Like some hot n’ sexy times thrown into your fast-paced sci-fi dystopian thriller? If so, Deal With the Devil was made just for you. The book—the first in a series by Kit Rocha, the pseudonym for the New York Times best-selling erotic romance writing duo Donna Herren and Bree Bridges—not only paints a dark, corporate-controlled future, but also gives you hot, smoking characters that you come to care about.
The main character we follow is Nina, a bio-engineered woman whose unnatural strength gives her superpower status in the crumbling wasteland formerly-known-as Atlanta. Set roughly 60 years in the future, immense solar flares in the 2040s made everything running on electricity go wonky. The U.S. Government couldn’t handle the chaos and collapsed, and corporate behemoths filled the power vacuum by establishing their own fiefdoms. A conglomerate called the Protectorate rules over the fallen city of Atlanta now, and those who are not in their employ (and more often than not, brainwashed and completely under their control) live hand-to-mouth in a world that doesn’t care if they live or die.
Nina has become the de facto leader of a small community there. With the help of Protectorate escapees Dani and Maya, she provides the most vulnerable in her community food, shelter, protection, and books—this is the first book in the Mercenary Librarians series, after all.
And then she meets Knox, a dashing rogue who’s also the captain of the Silver Devils, an elite militaristic squad that recently escaped the Protectorate’s yoke. Knox and his team, however, are in dire straits—their bio-modifications, which makes them super-geniuses and/or incredibly powerful, will also kill them without an expert to keep the tech running. Unfortunately their tech expert has been kidnapped by a mysterious individual, and the price of her return is for the Silver Devils to capture Nina.
Knox and his crew—the tech wizard Conall, the charismatic Rafe, and the ever-brooding Gray—come up with a plan to get Nina to a place where the secret, seemingly all-powerful kidnapper can grab her. Given Nina’s kick-ass powers (as well as the augmented strengths of her two friends, Dani and Maya), they trick Nina into traveling with them willing by dangling the lure of having found the coordinates to the long lost U.S. Library of Congress depository.
And so Nina and her friends join forces with the Silver Devils. No one trusts each other at the beginning of their road trip, but things get complicated quickly.
What’s not complicated, however, is that Nina and Knox are both smokin’ hot and want to get it on with each other. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say they eventually bang—the first major sex scene between them is almost nine pages long, in fact, and fans of Kit Rocha’s more straight-up erotic series will be well satisfied.
That’s not to say that those less versed or ostensibly interested in romance won’t enjoy this book. While fans of steamy works won’t be disappointed here, it’s the platonic relationships that Nina and Knox have with their found families that were the most appealing to me. Rocha took the time to make the supporting characters more than just window dressing for Knox and Nina’s romance. Each of their backstories was fleshed out, and each of them was given enough depth and emotional moments of their own that arguably make them more interesting characters than Nina and Knox.
And of course, there’s the quick pacing we all expect in a thriller—things move fast in Deal With the Devil, with character twists, plot reveals and no-good biker gangs thrown in the crew’s path to keep you quickly turning the page to find out what happens next.
And when you do get to the end, there’s some resolution, of course. But there’s also the promise that Nina, Knox and the rest of the gang’s adventures are only just beginning. The Protectorate and the Franklin Center for Genetic Research are still out there, and there are still library depositories to find and the vulnerable and weak to protect.
And last but certainly not least, there are more sexy times to be had—sexy times in a post-apocalyptic world with forgotten libraries, no less. So grab some popcorn or a glass of wine and crack open Deal With the Devil, if you’re so inclined. There are certainly worse ways to spend an evening.
Deal With the Devil is available from Tor Books.
Vanessa Armstrong is a writer with bylines at The LA Times, SYFY WIRE, StarTrek.com and other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny and her husband Jon, and she loves books more than most things. You can find more of her work on her website or follow her on Twitter @vfarmstrong.