by Nathalie Gray, paranormal (2009)
Red Sage Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60310-398-5
In 117AD, Praetor Gaius Aelius Draco, Rome's champion, had indulged in one hedonistic debauchery one too many and his wife, the Egyptian priestess Mehnit, could stand for his nonsense no longer. She soon shows him how you should never mess with a furious priestess as she pretty much pulls his heart out of his still-living body and stuffs it into a canopic jar. Since then, Gaius has roamed the world, not quite dead but not quite alive, as the jar containing his heart is passed on from one place to another.
Our heroine Anne-Marie is the latest person to discover the jar. Before long, she's on the run from a shadowy monster that seems determined to take a chomp out of her. She's not sure what is going on here, but this hunky fellow, Gaius, shows up at the right time and the right place to save her. He talks about how the person who touches the jar is cursed to be stalked and attacked, maybe even killed, by this shadowy beast. Also, his existence is tied to keeping that jar away from the beast. Can she trust him? What will happen next?
Heartless sees Nathalie Gray in top form, and when she's in top form, we have all better run for cover as the fireworks are about to begin. This novella-length story is perfectly paced, with the right balance of romance and action to keep me at the edge of my seat. The story is too short to allow much character development, but what is present here is just fine. Anne-Marie kicks some butt in a realistic manner, Gaius's redemption feels genuine, and the whole love-saves-all thing is melodramatic in a good way without being cheesy or too mawkish. I also like how Gaius wasn't this misunderstood or wronged fellow - he really did wrong Mehnit to warrant her admittedly over the top cursing of him. (Personally, I'd settle for castration - so much simpler, and you can feed the bits to the dogs too.) Therefore, when his redemption is all the more enjoyable to follow because he has to work to deserve it.
Heartless is definitely one of this author's more enjoyable works. If you haven't read this author's works before, this one may be a good place to start.
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