Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Micah Persell, Operation: Middle of the Garden, #2)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A really interesting followup to her debut novel, Persell’s second novel (with its too-long title) has far more interesting characters — our female protagonist, Dahlia, was the secondary villain in the first novel, and our male lead, Jericho, is a tortured man who lost his true mate eight years ago.  We start at the heart of the action this time, with Dahlia going on the run, and Jericho being sent to chase her.  The fact that they’re both immortals, and have impulse-paired (think of it as a chemically or spiritually induced love-at-first-sight) is seen by both of our leads as more inconvenient than celebratory — because both characters struggle against the pairing, we get an interesting combination of they’re-meant-to-be-together with they’re-truly-falling-in-love.  I was torn between a 4 or 4.5 star review for this because though I found the characters and storyline stronger than the first, there are bits of the writing that feel a little less polished or more rushed than her debut.  Either way, it was an enjoyable, quick read, and I liked it enough to be looking forward to her future works.

Greater Detail:
We start off with a quick synopsis of the science/government documentation between the Middle of the Garden Operation — basically that there was a Tree, that subjects who ate from the tree seemed to become immortal (two of the men at least), and that one of the side effects seems to be that the men will “impulse-pair” (see above) with a woman, meaning that they are each other’s mates.

It’s enough backstory that even if you haven’t read Of Eternal Life, you can move on and enjoy the rest of the story.  We then see Dahlia, who has volunteered to eat the fruit and be a part of this study, getting a note of warning (explained later), which makes her break out of the facility she’s been kept in.  On her way out, she makes eye contact with Jericho, the other test subject she’s never seen before, and they quickly impulse-pair. She knows what’s happened, and finds it inconvenient but continues her escape.

Dahlia is a really fun, interesting character — she’s gorgeous and knows it, knows the effect it has on men, and will totally use it to her advantage before incapacitating them with a heel to the nose.  She is an interesting mixture of strong and weak, and I really enjoyed that she had layers — she’s not looking for a guy to save her, resents it when Jericho eventually tries, and though her backstory/secret is mostly predictable, Dahlia is an interesting enough character that you find yourself not caring if she succumbs to stereotype every now and again.

Jericho I found a little less fascinating — he’s got the standard tragic lost-love backstory, except, because his first mate was also an impulse pairing, he only knew that woman for five days, she conceived a child, and, being mortal, she was unable to survive the pregnancy.  Though Persell does her best to explain how to Jericho, this has still been horribly tragic and defining, the uniqueness of the loss makes it harder for us to relate to, and he’s also just less interesting of a character.  He’s the man who follows orders and always does the right thing, and his major turmoil is that he believes Dahlia to be evil, and doesn’t understand how he could possibly be mated to someone less-than-purely-good.  Though he gets a little more layered with time, his struggle is ultimately less involving than Dahlia’s, and as far as I’m concerned, this is Dahlia’s show.

Like Of Eternal Life, there’s a LOT of action, and also, a lot of sensual love scenes.  The pacing, though still fast, was a little more leveled this time, and there were even some interesting side plots and characters this time.  I bought and read it in one afternoon, and thought that overall, it was an improvement on the first, which I also enjoyed.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
I’m still relatively new to the paranormal romance subgenre, but these two books have made me at least interested enough to check out more. If I compare to non-paranormal romance authors, I would say Persell writes sex like a more modern version of Stephanie Laurens, and the quickness of the pacing reminds me a little of Kat Martin (another historical romance author) or, as I’ve said before, Virginia Henley (again, with military soldiers instead of pirates).

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