Wicked Attraction is the second book in Megan Hart’s The Protector trilogy in which the three books tell one overarching story – which means there are spoilers for book one in this review.
In Dangerous Promise, the author made a terrific job of building her vision of the world of the late twenty-first/early twenty-second century in which the books are set, and of introducing her two principal characters. Nina Bronson is ‘enhanced’, a human with superhuman abilities that are the result of experimental technology implanted in her brain which allows her to control her physical and emotional responses and bodily functions, and to be stronger and faster than normal human beings. Because of the advantages given her, she – and the other fourteen former soldiers who underwent the same treatment – are barred from returning to the armed forces and the only work open to them is as bodyguards. When Nina is hired to protect billionaire businessman Ewan Donahue, it’s the ultimate irony because he’s the leading opponent of enhancement technology. The laws which have been passed owing to his persistent lobbying and political influence have banned the creation of any more enhanced, and prohibit the application of upgrades – which means that ultimately, all fifteen of them will break down and die. But these laws are unpopular in some circles, many groups believing the experimentation should be allowed to continue; and it’s this belief which led to the mountain of death threats against Ewan from which Nina was hired to protect him.
Even more ironic, however, is the fact that not only is Ewan now a passionate opponent of enhancement, he’s the one ultimately responsible for it. Nina is unaware of this until quite late in the book – and of course, once she discovers the truth, is devastated. She fell in love with Ewan and his deception inflicts the sort of pain she hasn’t experienced in years and had hoped never to feel again. As soon as his safety is assured, she leaves, wanting nothing more to do with him – but fate takes a hand when she is offered a lucrative contract on behalf on an anonymous client. She isn’t surprised when that client turns out to be Ewan Donahue, intent on getting her back into his life by hook or by crook.
Wicked Attraction picks up shortly after this. With the threats to Ewan’s life neutralised, he no longer needs a bodyguard to shadow him 24/7, and Nina has made it very clear this time, their association will be solely professional. The problem, though, is that the attraction and deep emotional connection they had built has never gone away, and now that Nina has allowed herself to feel, she can’t just put the cat back into the bag and pretend their relationship never happened. Ewan has never stopped loving her, and wants desperately to win her back; and the first part of the story consists almost entirely of a ‘one-step-forward, two-steps-back’ dance as they talk and, yes, shag, with Ewan going into full grovel mode and Nina trying – unsuccessfully – to resist him. I didn’t count the sex scenes, and I know that Ms. Hart is known as a writer of erotic romance so there are, perhaps, more than in the average romance novel – but well-written though they are, I began to skim through them after the first few while I waited for some story progression.
The plotline in Wicked Attraction is almost a mirror image of that in Dangerous Promise in that it’s Nina in danger instead of Ewan, and he needs to protect her from an unknown threat, especially as it seems her tech is starting to degrade. Ewan is conflicted; how can he, who has spoken out so vehemently against enhancement, now turn around and argue that the necessary upgrades should be made available to Nina and her fellow enhanced? Yet he’s prepared to do it, and is gathering support to ensure a repeal of the law that outlawed further research and development of the tech; the problem is that there are those ready to use it for unethical and unscrupulous purposes – and who will stop at nothing to get it.
Although I was fascinated by the ethical questions posed by the concept of enhancement, and the discussions about the importance of memory are intriguing, Wicked Attraction nonetheless suffers from middle-book-syndrome. I enjoyed a fair bit of it, but there’s a lot of padding and a lot of time is spent just treading water before the plot really kicks in in the last few chapters – leading to a heart-breaking cliffhanger. If you enjoyed the previous book and want to follow the story through to its conclusion, then you’ll probably want to pick this up, even if you do find yourself having to skim in a few places. Although Wicked Attraction didn’t grab me in the same way as the previous book did, I still intend to read Forbidden Stranger (book three) to find out how everything turns out.