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REVIEW

"Slow and Sweet, Hot, Spicy, and Unpredicatable"

P.E.A.R.L. award-winner Ann Lawrence is a natural storyteller. VIRTUAL DESIRE, sequel to her debut novel VIRTUAL HEAVEN, is a fantasy of a fantasy -- a paranormal romance lover's dream. Slow and sweet, hot, spicy, and unpredictable, Virtual Desire is a testament to the power of love. I was hard pressed to put the book down even for a moment. The world around me simply faded away as I too became part of the virtual adventure.

Fans of Virtual Heaven will remember Vad as a secondary character, a Tolemac warrior and best friend to its hero Kered. Vad is divinely beautiful, likened to an angel of the gods. One look at his face and men fear to battle with him. Women desire him for his beauty alone, uncaring of the man inside the form. Even Kered had looked upon him with a flash of jealousy once he'd staked out his lifemate, Maggie, as his own. Vad has come to resent his looks and has vowed to forsake the pleasures of women until he has found his lifemate. This vow had remained unbroken for three conjunctions. That was before he'd met Gwen Marlowe.

She came to him first in the ice fields, a vision, a mirage, beckoning to him. His quest was to find his friend Kered on the other side of the field, retrieve the relic demanded by the council, and to restore their honor. That the two had been branded traitors was more than he could bear. An orphan, he had no family, his friend had chosen love in another world, all he had left was his honor. Cold and fatigued, she came to him in his moment of weakness, he reached for her, and she disappeared. Admitting defeat, failure, he sags to the ice, the cruel surface cutting a jagged scar into his perfect face. He lapses into unconsciousness and when he awakens he is in a strange place and the woman of his vision is cowering, frightened, behind a strangely dressed man.

Gwen Marlowe is the owner of Virtual Heaven (the shop that had housed the Tolemac Wars virtual reality game that had launched her friend Maggie O'Brien, now Kered's bride, to Tolemac). As an unusual storm descends upon Ocean City, she is preparing to host a Tolemac Wars ball, a fete guaranteed to bring tremendous business to her store. Staring at the sorry heap of furs she finds lying in the game booth, she recognizes the intruder's resemblance to Vad, the Tolemac warrior, hero of the new game, Tolemac Wars II. Not surprisingly he claims to be searching for his friend Kered.

At first Gwen believes him to be a confused conventioneer, then perhaps the model she'd hired for the ball to 'play' Vad, and finally settles on the idea that he is a practical joke being played by her friends Kered and Maggie. When Kered and Vad meet during the ball, Gwen is convinced she is right.

Outside, the conversation between the two is intense. Kered has chosen love in this place over honor in Tolemac; he tries to convince Vad he belongs here as well. When Gwen produces the relic Vad seeks he decides to return home alone. In the game booth, Vad takes Gwen's hand in farewell. A flash occurs in the booth and the pair is transported back to the virtual world.

Finding herself disoriented and in a strange, colorful world, oddly resembling the virtual game, Gwen is forced to accept Vad for who he had claimed to be. She has no choice but to follow him on his quest to restore his honor. The quest is promptly disrupted though, as the peace between the peoples of Tolemac and the Selaw is being undermined by an evil influence. Vad feels compelled to aid a Selaw noblewoman in her cause before continuing with his own, and the adventure begins.

The references to Arthurian legend continue and the reader is treated to some answers to the mysteries involving dimensional travel between Earth and Tolemac, shedding some light on Vad's disappearance as a child. The villain of the piece was quite a surprise. Enough questions are left unanswered, however, to allow for another story to be added to the series. As one might expect, the virtual world is fraught with perils, each challenge bringing the pair closer and closer together. The sexual tension between the couple is truly enjoyable to read as Vad comes to understand that honor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and that the only quest worth undertaking is a quest of the heart. I found myself agonizing over their set backs, glorying in their victories, and sharing their triumphant joy as the story came to it's conclusion. I highly recommend this read and hope that additional sequels are in the offing.

Copyright 2000

Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted June 28, 2001

SUMMARY

He went in search of his honor... and found love.

THE TRUE BEAT OF A WARRIOR's HEART

His silver blond hair blew back from his magnificent face. His black leather breeches hugged every inch of his well- muscled thighs. He was every woman's fantasy; he was the virtual reality game hero Vad. And Gwen Marlowe found him snoring away in her video game shop.

She knew he must be a wacky wargamer out to win the Tolemac warrior look-alike contest. But the passion he ignited in her was all too real. Swept into his world of ice fields and formidable fortresses, Gwen realized Vad was not playing games. On a quest to clear his name and secure peace in his land, he and Gwen must forge a bond strong enough to straddle two worlds. A union built not on virtual desire, but on true love.

 

Virtual Desire
(Tolemac Wars: Book 2)
by Ann Lawrence

Dorchester
August 1, 2000
Available: August 1, 2001
ISBN #0505523930
EAN #9780505523938
391 pages
Paperback
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Other Books by
Ann Lawrence

Do You Believe?
Lord of the Keep
Lord of the Hunt
Virtual Warrior
Lord Of The Mist
Paradise
Virtual Heaven


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