by Lisa Renee Jones, fantasy (2011)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-5156-6
The Legend Of Michael is the first book in Lisa Renee Jones's series Zodius. If I were the author's PR person, I would gush that this is a thrilling tale patterned after romantic superhero fantasies crossed with a subtle dystopian vibe and sprinkled with the author's trademark sensuality. Since the author isn't paying me to lie to you, however, I'd just say this: the entire series is what happens when Lora Leigh's cat people decide to wear Superman's spandex trunks, only with enough bad science to make Lora Leigh look like Charles Darwin.
In the 1950s, the US government discovers a batch of alien DNA. Since they know that there is hardly any market for a series of kick-ass women in the romance genre, these people line up as many guys as they can - guys that look like they are juiced up without really using juice, like Chippendale dancers without being gay porn actors - and inject them with this DNA while telling these future beefcake fantasy pee-pees that they are just being vaccinated. I guess these guys must not have read their contracts too closely, because these naughty scientists aren't being subtle at all, as the whole project is called Operation GTECH Super Soldiers.
The end result is these men's virility being enhanced to near-burst engorgement point with super strength, super healing powers, super speed, and even the ability to vanish and move like the wind (you can call them hot "Wind-walkers"). Shockingly enough, some of these dudes decide that, since they are so much better than everyone else, they want to rule the world. These are the Zodius dudes. The good guys form the Renegades, your standard "band of beefcakes with bigger penises, supposedly charged to protect the world from superpowered bad guys, mostly by drooling after the heroine like a stalking idiot" band of sequel baits.
Our hero Michael Taylor is the best, strongest, humongest... at least until the next book, because we can't have a romance hero who isn't the most perfect ever. Anyway, since this is his story, let's pretend that he's the most awesome human in existence for now.
The heroine... do I even need to describe her? This book - this series - is, like all those books by Kresley Cole, JR Ward, and the rest, all about penis worship. It's labeled as paranormal romance because Wal-Mart and other family outlets may balk at the more accurate "penis worship fantasy" label. The guys are the best, most virile, most awesome, the hottest stalkers in the world, and when they do fight, it's an excuse for them to flex their sweaty biceps and thrust those thighs to make our sexually unfulfilled lives explode in onanistic bliss.
Oh, okay, let's pretend that the heroine matters. She's Casssandra Powell, the new head of clinical psychology at the Hot Big Peen Factory, er, GTECH Super Soldier Industrial Plant. On her first day, she falls onto the floor after bumping into Michael's wall of muscle (she's too busy reading to see where she is going, you see) and her skirt hikes up to show off her thighs. This is, of course, romance at first sight and Michael immediately makes it clear that his penis would like a first hand introduction with her. The heroine is like, oh, so hot, so hot, besides, she was created to be the adoring chalice of Michael's hot molten loving anyway, so she may as well love every minute. Michael is so hot, every woman wants to be cheerleaders that play with his pom-poms! Squeal!
Oh, the plot? The bad guys - there are a few factions here - are doing something bad to interrupt the coital melodrama of Michael and what's-her-name, so he gets to flex those guns and rescue her while dramatically pouting and looking murderous when he thinks that she may die, and really now, people, worship the penis. It can heal itself, wind walk, and do all kinds of special ninja pee-pee tricks.
Bask in the fantasy of being owned by these men! Women that have sex with them and succeed in making these guys fall in love with them get branded with a special tattoo that I'm sure we are all proud to show off if we are ever so lucky...
... To swap body fluids with guys that have alien DNA, that is. Seriously, early on, Cassandra tells me upfront that no one knows what long-term effects may show up in these guys. And yet, I'm supposed to buy that women have no problems throwing themselves at these guys. Or that the people in charge of mass-manufacturing these guys for the romance market have no problems letting these guys spread the love around? Okay, I'm told that these guys are sterile, but still, these women are taking in body fluids with alien DNA. Who knows what will happen? And what's to stop these guys from mutating into things that only women in creepy Japanese pornographic cartoons can love?
The Legend Of Michael is another take on the tropes of life-mates and branding and mental bond and what not that worked for the best for authors like Lora Leigh and Christine Feehan. There is nothing groundbreaking here. The only catch here is that you have to be fine with the idea of sleeping with a guy who has alien DNA in his genetic make-up and nobody is certain that he won't one day transform into that alien-human hybrid thing in Alien: Resurrection. Try as I might, I just can't overlook this aspect of bad science permeating the story to read the sex scenes without thinking of some of the more heartwarming scenes from those Alien movies.