Rowena Cherry has always been one of my favorite authors. Long ago, I read the e-book release of THE MATING NET, and I fell in love with her Tiger Princes and their ladies with just that novelette.
Okay, let's set up the world. You have the ruling Djinn (remember, don't pronounce that leading D, and that is very important in this world). They have 7 senses, instead of the usual human 5. One of them is a highly-evolved sense of smell that is accomplished with the saturniid gland.
This gland is both a blessing and a curse to the Djinn. It allows them to find fertile females for mating. It also locks them onto the first fertile female they ever smell, making them crave that female. As if that's not bad enough, an unmated Djinn who smells a female in season will experience the rut-rage. Yes, very animalistic. Yes, they will fight other males for her and kill each other to possess her.
They also enjoy the chase and capture of a female. Their motto is "By stealth if possible (and abduction is standard stealth practice) and force if necessary." Rest assured that only Rowena's villains resort to force, though a little forced seduction is mixed in with good old seduction, even for her heroes. Trickery isn't out of the question, either...making One marvel at how legalistic men can leave themselves elegant loopholes to exploit.
In FORCED MATE, the heir to the throne of Tigron (Tarrant-Arragon) has found the last virginal Djinn female in the universe (or so we think...I won't close the door on that for future books). Yes, she's a half-bred human/Djinn, but she's strong stock (strong enough to cause a rut-rage, they hope), and her mother was a human psychic. Since a lot of the psychic powers have been bred out of the inbred Djinn over the years, that bodes well for reclaiming some.
There are just a few little problems with Djinni-vera.
The first would be that she's a Saurian Knight, a fighting member of a group formed when a former Djinn ruler stole his twin brother's virginal bride, the same bride from THE MATING NET. When his twin retrieved his bride, half of the star-forces defected with him and formed the Saurian order to fight the abuses of the Tiger Princes.
What does being a Saurian Knight mean? It means she'd rather kill herself than submit to being Tarrant-Arragon's mate. So, the well-meaning hunter prince has to get her to love him for himself and not his name, and he's not always so lovable.
Do they need more problems? Why not add a few on? Djinni-vera is, unknown to Tarrant-Arragon, promised in marriage to her cousin J-J (Djetthro-Djason), the true heir to the throne Tarrant-Arragon is supposed to inherit. Whoops. I won't go into detail except to say that the royal family tree isn't as accurate as some people believe it is, and with no free press, it's easy enough to manage official stories.
Oh, and the Saurian Dragon (the leader of the Saurian Knights) is none other than Djinni's father...which makes her father and her avid pursuer mortal enemies.
Needless to say, it's a delightful cat and mouse game between Tarrant-Arragon and Djinni-vera, with J-J becoming aware only late in the game that his intended bride has been abducted from far-off Earth.
Wonderful twists and turns! The irony of plots gone wrong and plain bad luck are a joy to read. And it doesn't end here. One of the ingenious things about this series is that the books fit together like puzzle pieces, building on each other to raise the tension from couple to couple.
In INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, the (believed dead) former traitor Captain Jason is reintroduced to the 'polite society' of Tigron as Prince Djetthro-Jason, the forced husband of Tarrant-Arragon's sister, Martia-Djulia.
The princess walks into her wedding day, believing Captain Jason has returned to her willingly, at the urging of her older brother, to marry her. Instead, she's faced with a 'replacement' husband of her brother's choosing, a scrawny, bald wanna-be prince with a straggly beard. Where is the man she loves? The dashing captain with the long, blond hair and the grusome scar on his face? At his urging, she runs...leaving him at the altar.
Djetth had hoped she'd see through the disguise...or maybe he hadn't. He still can't understand what happened the day he found himself in a stunted rut-rage with Martia-Djulia. He still wants Djinni, which indicates he rut-raged with her, but he wants the princess as well. It's enough to drive a sensible Djinn crazy, and Djinns aren't known for being sensible men.
Added to it are Tarrant-Arragon's plots to force them to mate, but his refusal to let Djetth admit to Martia-Djulia that he's Captain Jason; Martia-Djulia's disastrous first mating, her phobias and her limited memory of certain shattering events in her youth; and, lest we forget, a killer with a contract out on the princess's life.
Again...excellent book! Some twists you'll see coming. Some you won't. The royal family tree is delightfully twisted, and lies and plots have made it all the more convoluted.
The veiled civility of the Tiger Princes gives a refreshing edge to the usual alpha male type. Their animalistic tendencies and drives are well-portrayed and imminently believable.
This is a series you don't want to miss. With KNIGHT'S FORK coming up next (Sept 30th), you'll want to snag the earlier books and catch up, if you haven't read them already. I'm eagerly awaiting the rest of the series and have added it to my auto-buy list.