4 out of 4 stars
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The Bonding is an erotic story of true love battling for survival against all circumstances. The author, Imogen Keeper, mixes tasteful erotic scenes with both the science fiction of alien races and the complexities of the expectations of individual sacrifice for the good of others. The main characters, Triannon’s queen-designate Nissa and Argentus warrior Tam, literally cross paths in the infinite expanse of space, and their lives are never the same.
This work of supernatural romance is well paced, sexually graphic without being tawdry, and creative in the melding of many complex barriers standing between the main characters and their relationship. I believe that the complexity of the intermingled situations is what draws reader interest throughout the novel. Such things as dire, life-or-death circumstances; self-doubt; parental approval; compulsion toward duty; and loyalty to sacred traditions all vex Nissa and Tam. Rather than one simple conflict, Keeper provides many elements to pull the main characters in different directions while their hearts (and desires) pull them together. For being a supernatural romance, the book is fairly realistic in the portrayal of human emotions and fairly well-grounded plot lines as they converge.
The book would certainly appeal to adult fans of paranormal romance, and romance novel readers in general; though, with the explicit sex, I would recommend the reader be 18 or older. The best part of the sexual scenes was that despite the incredible frequency, imagery, and language, you didn’t finish reading them feeling dirty; the character’s feelings were developed enough to feel the sexual encounters as a natural part of their mating. Another element of the book that was appealing was the prevalent themes of moral duty, loyalty, and virtue. Perhaps that is another reason why all the sex felt so right - the main characters were truly good people who wanted to better their worlds, not just get laid.
I really enjoyed this book. While I had to overlook the fact that three of the four alien species were fairly identical to the human race, the book was well written, well edited, well blended in the complexity of conflicts, and tastefully depicted in the moments of explicit passion. There was one rape scene, but it was handled cautiously by the author as well and left the reader with a sense of compassion, pain, and regret from the characters.
Overall, I feel that the author truly has a solid grasp of humanity and social “human” interactions. For these reasons, I rate the book a 4 out of 4 stars. Its balance of ups and downs, realistic conflict, and moral questions involving self-sacrifice draw the reader close to the characters, wanting to cheer for them to be victorious. It is not for a staunch conservative, but anyone with an open mind can see the thematic value of the book while enjoying a little passion along the way.
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