not, however, over the top. In fact, it’s got an understated elegance that reminds me of a really good white wine. It warms without overwhelming, with a slight tart edge to keep me on my toes. When it was meant to race forward, it did so, just as it became sensual for the erotic scenes. The entire story has a tasteful feel to it, with everybody and everything treated with respect.

Characterization is solid, if not unique, but I do believe the men fare a lot better than Eva does. Once she’s kidnapped, she becomes much more of a shell – because really, that’s what Guild psychics are – and she seems to take on the personality of whoever she is with. This chameleon-like quality mirrors her search for her own identity, but I can’t say that it actually worked for me. I was left wondering who this woman really was, even when it got to the rather predictable ending. Her spotty characterization seeps into my commitment to the ménage, as well. This is an m/m/f ménage, which means the men are as involved with each other as they are with the woman, but I never understood why they wanted her. She is brought to the compound to fulfill the promise Rafael made to her father. Rafael has had premonitions that she is meant for Aidan, too. Aidan has accepted this as his due, but in all honesty, it felt like he was in love with her the moment he met her. If it was meant to be fated, it felt sloppy, and if it wasn’t, there was never any understanding why Aidan or Rafael would/should/could love her. It made it impossible to believe in their romantic feelings for her (though the erotic ones are more understandable), and since she’s an integral point in this triangle, it weakens the entire structure.

This is sold as the first book in the Guild Chronicles. I’m curious enough about the world the author has created, and impressed enough by the prose, to try the second book when it comes out. This one might not have worked as a ménage for me, but it had enough strong qualities to encourage me to try another.


8/10 – Sensual and tasteful


6/10 – I believed they wanted each other – the men especially – but I never understood why they were so enamored with Eva from the start


7/10 – The men fare better than the woman in this, with the villain rather cardboard

Entertainment value

7/10 – For the action and sensuality, not because I believed the ménage

World building

7/10 – Some interesting ideas, though not always fully realized



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