by Lisa G Riley and Roslyn Hardy Holcomb, historical/fantasy (2013, reissue)
Riley & Holcomb, $4.99, ISBN 978-1311981783

Stolen is part of a series, but I'm reading this out of order and I can understand things perfectly fine, so I guess I can safely say that this one stands alone quite well. The reason for this isn't such a good thing, however - the story itself is not developed enough to create questions or imperfect impressions in the first place. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In this story, we're in 1850, in an Ohio where the Underground Railroad is chugging along to help fugitive slaves escape up north and maybe, even, to Canada. Dr Parker Quinn, our hero, is one of those folks who secretly help harbor fugitives safely until they can move to their next stop. He'd risking a lot to help those slaves, but he's all for the cause. Now, if only he can figure out why he's suddenly attracted to a boy, one of the black folks that help keep the Railroad running in his neighborhood.

The "boy" is actually Grace Adams, our heroine, who is not happy that she has to pose as a boy to help in the cause. She's also not happy that the doctor can't see that she's a woman. Does her feminine wile not shine through when she's wearing boy's clothes? Oh, and she hates him because, not only did his chauvinist pig way of thinking of the fairer sex as the weaker prevent her from doing the "Onward, my brothers and sisters, to freedom!" thing with her female parts in full display (or something like that, I guess), he also makes her want him bad and that is so not done.

Oh, and she's a shapeshifter. She's an Eshu, actually, one of those folks that can change into any animal at will. She is doing her thing as a cheetah one day when she ends up in a cage in Parker's place, so it's now time for some heavy breathing.

This story was previously published by Loose Id in 2010, and I'm not sure whether it had been revised in any way for this reissue. However, reading this story reminds me of why Loose Id and me are currently on a cooling off period in our relationship. Way too many Loose Id titles have lots of heavy breathing and furious penetration, but they are so flimsy in story that I always feel that I have paid way too much for those stories. And Loose Id titles aren't cheap, mind you.

Stolen suffers from the same problem that plagues many Loose Id titles. Parker and Grace jump from first to third base in such a speed that I don't have any idea whether these two can even be considered in love by the last page.

Parker is an okay character, I guess, compared to Grace. He's bland, a bit alpha now and then when he wants to get it on, but he's not exactly memorable aside from the fact that he's a bit too calm and accepting of the paranormal stuff he's suddenly hilt deep in.

Grace is memorable, but for the wrong reasons. She's the classic "I! Want! Everything! Done! My! Way! Damn! Consequences! Hate him! Want him!" bag of the wrong kind of feisty cray cray, and it doesn't help that the plot requires her to screw up badly the one time she gets the chance to prove that she can walk the talk. Instead of making me feel sorry for her, the authors end up making me think that this immature and hot-headed rump-face should be caged up from the first page to spare everyone the trouble of catering to her nonsense. She becomes more tolerable once she get a taste of humility in the face of failure, but surely the authors could develop the poor dear's character growth a bit better than this? The poor dear is already enough of an immature twit for so long, the least she could do is to show me that she deserves the freedom that she always shrieks about wanting.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is how the authors set a story in a setting so rarely used in historical romance - 19th century America from black people's perspective - and yet come up with something that focuses so much on lusty side of things that everything else about the story feels like wallpaper. What motivates Parker to risk everything to help the slaves? I never get a good idea of this. Grace's determination to help the cause feels more like a rebellious teenage girl's temper tantrum when her parents refuse to let her drive (and then she crashes the car into the tree the first time she gets behind the wheel...) than something that I can actually admire her for.

And given the details present in this story with regards to the Eshu or the Underground Railroad, this story could have easily been set in Planet Fifilala where our hero Jetsam Bravo and our magic heroine Crystal Luna Sue get together as she screams and shrieks her way under him while they half-heartedly attempt to free the sparkling pink ponies from the clutches of Gargamel. And all that sex makes her give birth to another sparkling pink pony, so all is well in the land.

It seems like a waste, at the end of the day, this story having the potential to be something great only to end up being an underdeveloped tale of heavy breathing.

Rating: 51

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