My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.
This review contains spoilers for previous books in the Coded For Love series. You can read DESPERATE MATCH as a stand-alone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you have read the entire series.
DESPERATE MATCH is Lynne Silver’s fifth Coded For Love book, and the first to be self-published (all previous books were released by Ellora’s Cave). Although I have enjoyed the entire series, I have to say that this story is the best one so far. Perhaps it’s because the ever-present threat of the evil Dr. Paulson was finally eliminated in the previous book, or perhaps it’s because Lynne Silver is just getting better as she delves more deeply into this world of The Program. Whatever the reason, it’s great to see yet another erotic romance series that I discovered at Ellora’s Cave continue with an well-written self-published entry.
DESPERATE MATCH starts with a look at the woman whose current living situation is the source of the desperation noted in the title. Jill Thompson is only 24 years old, but the last five years of her life with her abusive husband have aged her in a way no person should ever have to bear. Jack’s need to control every aspect of her life seemed charming back when they dated in high school, as she mistook his behavior for some starry-eyed notion of true love. It was only when they were both out of school and married in a home of their own that the true Jack appeared, leaving Jill with few options for rescue. But now Jill has found hope in a news story about The Program, the decades-long classified military project for creating enhanced soldiers, and their search for female volunteers to breed the next generation. Their heavily guarded military compound in Beltsville, Maryland is only a few hours away from where Jill lives in rural Virginia, so if she can get herself approved as a volunteer DNA match for a soldier there, then she can finally be safe from Jack and his fists.
Back at the Beltsville campus, Rowan Blacker has volunteered to be matched for breeding if a woman can be found for him. Rowan’s birth defect has always made him feel like less than a complete member of The Program, even though he’s otherwise enhanced as much as everyone else. When the woman who is supposed to be his perfect DNA match appears on foot at the front gates, emaciated and bedraggled, Rowan wonders what he’s gotten himself into. Meanwhile, Jill’s first thought is how can a man missing one arm possibly protect her from Jack when he comes looking for her? Needless to say, this first encounter between Rowan and Jill does not bode well for their future together. And yet the attraction, however muted, is there. When Rowan discovers what propelled Jill to put herself in the hands of The Program, he vows to help protect and free her from Jack, no matter the cost. As Jill begins her slow and painful recovery from years of abuse, she and Rowan carefully begin to trust each other, even as her presence soon becomes a major liability for her protectors. For Jack isn’t going to let Jill go without a fight, thanks to the help he gets from a secretive group intent on attacking those who believe in the mission of The Program.
I’m a big fan of this series, but I was relieved to see that this new book was going to be more about the hero and heroine finding their way to happiness with each other and less about the external threats to The Program and its members. Being accepted by The Program for their breeding program was Jill’s last best hope to escape her abusive marriage, and I cheered her on as she planned her successful route to freedom. Although it was painful to see her initial negative reaction to Rowan and his missing arm, it would have been unrealistic for her to accept him with no questions asked, especially given her condition when she arrived on base. And certainly Rowan wasn’t expecting his DNA match to be a woman so literally beaten down on arrival that she barely had the energy to flinch whenever he tried to approach her. It would take lots of time and tender loving care for Jill to return to the woman she had once been, and for Rowan to see more than just the shell she had become while living under Jack’s oppression.
The best part of DESPERATE MATCH began when Jill was finally back to her old self and better able to appreciate just how much Rowan really was the best partner for her, even as she continued to work toward a semblance of independence from him and The Program. Rowan had his own growing to do if he was ever going to accept Jill as his equal partner in love and life under the auspices of The Program. By the time they reach their HEA, both Rowan and Jill have transformed from the two people who met under strained circumstances at the start of the book to a loving couple who are ready to support each other in every possible way. It’s a beautiful end to an compelling journey, and a wonderful continuation to one of my favorite erotic romance series.