by Bonnie Dee, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-335-0
Fruits Of Betrayal is linked to Bonnie Dee's previous Terran Realm book Measure Of A Man and I strongly recommend that you read that book first before you tackle this one. If you are new to the whole Terran Realm thing, a primer can be found in my review of the first Terran Realm book, Keira Ramsay's Redemption.
In this story, poor Justin Foster. He's a Protector of the KOTE (I know, everything sounds like some kind of tampon here) but he's been forced to help the Destroyers. In case you aren't paying attention, the Destroyers are the bad guys while the Protectors are the good guys. But he's not going to get away from Raymond Brody's attentions so easily, not when he's ordered to get reacquainted with an old girlfriend, Elyse Greenwood, to get some crucial information from the Destroyer for the sake of mankind and all that. You see, Elyse is a high-ranking member in Raymond's group and she and Justin did not part on amicable terms. But for the sake of the world, Justin is going to sacrifice his virtue again, how sweet.
Fruits Of Betrayal is pretty interesting because the heroine of this story, Elyse, is irredeemable and evil by the standards of the genre. She's a Destroyer, working with the bad guys to further her own ambitions and she makes no apologies for that. She and Justin actually try to beat the crap out of each other under the pretense of training shortly after their reunion, with her urging him to beat her by reminding him that she used him, got him to trust her, and handed her boss the means to blackmail Justin to work for them. Elyse has an expectedly sad past to make her more sympathetic to the reader but I love how Ms Dee doesn't compromise on Elyse's character in this story. She embodies moral ambiguity like Anne Stuart's early heroes often do - she really is a Destroyer rather than a misunderstood sad heroine forced to do bad things to save a puppy. That's Justin's role in this story, not hers.
There are many good things about this book. Of all the Terran Realm books published so far, Ms Dee is the only author who manages to balance action and drama the best. This book, like Measure Of A Man, is a well-paced story that grabs me and doesn't let go from start to finish. Elyse remains true to what the author claims she is: a bad girl who is ruthless and can take care of herself. Elyse does not turn into a damsel-in-distress here and she doesn't pull that "I'm no good for you, I don't deserve you" crap either. Justin and Elyse has a relationship that reminds me of the one Wesley Wyndham-Price and Lilah Morgan had on that TV series Angel, only of course Justin is more of a jock that Wesley could ever dream to be while Elyse can probably beat Lilah with one hand tied behind her back.
However, the very fact that Fruits Of Betrayal is published in the shorter format of an ebook works against it. There are many interesting elements in this story. For example, Raymond's relationship with the young girl Trina humanizes him and there seems to be a possibility that she may end up being corrupted by Raymond the way Elyse was by her father and her past. Of course, then there is the love-hate relationship between Justin and Elyse. While I appreciate the fact that Elyse remains a tough gal who can wave a gun around and kick some butt, the length of this story prevents her relationship with Justin from being a rather underdeveloped love-hate thing that doesn't ring as real as I'd like it to be. The other subplots are also never developed well enough to make much of an impact.
Fruits Of Betrayal therefore is an interesting story but the fact that much of it feels underdeveloped due to the space constraints means that this book isn't as good as it could have been. Maybe Ms Dee should get her agent to knock on Dorchester's door to see of their upcoming Shomi line has some additional slots that need to be filled. It will be interesting to see how this author's much longer books will turn out to be.
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