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This review is from: The Challenge (Mass Market Paperback)
Kick ass ninja queen Tessa is proud of her job guarding the President of the United States and is prepared to take any action necessary to save her, including using her own body to shield the Pres from an assassin's bullet. Before the bullet penetrates her brain Tessa is whisked 300 years into the future. She learns she has been chosen as Earth's candidate for "The Challenge" an ordeal which should she pass, makes her planet eligible to join a galactic alliance and receive much needed anti-pollution technology. The luscious Kahn, a native from the patriarchal planet of Rystan is selected to tutor her and following the recommendations in his trainer manual, decides built-up libido frustration will release Tessa's psi ability. Despite her libido tension Tessa refuses to crack and informs Kahn that this approach will never unleash her mental powers. Proving that she is well able to defend herself against attack, Kahn finds himself agreeing to use the training methods practiced on males, that of face to face combat, but the idea of hitting a woman repulses him.
Kahn can not understand this strange Earth woman and fears that she will ruin the opportunity for Rystan to receive membership into the Federation of Planets (his planet's full membership will only be granted should Tessa pass her challenge). His people are slowing starving to death and face constant attacks from the Endekians, a race of nasty aliens determined to inhabit his planet and profit from their only natural resource, radioactive glowstones. When Tessa attempts to flee (her plan to bargain with Earth to select another candidate due to her lack of psi ability), she steals a shuttlecraft, an action punishable by death. If Tessa should die before she attempts the Challenge, an automatic failure is issued, so Kahn does the only thing he can to protect her life - he marries her.
This has got to be one of the best books I have read in months and should appeal to fans of quite a few genres. There's plenty of action, steaming sex scenes, weird aliens and wonderful space-age technology. The developing relationship between Tessa and Kahn has almost epic proportions, be it in the bedroom or whilst training for the Challenge. Both characters are brilliantly drawn by Susan Kearney and the reader cannot help but like and respect the pair. There are also some really fabulous secondary characters, including Dora, a sentient computer who becomes Tessa's best friend and the Osarian, telepathic beings so repulsively ugly they are shunned by the majority of alien races. Beauty is more than skin deep however and Tessa finds her none too attractive new friend and now secret business partner Osari a canny negotiator, his lucrative deals producing enough credits for Tessa to purchase some very expensive high tech gadgets.
"The Challenge" was a brilliant space romp that kept me turning pages for hours and left me breathless in places. One minute I was wincing at the training sessions and the next moment I was laughing aloud (watch out for where Tessa places her wedding band upon Kahn's body - lets just say it's not his finger). The twisting plot line is enthralling and I challenge any reader not to enjoy it! At the end of this book Tessa dares Dora to become more human, a challenge the flirty computer takes very seriously by deciding to grow her own body. Her story is told in "The Dare" due for publication in July 2005 - I for one already have a copy on order.