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Getting to Yes: "Unclaimed" by Nathalie Gray

by Red Sage Publishing

I have a confession to make. I’ve been wrestling a bit with how to explain my decision to buy Nathalie’s novella, Unclaimed.

Part of the reason for this is that there were so very many reasons we bought it. For me to explain all of them would turn this post into a novella all on its own. So I’m going to leave for another day all the reasons Nathalie is so marvelous to work with — really, from the editor’s perspective, she does everything right — and for today, we’ll talk about this story.

The first thing I noticed about Unclaimed was the strong heroine. Maxine Fields is the captain of a cargo freighter which she crews all by herself. She’s smart, independent, strong, and unafraid. All of this is apparent right from the opening lines, but it’s tempered with a wry humor that makes Maxine very appealing. She’s not just a killer babe with a big gun. She’s got a warm heart, and a cheeky, self-deprecating sense of humor, too.

As I was reading the opening scenes and admiring the deft way Nathalie balanced this complex character, I also noticed something else, something very subtle and beautiful. It has to do with the way Nathalie balances the very real tension created by Edmond’s appearance on the ship with the way she sets up the erotic romance. Edmond is a threat. Maxine is smart enough to know this, and strong enough to get the best of him and lock him away in a holding cell.

But she’s also smart enough — and sensitive enough — to realize there’s more to Edmond than a list of crimes written on the side of a jail pod. The dialogue between Edmond and Maxine highlights this. There’s a tongue-in-cheek undercurrent to their dialogue, even when they’re fighting, that ties in very neatly to Maxine’s wry sense of humor. Edmond can play along with her, even during their chase and fight. This makes him a good match for her — he’s got the strength, plus the wit, that a woman like this would need in a mate.

This sets up the erotic romance beautifully, and OMG are the sex scenes hot. These two go at each other with all the intensity you would expect from two such powerful people. This isn’t sweet, tender, hearts-and-flowers lovemaking. This is sex that mirrors the power struggle between the two characters in the opening scenes, and it will turn your panties into a vapor cloud.

It’s rare to see a strong heroine who doesn’t turn to submissive slush around her strong, dominant hero. Maxine never loses her core character even while opening her heart (and body) to Edmond. And even though there were a thousand reasons I wanted to buy this manuscript, in the end, what clinched the deal was Maxine’s character. She gave her alpha hero a reason to be alpha, and that makes Unclaimed a really fun read.

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