by Lora Leigh, fantasy (2007)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21661-3
I have several books and ebooks by Lora Leigh waiting to be read, and given that I tend to get at least one email a month asking me what I think of the author's books, I figure that this time is as good as any to acquaint myself with this author's works. Tanner's Scheme is my introduction to this author's The Breed series, picked after reading a few pages of each of her books and deciding that this seems to be the most interesting of those books. After all, it has the hero and the heroine starting off at opposing sides and playing a cat-and-mouse game with each other. That's my favorite kind of stories.
Tanner's Scheme can stand alone quite well despite being the third book of the author's The Breed series. There are many references to events that took place prior to this book but the author nonetheless manages to provide ample information to make up for my lack of familiarity with her series. There are some fuzzy areas, of course, but any ignorance on my part of the minute details in the setting doesn't affect my ability to understand the story.
The setting is somewhat comparable to the Earth in those The X-Men comics, only this time instead of mutants we have the Breed, humanoids that are genetically engineered humans whose DNA were tinkered with various feline genes. This results in the Breeds being what seems like Dara Joy's ever-randy Familiars given the recalcitrance of a mule. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that donkey DNA was not involved in any way in this story. At any rate, the Breeds are now part of the population after some grand revolution of sorts, but the folks behind the Breed program, the Genetics Council, are quietly carrying out a plan to eliminate the Breeds from existence once and for all.
Scheme is the daughter of General Cyrus Tallant. If you can't guess from the name he gave his daughter, General Cyrus is the bad guy who is leading the Genetics Council in the plan to eliminate all Breeds. Scheme, however, is a double agent - she actually works for the Breeds to bring down General Cyrus. But somehow, an attempt to rendezvous with her contact goes wrong and she ends up being rescued from an assassin (hired by her father to kill her, good grief) by our Bengal tiger Breed hero, Tanner Reynolds. Tanner, of course, thinks that Scheme is as evil as her father, but you can guess what happens between the two of them, I'm sure.
There are some problems in the plot, big ones, I'm afraid. The two keep assuming that the other person can't be completely trusted even after they have both explored thoroughly every orifice of the other person that can be explored, and as a result the continuous "I can't trust the other person, so the whole misunderstanding must go on!" drama gets tedious fast. The main reason is that Scheme, for some reason, cannot tell Tanner that she's on their side even as Scheme's boss, who is close to Tanner, can't clue him in. Apparently Scheme believes that Tanner could be the Breed spy betraying them to her father, which will be understandable if the author has shown me any good reason why Scheme will cling on to her suspicions for so long. I find the various reasons why those two just won't talk contrived and unbelievable.
On the bright side, the story is most readable. Despite some clunky moments in the story - such as Tanner getting a clue that Scheme isn't the evil monster he thinks she is when an assassin who shows up to kill her conveniently blabs that she and her father don't get along to an eavesdropping Tanner - the story nonetheless moves at a decent pace and the setting is interesting.
Scheme is a pretty good heroine in that despite the dubious mistrust she has for Tanner, she can kick some butt in her own right. Unfortunately, she's stuck in a story where she can never win. Poor Scheme, she can't lie because Tanner can always see or smell that she's lying. How does a lie smell anyway? No, don't tell me, I don't think I want to know. Even when she doesn't want to sleep with Tanner, she can't say no because he can smell her arousal (that or she hasn't changed her underwear in a while, I suspect) and you know how these alpha mules are. If your body want it, you can't say no because baby, you want it and you'll get it. If that is not embarrassing enough, every other Breed she meets can smell that she's hot for Tanner. She really cannot win because in this story, she can't say no to anything because everyone knows she wants it bad and she wants it everywhere.
Tanner is ridiculous. This man is a walking erection who wants it everytime and anytime even at the most ridiculous moments that I don't know what to think of him. He's of the "Hate you! Let's fuck! Want you! Let's fuck! There's a bomb in the house! Let's fuck! The bad guys are coming! Let's fuck!" variety. The more I see him in action, the more I feel that were I Scheme, I'd suspect that Tanner isn't just the mole, he must be the neighborhood serial killer as well because this man is so relentlessly randy and stubborn that he's a completely over-the-top alpha male with very little brainpower to match the length of his erection. He's not the smartest man of the bunch, what with his unnerving tendency to jump to conclusions and threaten violence subsequently.
It's a shame that Tanner is such a stereotype of the big, brawny, but oh-my-God so-dumb alpha male because Scheme certainly deserves a better hero than this ridiculous cartoon character. Because Tanner is so relentlessly one-note in his need to have sex, I end actually feeling exhausted by the time I close this book because I feel suffocated on Scheme's behalf by the hero's constant oppressive demands for sex. The "love" here feels more like a biological instinct than an emotional bond, which doesn't make me feel less sorry for poor Scheme. She has many trust issues, I can't help feeling that Tanner is the last man that she should hook up with.
I suspect that Tanner's Scheme will work far better with readers who like heroes like Tanner. To give Tanner credit, he doesn't deliberately treat Scheme cruelly in this story, but still, with him being far from intelligent but being in charge all the same and making all the decisions to boot, I feel like running for the hills rather than falling for him like Scheme. Ultimately, Tanner is too ridiculous for me to take this story seriously, which is the greatest reason why Tanner's Scheme doesn't work for me.
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