Hard to Guard, by Nina Mamone

>> Tuesday, September 11, 2007

TITLE: Hard to Guard
AUTHOR: Nina Mamone

COPYRIGHT: 2007 (comes out today)
PAGES: About 23,000 words, which I'd say is short story length in those regular 4-story print anthologies.
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Paranormal Romance
SERIES: No, but it will be part of an anthology called "I Dream of Dragons II"

REASON FOR READING: The author emailed me and asked me if I'd like an ARC, and after checking out the summary, I said "yes, please!"

Two guardians + long-denied passion + a quest to recover a kidnapped wyrm = spontaneous combustion

I Dream of Dragons II

A construction worker by day, a Guardian by night, Connor has had it with the irresponsible antics of the wyrms he vowed to keep secret from the human world. The only reason he keeps going is to be near the sassy, sexy, but totally out-of-his-league Sorcha. However, for the past five years, Sorcha’s not-so-subtle digs have convinced him that she only sees him as a stuffy, wet blanket.

Sorcha lusts after Connor and may even love him. But after five years of poking, prodding, teasing—anything to get some kind of reaction, even a frown—she’s given up hope of having a relationship with him. He has made it very clear that working with her to find a kidnapped wyrm is the very last thing he wants to do.

An unaccounted-for wyrm is a deadly wild card, and after a dangerous aphrodisiac appears on the streets, Sorcha and Connor will have to join forces to ensure the safety of everyone they care about.
THE PLOT: As Guardians working for the Directorate, Connor and Sorcha's job is to take care of wyrms, dragons who can take human form and live among humans. Wyrms aren't the most responsible of beings, and it takes a lot of effort to make sure they remain a secret from the world at large. It's a bit like being a babysitter, and both are tired of it. The only reason they don't quit is that each sees the job as the only way they can keep in contact with the other.

Connor and Sorcha have known each other for five years, since the day they started training for their job. From the very first, the strong attraction between them caused them to behave strangely, and the result is that each is very misguided about the other's feelings. Connor is convinced Sorcha thinks him a priggish stick-in-the-mud, while Sorcha is sure Connor disapproves of her and can barely stand her.

But when the kidnapping of one of the wyrms forces them to work together, it becomes much harder to hide their true feelings.

MY THOUGHTS: I'm very glad I accepted the author's offer, because this was a fun, sexy story, with plenty of tingly romance.

Romance short stories are not really my favourites, as they're so hard to do and you usually get what feels like the bare bones of a larger story. But the good news is that short was the perfect length for this particular story. It helped that the outside plot was quite simple really. The thing about the wyrms and their Guardians and how this all works was fun and original, but at the same time, it was quite straightforward, and there wasn't a too-complicated mythology that took up tens of pages being introduced. Furthermore, the story was more character- than plot-driven, with the outside plot only providing the background for the change in Sorcha and Connor's relationship, but never really coming to the forefront.

I also liked that the relationship was one that was already pretty established, so the author wasn't forced to cram the entire thing into a few short pages, from the first meeting on. No, Connor and Sorcha's feelings are already there, and we're given just enough background info to understand them and their history. This was excellently done, and in the first part, the feelings of yearning for each other but believing it's hopeless were just yummy.

What we see in full is the resolution of the conflict that had kept them separate, and this was good, a nice combination of sexy and sweet. Sorcha did go a bit nuts afterwards, creating a conflict that felt slightly forced, but it didn't bother me excessively, as she saw reason soon enough.

MY GRADE: A nice, solid B.


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