Series: Bellator Saga #1
Published by Principatum Publishing
Publication Date: March 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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Disclaimer: I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book. All opinions stated are solely mine.
She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.
In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.
Dissident is a blend of romantic suspense, contemporary romance, political thriller, and speculative fiction. Told mostly in flashback, it details the budding romantic relationship between our heroine, Caroline, and Jack, the silver fox playboy who tries to win her heart.
Part One of a Six Part Series. Each part is a full length novel between 60,000-120,000 words and ends in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This saga contains adult situations, including non-gratuitous violence, explicit (consensual) sex, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes dark and gritty plot (particularly in part two).
Caroline set up a playlist on her iPod speaker system and Jack started to teach her a few basic moves. After several songs, he even managed to get her to do a small lift. She had the jitterbug, Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, and foxtrot down in a couple of hours.
“You catch on fast,” he said. “Incredibly fast.”
“I don’t know how I’m doing it.”
“Let’s try something with a little quicker pace,” he suggested. “See how you do with that.”
Caroline put “Sing Sing Sing” on the stereo and they started to dance. A minute or two in, she realized that she’d forgotten it was an almost five minute song. By the end of the dance she was winded. As the music stopped she doubled over, trying to catch her breath.
“You’re killing me, McIntyre.” She looked up at him. He had barely broken a sweat.
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. “Maybe you do need to get to the House gym more.”
“Jackass,” she panted. “If I weren’t so tired I’d punch you.”
“That would be quite improper behavior coming from the nicest person in Congress.” Jack pulled her to a standing position. “How about a classic waltz instead? It’s less jumping around.”
“Okay,” Caroline said. “Just give me a second.”
They cranked out a few more slow dances, and she was again amazed at how quickly she’d caught on. They were twirling across the basement floor to a waltz by Dvorak. Caroline felt as if she was floating on air. Jack’s hands were secure and confident, but gentle. He guided her from move to move, and she realized she didn’t want the dance to end. But soon it was over, right after she’d twirled out of his arms and started laughing.
She clapped her hands, spun around, and turned to him, breathless. She tossed her head back and laughed again, amazed at how she’d managed not to trip over herself yet again.
“This is fun,” she said.
Jack smiled at her. “You really are quite good for a beginner.”
She tried not to blush. “I have a good teacher.”
The next song came on. Caroline recognized it immediately. “The Way You Look Tonight.” She’d forgotten that she added it to the playlist. One of her favorites.
She closed her eyes. “Oh, I love Tony Bennett’s version of this song.”
“Well then, my lady, let’s take this one a little slower.” He reached for her hand and pulled her closer to him. She put her arms around his neck and leaned in. His cologne smelled so good. They started to dance.
“You’re lovely,” Jack murmured into her ear.
Was that directed at her, or was he mimicking the lyrics?
He was holding her closer than she thought was necessary for a dance between friends, but she wasn’t about to complain. They moved slowly but they’d been practicing all night and were starting to fatigue. Caroline leaned into his shoulder as if it were the most natural thing in the world, not realizing that they had almost completely stopped dancing.
“Caroline?” She heard Jack’s sweet voice again. “I’m not sure we’re dancing anymore.”
“Does it matter?” She lifted her head up.
Jack looked into her eyes. “Not unless it matters to you.”
He slowly brought his lips to hers. She didn’t turn away this time but closed her eyes and waited. It was sweet, kind, tender…and definitely not platonic. And it felt incredibly good, the pleasure wafting over her. She’d forgotten what it was like to be kissed, really kissed. She didn’t want him to stop. Jack cupped her cheek in his palm and pulled her closer to him with his other hand. Caroline brought her hands up to his hair and held them there, not wanting it to end.
She had been wondering what it would be like to run her hands through those gorgeous, perfect silver locks. His hair was soft, and she traced her fingers through it as Jack teased her tongue with his. She wanted to tug at it, bring him even closer to her, but then saw Nicky’s face in her mind and pulled away.
Caroline covered her mouth with her hand. “What was that for?”
Jack withdrew his hand from her waist. He seemed to be confused. “I-”
“It was the music,” she stammered. “We – it’s a romantic song. It’s hard not to get sucked into it. It’s fine.”
She thought Jack looked a little unnerved, but he recovered quickly. “Sure. Just a little kiss between friends. It didn’t mean anything.”
“Right.” Caroline kissed him on the cheek. “See? Nothing whatsoever.”
“Yeah.” Jack looked at his watch. “It’s late. I’d better head home. I have to get up pretty early tomorrow.”
“Not a problem.” She exhaled, grateful for the escape. “Thanks for the dance lessons.”
“Anytime,” Jack said. “I mean that.”
“See you on Tuesday?” he asked. “Lunch, maybe?”
She turned off the music and escorted Jack up the stairs, watching him through the window as he started his Cadillac and drove away. It was nothing, that kiss. That song, the entire night…they’d gotten too caught up in the entire thing. Dancing could be an extraordinarily sensuous experience between two people who knew what they were doing, and Jack was an excellent instructor. It was only natural that she felt such incredible physical chemistry with him. That was it. Nothing more.
But Caroline was still trying to avoid the thought running through her mind – her increasing desire for him to turn his car around, run through her front door, and take her in his arms again.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of cliffhangers and books that have several parts (which I was unaware of until I’d committed myself) and the fact that this is 1 of 6 parts almost made me want to put it aside, but it has politics and romance in it and I love both of those things. I’m glad I took a chance on this because Ms. London knocked this out of the park, for a debut!
DISSIDENT employs a mix of flashbacks and present-day narratives to introduce the reader to Caroline Gerard, John Montgomery McIntyre (AKA Jack) and an America where a brutal regime has taken over and all power resides in the executive arm with both the legislature and judiciary rendered ineffectual; an America where the slightest opposition to the government is considered dissension and the military has become a personal goon squad used to stamp out opposition by any means necessary and with territories seceding? Absolute chaos and fear rules.
The focus of DISSIDENT is the development of the romance between Caroline and Jack and I really enjoyed it especially because they belong to opposing parties and their relationship had a shaky start. Caroline is a Democrat, Jack is belongs to the GOP and Caroline’s scathing remarks about Jack’s candidacy set the stage for their less than favorable first meeting but they become friends and then a romantic relationship develops between them. But this is D.C., where secrets and scandals thrive and being on opposing sides of the aisle means that they have to keep their relationship private and mostly out of the media’s eye.
Unfortunately, it’s not all about Caroline and Jack’s relationship. There are different political agendas in play and the game is on, one that puts Caroline’s relationship with Jack in danger. DISSIDENT blends passion, romance, conspiracies, murder and uncertainty and by the first chapter, I was hooked and interested in what would happen in the rest of the series.
I enjoy politics and have been known to spend a lot of time following the political happenings out of D.C. so I really enjoyed how Ms. London incorporated all of that into this book. Her characters are well-developed, mature people who find the balance between their personal and public lives; who are great together and who in spite of their different political positions, actually have a lot in common.
Ms. London’s writing style is amazing, with a steady pace to the story and every piece of it appears to be relevant to whole story. There are so many questions unanswered and I will love to see what she does with the series and what the future holds for Caroline and Jack and also what happens to the country.