by Susan Kearney

February 2005
ISBN: 0-765-34891-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Tor Books
Mass Market Paperback

When I learned that Susan Kearney was one of the first authors that TOR had signed for its new paranormal romance line, I was very pleased. Her series romances have always been top notch, and I know that she enjoys pushing the envelope in her writing. In reading her novel, The Challenge, I found her writing style is a perfect fit for this publishing line.

Special Agent Tessa Camen has the most sought-after position in the Secret Service. As the lead operative in charge of guarding the President, she has a serious responsibility on her shoulders. With the respect of her team, Tessaís vigilant eyes soon detect unusual activity in the stadium seats. As she removes the nationís first woman President from danger, she must call on all of her training. When she realizes her team has been compromised, she does what every agent is trained to do - take the bullet for POTUS.

Awakening in an unfamiliar room is bad enough. Discovering that she is naked and a strange man is carrying her down a corridor is too much to take in. Had she been injured? What about the President, and her team?

Kahn never believed that Earth would send a woman to face The Challenge. The Federation of Planets does not forbid them, and others have passed successfully, but Kahn has his doubts about this female. She appears too small and fragile to survive the test that would allow Earth to join the galactic alliance. Training her so that she would succeed, thus giving his planet permanent membership, will be difficult.

Sounds like there is going to be some serious Alpha male action, doesnít it? Well, readers should sit back and enjoy the fireworks as Tessa and Kahn butt heads throughout the book. Women on his home world of Rystan are June Cleaver compared to this feisty martial arts expert, and Tessa has some definite ideas about how her training should proceed.

As I said before, I am a fan of the author. However, I am not a big sci-fi reader. In fact, I usually shy away from those books like the plague. I am very glad that I let my approval of her work override my aversion to the genre. The Challenge is a gripping story, from beginning to end. Tessa and Kahn have intriguing layers and the supporting characters are very engaging. The action never lets up, and when things turn romantic, the pages steam with heat. (I am sure that part of my enjoyment is because all of the main characters are humanoid, since alien sex has never been one of my dark fantasies.) So, if you want to experience a sci-fi romance, but are not quite sure, give The Challenge a try. If you love sci-fi, then this book should be on your auto-buy list, along with the sequel, The Dare, in the summer of 2005. It is already on mine!

Reviewed in January 2005 by Paula.

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