Steampunk, Burlesque, Secret Agent Re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast—are you intrigued yet? “Beauty” has been replaced with grad-student-burlesque-dancer Jolie Benoit and the “beast” is secret agent/former soldier Wesley “Hauk” Haukon, who was horrifically burned and scarred. But even that description doesn’t begin to explain how great this series has turned out to be.
Jax Garren is able to fold in socio-political commentary, an electric attraction, and magical elements into this reimagination with an effortlessness that belies the skill with which it is done. With that being said, I have the top reasons why Jax Garren needs to be added to you TBR pile…now!
Jolie <3s Hauk 4ever and so do I:
Hauk is one of my favorite book boyfriends and I might even ask him to go steady. He’s rough looking, unapologetic, raw, but fundamentally gentle, kind, sensitive and one of the most human portrayals of a damaged hero as I’ve ever seen in romance. Hauk isn’t much to look at; he was burned over 82% of his body when a fire started in his sleeping quarters while he was stationed in Afghanistan. Somehow, five years later he’s alive, but horrifically scarred. He knows women scream looking at him and his size alone would be enough to intimidate most hardened warriors, even without the scars. But here’s where the difference comes in with Hauk and other damaged heroes. He’s funny. And not just run of the mill, laugh in your head funny. As in I laughed out loud at some of the banter he and Jolie have going back and forth through this series.
“So, let’s get started. What do I do, apply to The Thing? Is that the governing body of the Underlight? Isn’t that what the parliament in Iceland? The All-Thing?”
Hauk’s metal eyebrows rose as if he was impressed.
She grinned. Her dad’s career in news media had stuffed her brain with more random facts than anyone should know. “Yeah, I’ll school your ass at Trivial Pursuit. Bring it.”
He nodded slowly. “You can school my ass however you want.”
Jolie nearly choked on a surprised laugh. She needed to quit being shocked every time Hauk acted like a normal male.
Because he was a normal male.
She wagged a finger playfully. “Keep dreamin’, soldier-boy. Now, you going to explain your Thing?” His eyes sparkled roguishly. “The Underlight’s Thing? Geez, get your head out of the gutter.”
The Underlight is the organization behind the subtle rebellion brewing in the United States as it works to reveal corruption in the media, agricultural, and energy conglomerates. Think Occupy Wall Street, but with more issues and an essentially underground society.
This is where Jolie and Hauk step in. Jolie’s father is the media mogul who is a part of Ananke, the antithesis of everything The Underlight works for—they control global media to sway public opinion in support of corrupt big business, environmental annihilation, and complete control of the populace. If this all sounds too much, take a breath and step back this is all just a hint in the intricately woven tapestry that Garren has created with this series.
While Jolie and Hauk deal with the issues of their warring society, they also have to worry about Hauk’s severe PTSD and possession by a god. Garren introduces us to a world that is similar to our own—a war in Afghanistan, the Enron scandal, environmental issues—but weaves in elements of a more sinister and magical world.
You'd better turn on the fan because it’s about to get steamy:
I have five words for you: Anonymous Sex and A Sheet. Jolie is a burlesque dancer, so she’s used to baring her body. As someone who has seen burlesque I have to say it is the classy older sister of the stripping family and Jolie, who was trained as a classical ballerina, finds the right balance between classy and sexy with very few hiccups while staying human. After her very first show, she goes backstage to change and is followed by Hauk, who had just seen her perform.
She sucked in a breath, and the sheet quivered between them.
His fingers moved down her neck, barely touching. He longed to go further. “Say the word and I’ll back away,” he murmured.
“Then I’ll stay silent for fear of saying the wrong word.”
His body leaped to attention, begging for more touch, more connection. He pressed deeper and slid his hands down until his wrists rested against the top of her chest and he stilled. Her breath heaved, pushing her softness against him. With a groan he explored further.
Wrists, palms, fingertips, each crested the curve of her breast, felt the rising tip through the thin cotton. The muscles in her stomach fluttered with each gasping breath and her back arched, pressing her tits more firmly into his hand. He cupped them and let his thumbs stroke her nipples as they continued to harden and grow under his touch.
Gods, he’d died and gone to Valhalla.
This scene gets hotter, trust me! Garren’s true talent comes in building and keeping the tension without resorting to petty fights and unrealistic arguments. Hauk and Jolie don’t even get together until the final book but I was totally kept on the line the entire time—something I’m not inclined to do as I typically don’t like book that feature the same couple throughout the entire series. But my next point may go a long way in describing part of why Garren can do this so well.
It comes in lovely bite-sized, easy to swallow (and then devour) portions:
This series sits in the ambiguous territory between a novella and a novel and it works perfectly in this format and storyline. Luckily for all you, all three books have been released, and so you can gleefully hop from book to book and still pay just about the same as you would have for a full-length novel. Even the four days that I waited to finish the series were some of the most agonizing I’ve ever felt over a new author. Garren reels you in with the sexual tension so taut that I swear you could pluck it like a string but doesn’t take the relationship too far so that it’s a foregone conclusion. I mean it is a foregone conclusion—it’s Beauty and the Beast for Christ’s sake and they’re so perfect together—but they’re both just so hesitant to start a relationship that as the reader you’re nervous. It’s the best part of reading romance—the “of course they will, but how” moments that keep us searching for, going back and re-reading what we’ve already read in the hope that we can eek out just a little more hope and tension from those moments. The shortness does not leave you wanting for more. Garren is able to keep each book relatively self-contained—you learn A, deal with B, and then make out a little bit—and I never felt like I didn’t get enough of issue B or felt that issue A hadn’t been dealt with enough. In the final book. How Beauty Loved the Beast, the events of the first two books culminate in an epic tale of courage, love, and redemption.
In the end these books tied together a love story that remains one of my favorite fairy tales with a hero I would want in real life, sex to make my eyeballs steam up, and a world I want to live in.
Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt. She works for Heroes and Heartbreakers and Criminal Element.