Earlier this year I granted DIK status to Dawn’s Awakening, the previous single title release in Lora Leigh’s Breeds series, and just last month gave her Breeds short story in the Shifter anthology a B-. It’s clear I’m a fan of this series, but since my review of another of her recent single titles – from another series – didn’t earn a recommendation from me, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mercury’s War. On the one hand, it brought up some questions that either weren’t resolved or didn’t altogether make sense, but on the other, it satisfied my craving for Leigh’s extreme manner of creating an HEA for two long-suffering characters.
Near the end of Dawn’s Awakening, the first Leo, the “father” of all the Feline Breeds, made himself known to the rest of the world after his son Callan was gravely injured. The private and powerful man owns Vanderale Industries, which has provided millions of dollars of its high-tech equipment to Sanctuary for several years. Leo’s son Dane, under the pretext of making sure Sanctuary has enough safeguards in place to protect the high-tech investment, sends Ria Rodriguez, his most trusted employee, to audit the Breed encampment. That’s the cover story; she’s really there because she and Dane believe somebody within Sanctuary is providing top-secret information to Breed enemies.
Assigned as Ria’s (who has decided to take on a Dowdy Librarian look for this undercover mission) bodyguard while at Sanctuary is Mercury Warrant, a Lion Breed who is believed to have lost his mate 11 years earlier when she was killed. When Mercury learned of her death, he displayed something never seen in a Breed: feral displacement, which led to the most violent display ever seen in a Breed. He’s one of Sanctuary’s best Enforcers, and the response Ria and Mercury evoke in one another surprises both. Because Breeds only mate once, Ria expects her heart to break if she becomes involved with him. For his part, Mercury decides to make Ria his, even if she isn’t his true mate.
There are games being played, not only by Dane, but, as always, by the manipulative Jonas Wyatt, a third of Leo’s sons, who directs Breed Affairs at a national level. Jonas hasn’t told Mercury that Alaiya, Mercury’s thought-dead mate, isn’t really dead at all. Meanwhile Ely, the Breed scientist who has appeared in all the Breed stories to date, believes that Mercury is once again displaying feral displacement, and that he’s a danger to others. Ely and Jonas fight bitterly about Mercury throughout the story.
As Ria’s investigation progresses, so does her relationship with Mercury, but with Alaiya’s reappearance on the scene, she’s miserable. Mercury is determined that Ria is and will be his mate, but Ria believes that, in the end, he will reject her for Alaiya. In the meantime, strange and alarming things are happening: A change in hormone levels threatens an already-mated couple(from the previous Dawn’s Awakening); orders (both vocal and written) are being forged; and certain drugs that don’t work on Breeds are being purchased off a Sanctuary computer.
Although I don’t understand the need for Ria’s Dowdy Librarian look, I liked her character, particularly as the story progressed. For fear of giving spoilers, I won’t say what comes to light about her shortly before the book ends, but it didn’t make sense given what I “know” of Breeds. On the other hand, it allowed her to blossom, and the satisfaction Dane and Mercury experienced as a result was wonderful to watch. As for Mercury, I liked him too; he spent years set apart from other Breeds, but his coming together with Ria is all the sweeter because it happens without the mating hormone driving his behavior.
Dane plays a bigger role in this book than he has previously; he’s one who could give Jonas a run for his money in terms of manipulation. He’s so obnoxious about his games that Ria forces him to buy her copious amounts of jewelry just to put up with him…and he does. Dane doesn’t change throughout the course of the story, but by the end we begin to see a different side of Jonas, which intrigued me.
The love scenes are incendiary, as usual, but slightly toned down. That wasn’t a problem for me, but the threat to the previously mated couple is mentioned early on, then dropped entirely, which bothered me a great deal. And while admittedly I liked Rita’s growth as a result of what is revealed about her, the revelation doesn’t withstand scrutiny. In the end, then, while I enjoyed much of Mercury’s War, it suffers from some big flaws. But I still look forward to the next installment of the series to see where Leigh takes her Breeds next.