My review is going to be slightly more frustrated sounding than usual. Also the Rating absolutely reflects how I feel. I waited two whole days to make sure I wasn't just over-reacting to write this review. I still feel the same, so to the two star rating!
When I read the synopsis for this book I was excited. I love dragon-shifters novels, be they romance or fantasy. I've loved dragons all my life and this has carried on into my adult life and reading pursuits. I like the cover to this, though the man on the cover doesn't quite fit the description, I was okay with it, I loved his belt buckle. I was intrigued by Phoebe's scientific plight (the eternal search for the continuous research grant), I emphasized with Dylan's feelings of inadequacy as he buried each family member and friend. I was clapping for Phoebe for standing up to Dylan the first time they met instead of succumbing to his manly charms. I was less pleased with how quickly they both start having fantasies, though at least in Dylan's case he has the dragon to blame.
And I understood both Phoebe's reluctance to enter into the arrangement with Dylan (despite the high money ticket) and her curiosity as to what he was hiding. I was on board with the book for the first 68 pages (yes I can tell you to the page, that's how irritated I became) and looked forward to more fun times of them clashing and sparking.
Then I read the second half of page 68 and my heart dropped, along with my jaw. In the span of three sentences Phoebe went from being professional and keeping Dylan at bay to encouraging him to sleep in the bed with her. Not that this is unusual in any romances, but it gave me a moment of pause.
Things just went downhill from there--in terms of their relationship. It became more and more unbelievable with each passing chapter. To the point that when Phoebe finally got some sense, it felt like a token defense to add a little bit of tension. The rest of the storyline--Phoebe finding a cure for the dragon's disease, or at least some sort of reason for it--kept me interested. When Phoebe was in Scientist Mode, I loved her.
Three things in the end topped things off for me however.
1) A tragedy occurs and Dylan blames Phoebe almost entirely for it happening and there is angry sex involved (it bordered on non-consensual at one point, when Phoebe realized Dylan wasn't just being sexy aggressive, he was being I'm gonna punish you aggressive). This is never spoken of again, Dylan doesn't apologize, Phoebe doesn't confront him and it all disappears thanks to points two and three.
2) Dylan's angst throughout most of the book after bedding Phoebe becomes moot. All the character growth and development as he struggled with the concept and sought out his people's opinions and realized a personal truth--wiped out because of point number three.
3) Phoebe is the most special being ever. No seriously. In one fell swoop a lot of the mythology stated was pushed aside as Adams came up with an abrupt way for Phoebe to save herself (and ostensibly Dylan), to explain her fears from childhood, and to make it okay for Dylan and her to mate. Never mind there is very little evidence of this fact throughout the course of the novel (the only thing I can think of is tenuous at best given genetics).
I can't in good conscience say I enjoyed this book, or that I would read it again. I am hopeful for the second book (Hidden Embers due out in 2011), because it happens sometimes that all the rage of the first book never appears in the second for me. I really, really hope this holds true.