Mercenary Librarians, Book #2
Heat Factor: Maya is frequently overwhelmed by sensory experiences, so this is a slow burn as she and Gray work up to physical touch
Character Chemistry: Really supportive of each other but also let’s not get too close because Gray could drop dead at any minute
Plot: We’re tying to make this dystopian reality a better place
Overall: Really fantastic worldbuilding
The Mercenary Librarian books take place in a future Atlanta which is controlled by a soulless corporation. At the start of Book 2, said librarians have permanently banded together with a group of enhanced soldiers called the Silver Devils, thereby building the most bad-ass found family of super-soldiers you can imagine. They use their powers for good: mostly in service of helping the folks in their neighborhood have better lives, but also in engaging in guerilla warfare against said evil corporation.
If you want a romance novel that’s really focused in on the two main characters, this book is not that. That’s not to say this isn’t a satisfying romance, because it is! More that there’s a lot more going on beyond the romance, and sometimes that’s not what I want in my smut reading.
Let’s talk about Maya and Gray. Maya was a data courier, which means she was altered and trained from childhood to have perfect recall of…everything. The higher-ups use data couriers to have a record of conversations that are too sensitive to be saved on a hackable platform. When Maya was a teenager, the executive that Maya was attached to led an unsuccessful coup, which allowed Maya to escape and fake her death. Gray is a genetically-enhanced super-soldier, sniper edition. They are both dealing with some serious PTSD, plus Gray’s super-soldier implant is failing, which means he could literally drop dead at any moment.
I thought Maya’s journey was fascinating—plus, her personal growth and her connection to Gray were nicely intertwined. When the book opens, Maya is tired of the rest of the team treating her with kid gloves when they’re out on missions. She’s the only one who doesn’t have enhanced fighting abilities, so everyone feels like they have to watch out for her. Her growth happens on multiple fronts simultaneously: as she learns to open herself up to more sensory sensations (remember: she has perfect recall of everything, so she remembers everything she experiences, so shutting herself off has been a survival mechanism up to this point), she comes into her own in terms of a fully lived life, emotional openness, connection with Gray—and military skills. Turns out, having perfect recall means that she can learn very quickly where people are based on how far away their breathing is, Daredevil style.
Gray is a more static character, but I did like how supportive he is of Maya as she figures herself out. No pressuring her for physical intimacy, running her through shooting exercises—both markers of true love right there. Even with all the plot, I believed the emotional connection between him and Maya. Because their connection was well-established by the time they got together, when Maya says that a little bit of something wonderful with Gray is better than a lifetime of nothing special, it wasn’t cheesy, it was romantic.
What’s really remarkable about this book is that there are a ton of characters and some pretty complicated political maneuvering, but I was never confused about who anyone was or how they fit into the larger picture. Rocha clearly has a solid sense of the place and the characters, and communicates that information effectively to the reader. I will say that I don’t recommend reading this book as a standalone; while a lot happens, including the defeat of an Evil Bad Guy, it frequently feels like its primary project is setting up Book 3 in the series (which I can’t wait to read).
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