Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unmasked by C. J. Barry

Category: Romance – SciFi
Series: Yes – Book 4, but stands on its own

To the merchants he plunders, he’s the Ghost Rider of the Dead Zone. To sector law enforcement, he’s a wanted pirate. To the slaves he rescues, he’s the savior, laghato. To one determined female, Qaade Deter is serious trouble.

Torrie Masters had heard of the legendary raider, but she’d never expected to encounter him – especially on her maiden voyage captaining for her family’s shipping business. Nor would she have expected that beneath his black mask lurked an enticing man destined to challenge her in ways she couldn’t shoot her way out of.

But a great threat has emerged – one that’s left no choice but for them to join forces. Entrusted with the fate of thousands, Torrie has discovered her erstwhile enemy’s impossible dream. Only she has the power to help him. Only she has the power to see him … UNMASKED.

Kat and Mel read this book (actually, the entire series) earlier and couldn’t heap enough praises on it. They know what I like, so when they said I should read Book 3 (Unleashed) and this one, I listened. While I had some problems with the heroine of Book 3, I enjoyed this one tremendously.

Qaade is a space pirate with a mission. For fifteen years, he single-mindedly rescues slaves with his band of loyal followers. Through his setup, Slipstream, the slaves are rehabilitated and sent to live in safe havens. To fund his operations, he raids slaver ships and steals cargo. One of the most prized items that they need is Phellium, a drug that helps the brain to heal itself – something the slaves need for their rehabilitation process.

On a routine raid, Qaade and his men board Torrie’s ship, following a tip that her cargo contains a stash of Phellium. They get more than they bargained for – when instead of fleeing, the captain of the ship stays behind to fight. And what a fighter she is. This scene made me smile, hooked me in and made me like Torrie instantly:

She raised her pistols and drew a deep breath. Then she rolled around the corner and unloaded a barrage of laserfire over three shocked men’s heads. They shouted and scattered for the cover of the ramp’s structural ribs.

Torrie ducked back as return fire pelted the wall behind her. So much for getting the hint.

“Okay, boys,” she whispered. “Playtime is over.”

Torrie came out blasting with both pistols, pinning the three men to their cover. Her
laser shots sprayed the ramp. The intruders returned fire in a torrent of light, and she was forced behind cover. The barrage stopped, and she peered around the corner just in time to see two of the three men moving up the corridor from rib to rib. Eventually, they would reach her. She’d need to retreat to a more secure location.

Then she felt the poke of metal in her back.

“Drop them, lady.” The voice was soft and husky, but deadly serious.

Damn, he must have come up through the engine room. Torrie gripped her pistol handles, and felt her foe’s gun tip jammed into her back.



Torrie twisted to look at the man with the gun in her back. Quicksilver eyes watched her through a slit in his black head covering, and a shiver ran down her spine at the intensity and sheer concentration in them. Calm, serious and deadly – this one was the leader.


Without warning she spun around, kicking the rifle to the side with her boot. She hop-stepped forward and caught the pirate with a direct hit to his unprotected solar plexus with her other boot. He gave an oomph and doubled over.

The pirate on the right made the next move, and she took him out with a straight jab to the nose, dropping him in his tracks. The one on the left made a grab for her. She blocked his attack and delivered a quick succession of strikes to his head. He howled and clutched his face beneath its covering.

I love a heroine who can fight, and fight well. *grin*

Back to the story. That raid changes Torrie’s life forever, for it exposes her to a slavery ring that operates in a magnitude that nobody outside of Slipstream ever suspected … one so appalling that she cannot stand by and do nothing. That raid also brings her Qaade, the charismatic and determined, albeit pig-headed, man who wins her respect and love. As much as she loves Qaade, and as important as Slipstream means to her, in the end, Torrie has to do the right thing … one that may be construed as betrayal by Qaade; one that may cost her the man she loves.

There are many things to like about this story. Torrie and Qaade are wonderfully vivid, lively and likeable characters. Their chemistry is palpable. Their love story is sexy and tender, and even during disagreements, their love and respect for each other come through convincingly. Both are intelligent, single-minded and perfect match for each other.

The thrilling action-adventure scenes move at a fast clip, and combined with the feel-good factor, make this book completely unputdownable.

However, the two grumbles I had:

1. Qaade’s background story was so brief, it was almost nonexistent. His entire history was explained in just a few sentences. I felt Torrie’s story grabbed too much of the spotlight and this aspect of the story was unbalanced.

2. The impetus that made the villain do what he did seemed too easy. I was not convinced of the whole WHY of his dastardly deeds.

All said and done, this is a fantastic read and a keeper. I really like it. I rate it 4.5 out of 5. Sensuality: Warm.


Brandy said...

Hmm, I haven't read this one. I may have to try and find it. Thanks for sharing your review!

I hope you are having a good day!

Carolyn Jean said...

Oooooh, this sounds like the kind of hero-centric book I like. I need to put this on my list. Great review!

Kristie (J) said...

This is the first one of this series that I read and I LOVED it!! I haven't been able to quite get into the others yet - I tried one but I think it was more that mood I was in then the book. But this one I highly recommend too!

Jace said...

Brandy: Yes, do try to find it at the library. It's a great read. :-)

CJ: Qaade is a wonderfully sexy and manly hero. :-D I think you will like him. ;-)

Kristie: According to Kat and Mel, Book 3 and this one are the best of the series. How sad that the author has no plan to continue the series because her writing gets better with each book. However, there's another book, Unchained, which is not part of the series, that I'm trying to find. :-)

Melanie said...

Great review J! This is my favorite out of the series but all 4 were very good reads. Qaade was such a great hero.

Jace said...

Hey M, thanks to you and K for recommending these books. :-D I wish Barry has more sci-fi books coming out in the future but it doesn't look likely.

kat said...

I loved this book! It's my favorite in the series. It's a shame that CJ Barry stopped writing SF-romance.

Jace said...

Hey K, I think you rated this one 5-stars, eh? I couldn't put it down (it was that addictive) and finished it within a day. *grin* Great recommendation, thanks.

Frances said...

Hi Jace! UNMASKED is my favorite book by CJ. I am so glad that you reviewed it. It's far more serious than the prior books. As Kristie said, CJ doesn't intend to continue this series; however, she is starting a new paranormal/futuristic series. She just keeps getting better and better. I look forward to everything that she writes.

Jace said...

Frances, yes, I know!!! *huge grin* CJ's new paranormal series debuts in 2010 ... far too long to wait, if you ask me. :-D

Heather said...

Great review! I'm just about finished with Barry's UNRAVELED but it seems I should have started with this one. Thanks for the lowdown.

Jace said...

Hey Heather ... thanks for dropping by. :-) After UNRAVELED, perhaps you can read UNMASKED next? As far as I know, the books don't have to be read in order. Right now, I'm quite curious about Book 1 and 2, and I may try to find them. ;-)