Why should YA have all the dystopia fun? Elle Kennedy takes the post-apocalyptic US in a decidedly adult direction in Claimed, the first book in her Outlaws series of erotic romances.
Rather than marry the psychopath who wants her hand, Hudson Lane fled her privileged life in the city and joined outlaws living in what used to be the American West. Well, “joined” isn’t quite the word for how she ended up badgering her way into Connor Mackenzie’s small posse. Connor doesn’t want a woman in his crew. In fact, he doesn’t want followers at all, since his previous group (including his wife) was killed in a massacre by city Enforcer Dominik – who, unbeknownst to Connor, is Hudson’s brother. But Hudson has a range of useful skills, from defense training to a nursing qualification, and on top of that, Connor can barely keep his hands off of her. He also doesn’t mind allowing – or ordering – some of his men to get their hands on her, as well…
Con is frustrated to find himself responsible for strays, including Hudson, and doesn’t want to be their leader, yet he’s a thoughtful planner, manager of resources, and caretaker of his team. It’s a nice contrast to heroes whom we are told are great leaders but whose actual qualities are lacking. He doesn’t want to let his quest for revenge get sidelined by thinking of others. When Hudson’s identity comes to light, what he does is lousy but also in character. Hudson is a bit more of a generic caring-healer type, but doesn’t do anything TSTL or allow herself to be treated like a doormat.
This is a burning-level erotic romance. While the plot and the setting are interesting, sex sets the pace. Connor and Hudson have genuine chemistry, and this book allows some tension to build because they don’t get together right away. Heads up that Claimed includes both the hero and the heroine having contact with other people, both separately and in a male-male-female threesome.
Typically we don’t compare books to books by other authors in reviews, but it’s more or less impossible for me not to make a connection to Megan Crane’s Edge series – post-apocalyptic erotic romance with free-lovin’ raider/warrior heroes, in a land where fertility is a commodity. Kennedy’s series, however, features much less aggressive posturing and language from the heroes. Connor and his men are fighters without being stereotypical alphas. He maintains a garden, while Crane’s heroes think of non-warrior farmer men as “bitches” (probably because they are crabby and constipated from their manly diet). If you like Crane for her setting and her hot sex scenes, you’ll probably like this; if you specifically want the dominance-alpha fantasy, this version is much more muted.
Claimed is, quite simply, a solid performer in everything it sets out to do. If you’re looking for a burning hot read and you like alternate reality settings, go for it.