This review is for the first two books of the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. The third book comes out today, so guess what I am doing for the rest of the day. You can read a mini review of the first book, How Beauty Met the Beast in my Books read in 2012 post.
Here is the blurb from the publisher for the first and second books:
How Beauty Met the Beast: Book 1
Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.
Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.
Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?
How Beauty Saved the Beast: Book 2
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.
The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.
Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him–or risk losing him forever…
A tortured hero makes me swoon. A tortured hero who is a gentleman and does not use his baggage as an excuse to be an overbearing idiot is even better. A tortured hero who is also not conventionally handsome hits all my spots, the good ones.
Hauk is isolated physically and emotionally from others, even his friends, and this distance makes his growing relationship with Jolie nail biting. The way they gravitate towards each other, only to fling themselves away, builds the tension between them. Garren crafts Hauk and Jolie perfectly so their relationship woes are never forced or irritating to the reader. On the contrary, the reasons, especially on Hauk’s side, were heart wrenching.
Jolie has had all of the advantages of a privileged upbringing but has retained a decent moral character. Unfortunately, this has isolated her from most of her family and leaves few she trusts. Unlike Hauk, who is isolated because of his appearance (and that pesky thing about being suspected of murder), Jolie is isolated by her last name and her money. Both of these characters have some serious baggage dragging along behind them.
The pages are fairly smoking from the chemistry between Hauk and Jolie. The first novel starts off with an encounter that could set a sheet aflame (ahem) and the tension never drops from there. Hauk and Jolie, after the initial encounter, do not touch often but the reader keenly knows every time they do. By the time I finished reading the second book, the book was scorching my hands.
The romance is great, but the plot is not too shabby either. There are pagan, excuse me, heathen gods, good guys fighting evil power hungry men, magical mysteries, and people trying to build a better world. There are subtle, and not so subtle, references to steampunk, anarchy, fairy tales, science, burlesque, and Austin culture in the story line. It is a wild mix that Garren weaves together fluidly for a very fun ride.
These are books that I frequently recommend, and by recommend I mean beat over the head with, to people, and by people I mean anyone unfortunate enough to admit they read books. There are three books in this series, all increasing in length, and all very reasonably priced from the wonderful Carina Press. The third book, How Beauty Loved the Beast, comes out TODAY.
Do yourself a favor and make a very nice lady (Jax Garren) happy. Go. Buy. Read. And fall in love.
P.S. I will admit without coercion that I have read Met three times and Saved twice and all the bits around the web as well. I am head over burlesque heels.
Jane, has received nothing for this review except perhaps the right to stalk Jax Garren at the next conference we both attend.