Tuesday, February 9, 2010

True Love Can Be Super Rough -- Phenomenal Girl 5 by A. J. Menden

Lainey Livingston (Phenomenal Girl 5) has just been made a member of the Elite Hands of Justice, the world's premier cadre of superheroes. Her work with the Red Knights and the Power Squad was impressive; all her senses are extraordinary and her great strength and her ability to fly are equally remarkable. But no one gets a free pass to active duty, and Lainey's next test is going to be her hardest. She's to train with the Reincarnist.

Robert Elliot, the Reincarnist, is a magician who has lived multiple lifetimes, and he's the smartest man in the world and Lainey's last obstacle to a goal that has lived within her since her earliest childhood. He was personally responsible for seeing Pushstar wash out. But his eyes are the softest, kindest that Lainey has ever seen, and he's just the sort to knock her for a loop. Her first lesson: to realize that romantic entanglements among crime fighters are super exploitable, and falling in love with a man who can't die is like waving a red flag at a bull. Especially when the most fiendish plot ever is about to break over Megalopolis like a wave of fire.

What a fun book!! It was reminescent of reading Wonder Woman while I was growing up, and I mean that in the best possible way! Lainey Livingston is a young woman who is as phenomenal as her name but is one who is never going to allow another human being to force her to think less of herself, even while going through her "rookie" training. She has wanted to be a part of the Elite Hands of Justice for as long as she can remember, and that goal is the factor by which she measures her opportunities and which guides her choices. She is mouthy and forthright, qualities which could be chalked up to her youth, but are more likely to be inspired by the underlying male chauvenism that exists even in a society with superheroes. She has also been a orphan for many years and has had to "make her way in the world" all on her own. Robert Elliot is a reserved, quiet, somewhat outspoken person who seems to respond positively to Lainey's penchant for "telling it like it is." In fact, before long, he is responding to her beauty and powerful sensual aura as much as any other man. Their desire grows into love but that love is short-lived. Enter Wesley, Robert's new persona. Lainey's promotion, her struggle with Wesley while grieving over Robert's "death" are all sources of conflict besides the obvious one caused by the overwhelming evil that is discovered by the Reincarnist and faced by the EHJ.

This is a delightful book full of interesting superheroes who are subject to the foibles of all human beings, their jeolousies, their ego games, their need to excell and be first among equals. Sometimes they sounded like a room full of kindergarten children. There are curious relationships here--a man who cannot die, and having to deal with his "children" born from past relationship during past reincarnations is strange and stretches the credibility of the reader in a nice way. There is a threesome among this elite group, a centuries-old loe goddess, a homosexual superhero, and so forth. It is heartwarming to see Lainey's desire to be true to herself and to her desire to be a force for good while having to be subordinate to superheroes who, for the most part, are more concerned with publicity and celebrity status than in doing what they were asked to do as the champions for good. This book is full of power and magic, love and loss, joy and grieving, good and evil. It is not heavy-duty historical romance, but it is full of romance--the best kind of romance that embraces genuine desire and true, life-long commitment and love. Amy Mendenhall has written a very readable novel which will be a joy to read for any romance fan. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.