Gennita Low is unusual among authors in that not only does she have a day job — she runs her own roofing company — but it’s sort of a working-class day job, and she celebrates it. Her blog is at rooferauthor.blogspot.com, and she doesn’t pretend she’s just doing it until she can write full-time, as so many other authors do. A student of languages, she apparently yells at her employees in Chinese and Malay, and is learning German and Russian in her spare time. (What spare time?) She got her start in publishing by entering a lot of contests, and even being a finalist in a good deal of them. She writes primarily in the romantic suspense genre, but she includes some science-fictional themes in her works.
Elena Rostova — now Helen Roston — was a Russian orphan, but she joined the military and eventually was selected as the best candidate for a top-secret experiment, in making a supersoldier-spy. One of her primary qualifications was that she has psychic abilities. The supersoldier part included intense physical and mental training, and the spy part included virtual reality and clairvoyant training — which they call bilocation. Her mentor in this is a man she doesn’t meet; in the virtual-reality world where they see each other, she has designed his avatar. They are very attracted to each other, but will she ever find out his real-world identity? And will the experiment that is her life succeed?
This book is the first half of a duology, the second volume being Virtually Hers, and while it ends in a place that does bring a decent amount of closure, it’s obvious that it’s only half the story — even without the cliffhanger ending. This duology is also not the first in the overarching series, as there’s an impression of a lot of backstory — a romance between two secondary characters, for example, and little explanation as to what the different super-secret agencies do. However, I didn’t find it overwhelming — I found myself able to get into the story without needing to know exactly what the acronyms stood for, and the various personal relationships between Elena and other characters weren’t confusing at all. It did make me want to read the other books, though.
I have to admit, I had a bit of a problem with the alpha-ness of the hero. Obviously the heroine could match him, having been the perfect choice for the supersoldier-spy over a bunch of men, but he wanted to control too many aspects of her life. Helen already had everything in her physical reality controlled by the constraints of the experiment, but the hero (he is nameless for a large portion of the book) wanted to control her mind as well. It didn’t seem necessary, most of the time; it actually seemed like he wanted to control her for his own, personal, mostly sexual reasons. He admitted that he was very turned on by strong women, but he didn’t seem to want her to be a strong woman while they were together. There were a few scenes when he administered a drug to her that left her aware and able to speak but not in control of her body from the neck down, and that drug creeped the living hell out of me. However, those who are interested in the clash of two very strong wills and those with a taste for very, very alpha males will probably find that this book fits the bill.
Those reading for the science-fictional aspect will discover that a lot of her science is firmly based in reality; in addition, she has a number of skeptics among the minor characters. They point out that what the characters are discussing is, well, fantastic, and on the verge of unbelievable. On the other side, we have the nameless, faceless bad guys who are also using the same technology, but in ways that are significantly less ethical than the carefully-monitored experiments of the good guys. I thought that Ms. Low did a remarkable job of embedding so many points of view regarding the technology in her story; she also had different narrators who each had strong, unmistakeable voices. I liked Helen quite a bit, as well as those characters who were thrown in for humor breaks, and overall she did an admirable job of keeping the book read-in-one-sitting exciting. Romantic suspense fans who enjoy super-alpha males will be demanding more, and fortunately, Ms. Low has already provided. 4/5 stars.