Rejar by Dara Joy
(Leisure Love Spell, $5.99, NC-17, ISBN 0-505-52178-4
*****

Take an over-sexed, alpha-plus alien and drop him in the middle of Regency England, and what happens? You have a wild, sexy, funny and original romance novel that is sure to steam up your cold winter nights.

Rejar is a Familiar from the planet Aviara. As a Familiar, he has the ability to change from man to cat and to send telepathic messages. But the defining characteristic of Familiars is their absolute devotion to all things sensual. Frankly, they live for sex.

Rejar is the sequel to Knight of a Trillion Stars, and apparently at the end of that novel, Rejar saved his brother's life by stepping into a time tunnel. He winds up in Regency England in his cat form, in the coach belonging to a young woman named Lilac Devere and her Aunt Agatha. Lilac decides to take this striking black cat home with her. Boy, is she in trouble now!

Rejar looks around, decides to make the best of a difficult situation, and immediately sets out to make a sexual conquest out of Lilac. At first, he appears to her in his human form at night, convinces her that she is dreaming, and slowly introduces her to her own sensual side. Then he starts attending Society events as Prince Nicholai Azov of Russia so he can openly pursue her. Problem is, he can't understand why Lilac doesn't immediately fall in bed with him like the women of his home planet. His worst nightmare is of landing in a world where beautiful women are forbidden to enjoy sex - that couldn't be happening to him, could it? Then he realizes that Lilac is the one woman he wants to take as his permanent mate -- why can't she understand that nobody rejects that kind of offer from a Familiar male? He will have her, whether she wants him or not!

The irony of this sexual god making his way in repressed Regency Society is just too delicious. This isn't just a fish out of water - it's a fish in outer space. I was surprised by how much I liked Rejar. Yes, he's arrogant and high-handed, but he is just doing what comes naturally to his Familiar personality, and you can't really blame him for it. Besides, he is loyal, honest, caring and concerned for the poor and downtrodden of England.

Dara Joy melds the cat and man personalities so well that the transformations seem absolutely fluid. The cat is haughty yet playful -- like the man. The man loves to be stroked and cuddled, and has a predilection for biting - just like the cat.

Lilac Devere's character, I'm afraid, suffers slightly in comparison, but how could a young, innocent Regency maiden be as compelling as an alien hero? She is an "old maid" at 20, disgusted with the confines of her gender and station, with a latent sensuality that is slowly uncovered by Rejar, often against her will. As a sheltered innocent, she has no idea how unusual Rejar is. The scene in which she unknowingly reveals his sexual proclivities to a quilting circle is hysterical, as the staid matrons almost swoon with envy. While Lilac is a good match for Rejar, she never quite comes alive as he does.

And boy, did Rejar come alive for me! The love scenes in this book are not for the faint-hearted. We are talking explicit sex and plenty of it. While the prose sometimes bordered on purple, it was...very effective.

Midway through the novel, Rejar's half-brother, Traed, shows up to help him. Traed is not a Familiar, but a half-wizard who has apparently suffered personal tragedy that has made him deny his magical skills. He is a somber but stalwart fellow, and I'm sure we will be seeing him in his own novel soon. The hero and heroine from Knight of a Trillion Stars make cameo appearances as well. I haven't yet read the original novel, but found that didn't detract from my enjoyment of Rejar.

While most of the novel takes place in Regency England, we see a little of Aviara, Rejar's home planet, and learn about the mystic Charls, wizards and Familiars who inhabit it. At first I was a little confused by the Aviaran terminology. Some things are never explicitly spelled out (maybe they were in Knight of a Trillion Stars), but I was able to infer most of it.

The novel is not perfect - the writing is a little rough in places, and I found a few editing goofs that were laughable ("except" instead of "accept;" "loose" instead of "lose" -- don't the publishers think romance readers know how to spell as well as read?). But page for page it was the most original, enjoyable novel I've read in months, maybe years. Put aside your affection for sensitive, modern guys who can communicate, cook and co-parent - and fall in love with Rejar.

--Susan Scribner


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