Protector (The Elect, Book 1) by Loribelle Hunt
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing on June 26, 2012
He will protect her. No matter the threat.
The Elect. They aren’t human. They’re the next step in evolution and they’re hiding in plain sight. They’re stronger, smarter, and faster. Nature’s perfect predator.
Welcome to the top of the food chain.
Braxton Lee is the protector of the Elect and it’s a job he takes seriously. As president of the committee that governs the Elect, he overseas everything from finance to security to keeping their existence hidden. He’s driven and ruthless. The Elect will not be exposed on his watch.
Unfortunately his research chief, Zach Littman, is contacted by a former colleague who’s run a DNA analysis of a blood sample and gotten weird results. The blood isn’t human, and Dr. Esme Durand is smart enough to know it. Brax will do whatever it takes to keep her silent. Until he meets her. Because Esme has a secret. She’s one of them. Brax wants nothing more but to bring her into the fold and into his bed.
Warning: This book contains hot sex, the next evolution of mankind, hot sex, a race to find a bad guy, a hot hero trying to prove his love, and did I mention the hot sex?
As a child of the 80s, I grew up with a healthy fascination of all things sci-fi from the hilarious ALF to Alien Nation to the revival of Twilight Zone. Protector, at its core, is a sci-fi book about a new generation of humans, in which a small number have been born with some pretty amazing psychological and physiological talents, including mind-reading and thought projection. I haven’t read anything by Loribelle before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I hoped for, when I read the blurb and saw the cover (he reminds me of a young Jeremy London), was that she would be able to mix the futuristic idea of human evolution in modern times and make it work. And she does! After just the first chapter, I found myself wishing I had some of the talents that she mentions her characters have. Such as, I’d love to know what my husband is really thinking when he says “whatever you want,” when I know for sure he doesn’t really mean that. Loribelle starts the book off with a bang, and keeps the momentum going. It’s not a novella, but it’s not a full-length book either (under 100 pages), and she manages to weave a compelling and curious world about the Elect, a secret society of advanced human beings that have been around since the 50s.
Brace yourselves, kids, because I’m about to rant about alpha-holes again. On the surface, I like Brax. Hot, sexy, protective, good at keeping secrets. But under that, is a man that expects things to go his way all the time. When he meets Esme, it’s not too long before he figures out that she’s his mate. (As an avid reader of paranormal books, I don’t have any trouble accepting the instant-mate-attraction that most of these books contain, although usually for me, one or more of those involved gets furry once a month…but I digress.) Brax knows that Esme has got nary a clue about what her powers really mean, the special group that she’s now part of, or that Brax is her mate. Instead of just giving her time, he pushes. Pushes her to accept their connection, pushes her to make decisions after a crisis that would knock anyone on their butt. He can’t stand that she’s feeling torn about her brother and nephew, that she would choose her family over him when she’s only known him for a minute. He’s been waiting years for his mate; she never knew that anyone besides herself and her brother had extra powers. So the protectiveness, instead of giving me the warm-fuzzies, makes me want to tell Esme to run far away in the other direction.
Esme is a perfect heroine. Plucky, independent, loyal, smart, and not swayed by heaven in tight pants. When her world is flipped upside down, she wants to first protect her brother and nephew and then second, go back to work. I love that. I love that even when she was in Brax’s arms, she was still her own person, not carried away in a flood of hormone fueled oohs and aahs, but grounded and steadfast. When she is rightly confused about the new world that is suddenly open to her after an attempt is made on her life, she doesn’t drown in her anxiety and reach out for the first strong pair of male arms. She demands answers and she reasons her situation out. As a scientist, she wants to seek the answers to questions about herself and family, find the cure to her nephew’s mysterious illness, and lastly figure out just who these Elect are and what that means for her.
The few secondary characters in the story – her fellow scientist Zach, her brother Carter, and her nephew Kaden – are not well drawn. Zach is virtually invisible as a character, only a vehicle with which her scientific discovery of something unique in a blood sample is given to the Elect. Carter is angry and reserved, played as a typical hardened military man who believes he and his personal resources and contacts can protect his son and sister better than the Elect. He has no time to grow as a character; he’s just an outline, a sketch. And little Kaden, who is so ill and no one has been able to figure out what is wrong with him…but he’s also lost in the sea of the non-memorable, half-drawn cast.
I had no trouble with the “science” of the story. Loribelle created a world in which ordinary humans eventually began to evolve new powers, and as such they knew they needed to be kept secret to prevent the government from experimenting on them. The way she wrote the story makes that seem not only plausible, but possible, and for me, that just makes the story. As an avid reader of both straight sci-fi and paranormal romance, I would have preferred this story without the romantic sub-plot because it detracted from the story that needed much more fleshing out and the characters that needed more time to develop.
What bothered me most about the story, besides Brax’s arrogant behavior, was the ending. There I was, reading along, when WHAM! it’s over. It ended so abruptly, and with so many loose ends, that I actually thought the book had been cut off accidentally. But I couldn’t ignore The End. I don’t mind the occasional cliffhanger, but this ending took the cake, and in essence, ruined what had been up to that point a decent read. The characters had some major emotional reveals in the last few paragraphs, when up to that point neither had really been given the chance to show that they were moving to those conclusions. I can suspend disbelief about a lot of things, but the revelations coupled with the abrupt ending brought me right back to a reality in which I didn’t care for this book and I won’t be looking for any further in this series.