Of Eternal Life (Micah Persell, Operation: Middle of the Garden, #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is totally not my style of romance — lots of action (quite a few people get killed), lots of fate and premonitions at work (both lead characters hear a mysterious “Voice” which seems to guide and even chat with them at times), and lots of intense sex (before they really know one another).  Yet, despite these caveats, many of which speak more to my taste than the author’s abilities, I enjoyed the book and found it to be a quick and fun read.  I truly waffled between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating here just because so many of the tropes are not my favorites, but gave it the higher rating because it’s creative and interesting enough that I liked it despite my preconceptions.  It’s obviously the first in a series of at least two, and I enjoyed this one enough to pick up the second, Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Greater Detail:
Abilene Miller is newly qualified doctor determined to prove herself: when she is recruited to work in (what sounds like) an exclusive research facility in Needles, CA, she jumps at the opportunity — only to find that it is not at all what the recruiters made it sound like.  She never sees any patients, works in conjunction with several other female doctors (all similarly disillusioned with their current situation), and mostly processes lab samples, wondering why they’re there.

The part of the facility Abilene works for ends up being little more than a front — in the back, hidden, is Eli Johnson, who is being tortured and killed… again and again.  We find out that he is about to undergo death #140 (though it isn’t explained why he’s immortal until far, far later), and that he more or less agreed to all of this (thinking it was going to benefit the country), only to find out he had been grossly deceived as to what, exactly, he was volunteering for.

When I say there is action, I really mean there is a LOT of action — I think I might have liked the book a little better if it had slowed down just a tad in the pacing.  While some of the characterization and pop culture references take their time in the beginning, once it gets going, this is like a television script in that we go from scene to scene and there is always something happening (strychnine poisoning, bad guys getting beaten up, the chase, almost sex, sex, more beating up), and it is all fairly graphic and intense.

Because of the “fated” type of nature of these two (which again, is something that gets explained far later), and because they hear and converse with a “Voice” which seems to propel them towards one another, the actual love story part of this is a little topsy-turvy.  They’re intensely drawn and attracted to each other (supernaturally), and must work out things like trust issues etc, as they go along.  Here, as well, I think the novel would have benefitted from slowing down a little — at one point, both our male and female protagonists struggle with whether they can truly trust the other, and while this is probably the most common thing for romance characters to have to overcome, here, because they’ve only known one another for a few days and their relationship started with an escape and kidnapping, you feel like saying, “Well of course you have trust issues!”

Still, this was ultimately a very quick, fun read, and again, enticing enough to make me want to buy the sequel, so in that sense, it’s highly successful (despite having a small handful of typos here and there which I found distracting).

Comparisons to Other Authors:
I don’t read a ton of contemporary romance, and what I do read is usually staid and completely unsensual (think Betty Neels, where the characters do little more than kiss).  However, from a broader perspective, I think that Persell’s jam-packed plotlines and highly sensual lovemaking reminds me of a mixture of Virginia Henley and Stephanie Laurens (only you know, contemporary as opposed to historical, and replace pirates and horses with the military and the Garden of Eden).

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