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Monday, May 31, 2010

Aces and Eights by Victoria Allen

Aces and Eights by Victoria Allen
Publisher: Captiva Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short (12k words)
Heat: Hot
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Poppy

When the turn of a card seals your fate, you need to stack the deck.

Jessica Windemere loses her freedom when her father bets her in a poker game. But she isn’t willing to accept her fate without a fight. To have her revenge, she first must survive an unknown world while contracted as some stranger’s wife. She wants nothing more to do with men until a huge, dark god rides into her camp. Can she risk losing her new love on the turn of a card?

Kiernan Randall is on his way home from a trading mission. The group of abandoned women he finds were definitely not expected, especially their feisty, red-haired leader. She is contracted to his enemy, but gives herself to him and firmly entwines his heart. Can he trust her enough to let her wager their future together on her skill with cards?

What do you do when you’re a strong-willed, independent woman who’s drugged and put onto a ship going who-knows-where, with a contract promising you to a man you despise? Take back control, of course!

Jessica wakes from a drugged slumber and finds herself on a spaceship filled with women who have marriage contracts to wed men they’ve never met. Her father lost her in a poker game and she’s now required to marry a man against her will. Jessica has a poor self-image and sees herself as bony and unattractive, especially compared to the curvy, lovely women she’s stranded with.

They’re taken off ship into a dismal, hostile environment and then find themselves abandoned. What do they do now? To stave off the panic growing amongst the women, Jessica takes charge, assigns duties and looks for ways to survive alone. She’s a smart, stubborn woman who refuses to let life lead her – instead, she takes life by the throat and gives it a good shake. I like how she took everything thrown at her in stride, considered the odds and then made a choice, standing by her decisions regardless of what comes next.

Things change, though, when a band of big, tough men show up. Jessica is immediately attracted to the leader, Kiernan, and it sort of annoys her. He takes charge, tells them that the women must come back to his home town or they won’t survive the upcoming winter. He’s a strong man attracted to a strong woman—Jessica. She finds it difficult to believe he really likes her, figures he’s just been alone too long and needs an itch scratched. Since she’s feeling itchy, too, though she’s not opposed to the idea!

This story has action, excitement, fun characters, surprises and lots of hot times between the sheets (and in the shower...). I was completely caught up in Jessica’s plight, and couldn’t wait to see how she got herself out of it. My only complaint was that the story was far too short, and because of this lacked the detail I wanted to see. It felt a bit rushed at times, especially the ending, and that affected my overall enjoyment. I wish the author had taken as much time with the end as she had the beginning – but even so, I loved some of the twists the story took and wouldn’t mind finding a Kiernan of my own!

If you like light science fiction stories (the kind where you don’t need a degree in physics to understand what’s going on) that have a solid plot and fun characters, with some steaminess thrown in, I think you’ll enjoy Aces and Eights. I’ll be looking for more from this author.