Red Heat by Lynne Connolly

STORM 2: Red Heat by Lynne Connolly
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (153 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/F/M, Ménage, Voyeurism
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Gillyflower

Of all the hotels in New York, she had to walk into his.

After Chase’s beloved Jillian dies in a car wreck, he uses her name as a code for the STORM agents who use his luxury hotel. When a woman registers as Jillian Miller, he assumes it is business as usual. But it’s not. The woman he believed dead has come back.

Jillian’s mission for the IRDC, enemy to all Talents, shouldn’t include wild days and steamy nights but Chase’s hot, powerful body drives her crazy. Torn between her mission and her craving for Chase, Jillian doesn’t know which side she’s on anymore.

To save both their lives, Chase must restore the gaps in Jillian’s memory. He uses their shared past, including her passion for public sex, to bring her back to him. If she doesn’t remember soon, she’ll die. And he won’t let her die alone.

Red Heat is so red hot you’ll need a fan or your partner nearby while you read it.

Once again Ms. Connolly takes us to the wonderful, alternate, future reality she built so beautifully in Red Alert. It is now six months later and Jillian Miller, Chase Maynord’s lost love, strolls into his flagship hotel and asks for a room. Jillian was believed to have perished in a car crash three years earlier, but Chase still uses her name as the code word for operatives of STORM (the Society of Talented Officers Resisting Mistreatment), seeking sanctuary. So is this the real Jillian?

Chase is a Sorcerer of the highest order, able to use telepathy to reach a person’s deepest core. And he believes this woman is Jillian. Will they ever know?

Chase takes Jillian in to STORM to test her and to re-establish her security clearance, if possible. I love this description of him soothing her after pain during the interrogation: “The warmth went further, spread like blue ink through water, feathering through her mind.“ Indeed, their ability to connect on so many levels – physical, emotional and telepathically. And oh my, Chase is a dream come true. I would love to have someone so dedicated to my every need and desire.

Ms. Connolly weaves a beautiful love story with lots of fascinating plot twists and turns. Chase and Jillian/Caroline are totally appealing and sympathetic characters.

Jillian doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her, but she is able to enjoy Chase taking care of her because he does so without pity. And the sex scenes between Chase and Jillian burn up the pages. It turns out both Chase and the Jillian of old have a penchant for public sex. When Chases uses that knowledge to try to break down some of Jillian/Caroline’s mental barriers – well, as mentioned above, Red Heat is certainly an apt title!

In the end, is this woman Jillian? Caroline? Both? How will she find the way forward? As an amalgam of both? Will they both get a second chance? The old Jillian found Chase too possessive and had been somewhat sharp around the edges, often taking the lead in the bedroom. Is this their chance to recreate themselves and refine their relationship?

The world outside their relationship is also richly drawn. Talents are still trying to establish their place in society and the IRDC continues to pose a serious threat. In this second book in the series, we learn a great deal more about the philosophy driving the IRDC. Its public platform is that Talents refuse to share their gifts with the rest of the populace for the common good; that Talents are so selfish they care not whether humans live die; therefore untamed, unfettered Talents are dangerous, capable of so much they have to be assimilated and contained. Sorcerers such as Chase are thought to be the most dangerous of all Talents because of their ability to control minds and because they are closest to humans.

As much fun as Red Heat is for this action adventure and the accompanying suspense, the story is richer for the shades of gray Ms. Connolly allows use to see on each side of the debate. Not all Talents are on the side of right, and some factions within the IRDC are worse than others. Apparently some companies are amassing private armies of Talents for their own ends. And the evil Dr. Bennett (villain of many prior stories) appears again – ready to betray his own and to torture Talents for the sake of money, power and fame. In so doing, she has not only kept the story interesting, but left lots of open questions, themes and threads to mine in future books.

Many of the characters from the first book stop by, including Ann, Johann, Ricardo, and Jack, who has come on board full time as a researcher for Red Team. And we are introduced to some new faces – Daniel the Griffin, Solokov the Vampire lawyer (all puns intended, surely), and Vanessa the Virgin Sorcerer. The concept of a Virgin Sorcerer and the relationship of virginity and love to a Sorcerer’s powers is a critical one, but it is not as developed as it could have been.

There is also an interesting sub-plot relating to Chase’s relationship with his brittle, Upper East Side matron of a mother — emaciated and stylish; his disowning and disgusted father; and the history of Sorcerers who, we learn, are descended from Hungarian royalty. And we gain a layered understanding of what it means to be a Sorcerer, how hard it is to learn to control the talent, especially when Sorcerers are young and can penetrate all the minds near them – so that they wish they could avoid it. There is a danger to the power as well. When Chase tries to penetrate Jillian/Caroline’s mental barriers, he knows if he tries to force it she could release such agony it would harm and possibly kill them both. Chase has seen such pain and knows he can inflict it.

As Jillian/Caroline moves forwards, I was impressed that she did not just cave to being Chase’s “woman” – an accessory to drape across his arm at charity functions and balls. She wants to figure out who she is — partly to deal with all the parts of Caroline and Jillian that remain – but also because she wants to be her own person, establish her own life, so she can come to Chase as an equal. She wants them both to give and take.

Red Heat did contain some distracting language usage and editing issues, and by this I don’t mean just the occasional slip into the Queen’s English one might expect from Ms. Connolly, a British author. However, as a matter of characterization, if the heroine is meant to be a sassy gal from Queens, she should talk like she’s from Queens, not London. (i.e., “I was in and out of hospital” is not something a scrapper from Queens would say).

I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend Red Heat. I had planned to read a couple chapters and life just had to stop and let me finish it, even if that meant reading far into the night. I can’t wait for the next book in the series and hope there will be many more to come. Well done Ms. Connolly!

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