It takes a vivid imagination to put a new spin on the romance genre. Not that western, Regency, medieval, paranormal, and modern day-based novels are becoming passé. But Cheryl Brooks has definitely taken romance into an inventive new world – literally – with her Cat Star Chronicles series.
A self-described “critical care nurse by night and a romance writer by day,” Brooks has created an intriguing new universe where the men (her main characters, anyway) are fantastically gorgeous and casual nudity is the "in" fashion on many a planet.
The Cat Star Chronicles follow the fate of the Zetithian warriors who survived the war that overtook their planet, Zetith, and led to its complete destruction. While most of the men were killed in the fighting, a small number were captured and sold into the slave trade. Brooks leaves some breadcrumbs suggesting that the virility of the Zetithian males was a large reason for the desire to kill off the Zetith race.
Rogue, the third book in the series, centers on Trag and Tychar, two brothers who are slaves to the queen of Darconia, a remote planet of lizard people. Though the brothers are really more guests of the queen than slaves, they are confined to the palace and are part of a larger “collection” of exotic beings. Still, they have been removed from any kind of humanoid contact for 20 years and become very interested in the newest addition to the palace: a piano teacher from Earth.
Kyra Aramis takes the job of teaching the queen’s children how to play music for a change of pace. Her life on Earth is uninspired and she eagerly looks to the stars to possibly find her purpose. Instead, she finds two irresistibly compelling men at her beck and call among a planet full of intelligent beings who just happen look like smaller versions of a Tyrannosaur.
During an intimate dinner, Queen Scalia presents the brothers to her guest – partially to show them off and partially to see which one Kyra is most likely to mate with. Kyra immediately thinks the brothers look like a Bengal and Siberian tiger. She’s actually not that far off the mark, as both have some sort of feline genetics which enable them to purr and exhibit other interesting behaviors. Kyra does some thinking over the compatibility of interspecies relations as a result of her instant fascination with Tychar.
When the queen assigns Tychar as Kyra’s personal attendant, the two waste little time getting up close and personal. Trag, however, feels left out, having been in his brother’s shadow his whole life. Since Kyra represents his first opportunity for sexual relief in more than two decades, Trag is more than jealous that she chose his brother over him.
What he doesn’t realize is his brusque and unfriendly demeanor is a big turn-off for Kyra. And though he tries to win her over, his cold first impression stays at the forefront of her mind until the true Trag is revealed.
Kyra soon finds herself in the arms of two of the most gorgeous and voracious lovers in the universe and eventually loses her heart. Suddenly, a palace coup throws everything into a downward spiral as Kyra, the Zetithian brothers, and what’s left of the royal family and guard find themselves fleeing for their lives.
Overall, Rogue is a little too sex and romance focused for my tastes. The majority of the story revolves around the development of the Kyra/Tychar/Trag triangle, which left me looking for more substance in the plot. I prefer a more even balance of suspense, intrigue, and romance in my genre novels. The triangle itself was also pretty tame, considering Tychar and Trag are brothers and it was apparent from the first meeting whom Kyra preferred.
That said, Brooks lends a fun and playful voice to Kyra, who serves as the story’s narrator. Through her words and thoughts, we see a very American woman who is easy to relate to, even though she is from (presumably) far in the future. The detail to the technology and cultures in the futuristic tale is also quite imaginative, though I do hear echoes of Star Wars movies from time to time in the language.
In all, Rogue is not the sort of romance novel I would normally go after, but I am not the least bit sorry for exploring this new world Brooks has created. It was a fast, fun read that was extremely sexy and would be sure to satisfy many a woman’s appetite for steamy romance. My interest is piqued enough to check out the previous two books, if only to compare notes.