Naked Venom by Michelle O'Neill and Lindsey Bayer is a sci-fi love story between two people who couldn't be more different if they tried.

General Gavin Theron is an 800-year-old AEssyrian, determined to get what he wants, be it a female or winning his next war. Child of a Terran mother stranded on an alien planet and Titan, a nobleman with wizard-like powers, the General is acknowledged by his father but never given any of the amenities Titan could have provided, so Gavin grows to adulthood fighting for whatever he achieves, and sees that as a pretty enjoyable way of life. He's relentless in battle, relentless in his pursuit of women, and relentless in his zest for life--a total chauvanist who is almost a caricature, one of those men who is so self-assured you enjoy disliking him and can't wait for him to get his comeuppance.

Harlan Ambrose is a doctor from Earth, contracted to help set up a clinic on AEssyria which is 500 light-years from her home planet. Pretty and smart, she's a fraction Gavin's age and the General's exact opposite--humane, caring, sensitive to her patients' needs, but also strong-willed and determined to survive on a world where women are considered property and not intelligent enough to have careers. She is also particular about the men with whom she associates and Gavin is definitely not her kind of man. His having been married five times before doesn't help a bit, and as for the long black hair and emerald-green skin... Well, Harland doesn't have as much problem with that as she does with the cigars he smokes.

Obviously, the two are made for each other!

They meet--no, collide is a better word--when Gavin, just celebrating his emergence into middle age with his 800th birthday, is framed for the assassination of the king. Wounded during his arrest, he is treated by Harlan who is unlucky enough to be the doctor on call when he makes his bid for escape. He succeeds, taking her with him, and the two are on the run, thrown together by circumstance into a situation from which neither will emerge unscathed. Though Gavin is eventually acquitted of the crime, his determination to find the real killers drags them both into more intrigue and danger. Soon, however, Harlan has more to worry about than just the king's killers, because Gavin has now set his sights on the one woman who has said "No," and isn't the least bit subtle in announcing it. Attracted by the General's raw masculinity, Harlan is at the same time repelled by his attitude, and lets him know quick enough. It doesn't matter; Gavin is determined to have her--when he can find time between running from the new king's soldiers, spying for the Grand Duke Molitov, and indulging in excesses of whiskey and fine old cigars at the nearest tavern.

Gavin is depicted with a like-him-or-don't attitude. He's a whiskey-guzzling, cigar-chomping old warhorse with an eye for a pretty woman and deadly with whatever weapon comes to hand--be it rock, scissors, or paper. He can be a crude soldier or a sensitive lover when the need calls for it. Harlan is verbally quick, extremely attractive, and has a mind of her own, and though she may have been overwhelmed by Gavin once, she doesn't intend to let it happen twice...unless she's the one who sets the rules, and she resents the fact that the General is spreading the word that she's his woman, without even asking her first.

The description of the social structure of AEssyria, with its disdain for women who refuse to accept stereotypical roles, or the method of choosing a new leader by selecting the last man standing in an arranged combat, is carefully set up. The various kingdoms of AEssyria are vividly depicted, such as the Razorbacks, a warring nation whose inhabitants are able to spit venom on their enemies as they fight. Secondary characters, like monocle-wearing Grand Duke Molitov von Goth, a Macchiavellian but sympathetic character in spite of his masochistic predelictions, are well-delineated. Other characters, such as the young Razorback Prince, Savion, and Gavin's friend, Colonel Caraculla, are barely mentioned in this story but figure prominently in later ones. The love scenes are a little graphic but in keeping with Gavin's nature.

If you like your heroes more than a little egotistical but definitely brave and determined, and your heroines strong-willed and a match for the men they refused to admit they love, this novel should fill the bill. Naked Venom--the title comes from the name of the poison used to kill the king--is a fun read and my only complaint was the rather rapid way the story ended. I finished it wondering what the next book would bring. Perhaps that is what the authors intended. There are five novels in the series, released as e-book and in print by Double Dragon Publications.

8 comments

  1. Judy // April 18, 2009 at 8:43 AM  

    Looks good and I like books that leave me wanting more! Hope it does well!

  2. Jianne Carlo // April 18, 2009 at 9:18 AM  

    Interesting and explosive premise. It looks like an exciting ride.

    Jianne

  3. Mary Ricksen // April 18, 2009 at 1:31 PM  

    I love the way you tell us about a book. I think if you keep this up we will be poor from buying so many books. Good luck Toni, you have made it to the big time!!

  4. sshay // April 18, 2009 at 2:07 PM  

    Last Saturday I heard a speaker say people who write Scifi have high IQs. I think you've proven that!
    What a great book! Thanks for letting us know about it!
    Susan
    www.susanshay.net
    3twistedsisters.wordpress.com

  5. Toni V.S. // April 18, 2009 at 2:21 PM  

    Dunno about that. My IQ is 126, and has gone up two points since 1974. From where I stand, I don't feel smart, not even sub-bright, more in the totally stupid range!

  6. Edie // April 18, 2009 at 4:55 PM  

    Toni, this sounds like a winner! I just found out this week I'm writing a sci fi love story, too. Sci fi is fun!

  7. Scarlet Pumpernickel // April 18, 2009 at 9:08 PM  

    Toni,
    Good review! Interesting read. Hey, don't tell MM that I was here, I'm supposed to be writing! Spent the day in a Deb Dixon Workshop in Atlanta and stayed overnight to get some writing done. Shush, now don't tell MM!

    The average IQ runs from 80-120, with 100 being the median, so that puts you above average, Toni!

    Scarlet

  8. Mary Marvella // April 19, 2009 at 12:27 AM  

    Mama Mary caught you, Scarlet! I agree the book sounds like a winner, Toni. Good job reviewing.