Hauk was left horrifically scarred by his time in the military. His face a mass of burns and scars, he is now left isolated and lonely, tired of the looks of revulsion or pity he gets from people he meets on the street. Now he works in the shadows, a bodyguard to an important figure in the fight against the order of Ananke. He has resigned himself to a life of solitude... and then he meets Jolie.
A rich girl who has decided to abandon her lifestyle to become a burlesque dancer, Jolie is an interesting woman to meet. She loves to dance and the high she gets from being on stage is an added bonus. When she first meets Hauk, it is through a veiled curtain where she can’t see him, attracted only to his voice and presence. They engage in intimate activities, shocking both of them with the intensity of the acts. Then he ends up saving her from an attack and takes her back to his house to protect her. It is here that Jolie gets her first look at his face, at the scars of war that decorates it. Unable to acknowledge the fact that she was intimate with such a scarred man, she tries to treat him as her rescuer, as a man who can protect her (this pissed me off something chronic).
Hauk fell in love with Jolie the second she let him touch her. He can tell by her reactions that she is trying to overcome the revulsion she feels when she looks at him, simply to be his friend and he's happy with that. But as they spend more time together, his love becomes stronger and hope starts to flourish. She seems to have gotten used to his face; could she ever look past them long enough to allow him to be something more than a friend? When danger strikes, will the trauma of the event make her see beyond the scars to the man beneath?
When I picked up this book, I did not know it was the first in a series. There is no ending to the tale for Jolie and Hauk in this story but I’m glad I picked it up. I picked it up purely for the steam-punk cover but I’m not sure that this book was a great example of that genre. The elements that were in the book weren’t incredibly well explained and I was left a little confused with the world building in general. I have very little idea of the motives of the bad guys, I was confused by the introduction of magic and I just didn't get anything outside of the character driven bits of the plot. Nevertheless, I will be picking up the rest of the series on the strength of the characters alone.
When I first met Jolie, she came across as a fun, superficial attention seeker who didn’t take anything too seriously. Although the oral sex scene through the curtain was hot as hell, it was a WTF moment for me as Hauk could have literally been ANYONE. It wasn’t until further into the tale that I started to take her seriously as a character, as a woman who I would want to read more about. When she started to look at other people outside of her family as people worth caring about, I started to like her. I loved her character development and I am desperate to read more.
Hauk made this book for me. Although the world was interesting and Jolie was fun, it was this man that kept me engaged. I applaud the author for using a war hero as the leading man in her book; I never imagined just the issues that a man so badly scarred would have in their lives... he made me cry. The scene where Jolie realised how little human contact he had actually made me gasp. I want to see this man accept himself, I want him to have some time with people who don’t look at him with revulsion and I want him to be happy. He is so used to people treating him with revulsion, he doesn’t even flinch when Jolie looks at him and sees only scars, even after their encounter the night before. He is a protective, alpha man and I loved him....the rage blackouts were interesting, so I hope we see more of those.
Overall, I thought this was a book with fabulous characters but world building issues. I will be picking up the next in the series on the strength of the foundations of the relationship between the H/h. The one sex scene in the book was smoking too so, being the pervert that I am, I have high hopes for the rest!