Lieutenant Ashwin Malhotra is a Makhai soldier—genetically engineered to be cold, ruthless. Unfeeling. His commanding officers consider him the perfect operative, and they’re right. Now, he has a simple mission: to infiltrate Gideon’s Riders, the infamous sect of holy warriors that protects the people of Sector One.
He’s never failed to execute an objective, but there’s one thing he didn’t anticipate—running into Dr. Kora Bellamy, the only woman to ever break through his icy exterior.
When Kora fled her life as a military doctor for the Makhai Project, all she wanted was peace—a quiet life where she could heal the sick and injured. The royal Rios family welcomed her like a sister, but she could never forget Ashwin. His sudden reappearance is a second chance—if she can manage to touch his heart.
When the simmering tension between them finally ignites, Kora doesn’t realize she’s playing with fire. Because she’s not just falling in love with a man who may not be able to love her back. Ashwin has too many secrets—and one of them could destroy her.
Self-Published – Kit Rocha
Gideon’s Riders, book 1
266 e-book pages
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
Click for more information regarding ratings.
Confession: I am a Kit Rocha addict.
I cannot begin to say how excited I am for the start of the spinoff from the Beyond series. And what a start Gideon’s Riders is.
Now first things first, Kit Rocha tells us Ashwin is a perfectly fine place to start for those who haven’t read the Beyond series. As a person who has read all of those books — with an eagerness — I’ll agree, even though there are mentions of past events and some cameo appearances of other characters. This book starts a few months after the previous story arc ended, so a reader totally new to this world might feel a teeny-tiny bit lost but probably not overwhelmed by any major lack of information. And if you’re starting here with Ashwin, then I can only hope your appetite is whetted enough to get around to start at the beginning of it all — the first nine books + a bunch of novellas are SUPERB.
Ashwin has made a few appearances in previous books, and he’s always been a bit of a scary, dangerous enigma. For much of this book, he was STILL a scary, dangerous enigma. I just…what even…Y’ALL. He’s a Makhai soldier — a genetically modified soldier/assassin altered and trained to a cold-blooded proficiency that’s within a hair’s breadth of being a freaking robot. Basic social tenets and constructs, empathy, compassion, sarcasm, simple knock-knock jokes, how to shake hands…these things are out of his grasp. He was bred to kill and carry out deadly orders with unparalleled efficiency.
Emotions mean he’s destabilizing. Obsessions mean he needs recalibration in the form of prolonged torture.
And he’s FIXATED on Kora.
The gorgeous Doctor Kora who is a miracle worker in saving lives.
So Ashwin…obsessed creepy stalker with his dead-eyed blank stare, or what?
Does Kora have what it takes to humanize him and find his heart — the heart that beats for her?
The setting is a huge turn from the industrial grittiness and hedonism of Sector Four in this dystopian/post-apocalyptic world. Sector One has a fresh and clean green feel to it with its gardens and trees, and a spiritual vibe with temples and acolytes. I sort of knew what to expect, having had a brief visit or two in books past, but I don’t think I was prepared for the overall serenity of the place. Part of me might’ve been a tad worried about religious elements because, make no mistake, this is a sacred place where the royal leader is akin to a god. But those worries were for nothing. More than anything, these folks are peace-loving, full of joy and kindness, and don’t need much reason to celebrate the simple things in life.
This post-war setting is less chaotic, tranquil the best place for Ashwin to find his humanity. A place where he and Kora are both relatively safe. Of course, Ashwin’s there initially for some possible nefarious reasons, but he’s a calculating kind of guy who can hedge his bets and multi-task with peak efficiency. And along with finding his humanity, he may just find a brotherhood in Gideon’s Riders — the warriors who’ve essentially sold their soul to protect the people of the sector.
If you’re looking to identify with Ashwin, it probably won’t happen. All I could do for this guy was hope he wouldn’t fuck up too much. Kora is more relatable with her deep sense of empathy and tenacity — though she’s also just a little bit lost and trying to find her way. But they’ve both got good people on their side.
The sex, when they finally get there, was anything BUT robotic. Good golly. For some reason, I expected Ashwin to be…an inexperienced, unemotional, cyborg. But. Well. Let’s just say that this dude’s efficiency and focus transfers nicely. Very, very nicely indeed.
Ashwin is action packed with lots of moving parts. There’s a lot to untangle with Ashwin as he finds himself and learns how to love Kora. But everything works together flawlessly and comes together to an HEA I could believe in as well as glimpsing a new cast of characters I can’t wait to get to know.
Advance Review Copy generously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.
Super Sexy Excerpt:
He moved slowly. Precisely. It was everything she’d ever known of Ashwin—his seriousness, his meticulous attention to detail—distilled into the gentle glide of his hands as they traced down her arms and over her sides.
He didn’t strip off her dress all at once. He took his time, gathering the soft blue fabric in his fists and coaxing it up inch by inch. It tickled over her skin, an unending caress that he dragged out until the breath she was holding escaped on a moan.
“I have a plan,” he murmured as the dress cleared her head, sending her tousled hair cascading around her face. Ashwin dropped the dress and smoothed the locks back from her cheeks, his fingertips lingering to caress the shell of her ear. “I formulated it when you came to me last night, but I’ve been revising and refining it all day.”
“All—” Her voice broke, and she swallowed—hard. “All day? Surely it’s not complicated enough to warrant that.”
“It’s not about being complicated.” He brushed glancing, maddening touches over her back and the line of her spine on his way to the clasp on her bra. One efficient twist of his fingers and the fabric went loose, one strap slipping from her shoulder. “It’s about being thorough. A man who wouldn’t be meticulous in devising the best way to give you pleasure is a man who doesn’t deserve to touch you.”
“Really?” Another moan built in her throat, and she released it on a shaky sigh. “I think figuring it all out should be part of the fun.” She touched his face, drawing a line from his cheekbone to the corner of his mouth, and smiled when he sucked in a breath. “See?”
Something dangerous burned in his eyes as he turned his head to nip at her fingers. It almost hurt, and the sensation zipped along her nerve endings like an electric shock.
She was trembling now, so she dropped her hand to his shoulder and pulled at the soft cotton of his shirt in silent demand.
He answered by lifting his arms.
Kora didn’t have his patience. She jerked at the fabric, and it caught on his chin and tangled around his arms. He helped her by stripping it away and letting it fall to the floor.
She’d seen him half naked more times than she could count. Most of their interactions had involved his partial nudity. It was different now that she was undressed, too, and that look in his eyes—
Kora slid her arms around him, traced the scratches she’d left on his shoulders the night before, then stepped back until her legs hit the edge of the mattress.
He followed her, looming over her for a dizzying moment before sinking to his knees. He smoothed his thumb over the edge of her simple black panties as his gaze drifted up to hers. “You’ve touched yourself before, haven’t you?”
The question surprised her—and it shouldn’t have. The fact that he wasn’t sure he could feel emotion had no bearing on his sexual experience. He’d mentioned other women, and he must have had domestic handlers.
He’d had sex before. Probably lots and lots of it. She was the inexperienced one here. “I have.”
“Show me.” He caught one of her hands and pressed it to her abdomen, her fingers spread wide beneath his. But instead of guiding her down, he slid their hands up. When she was cupping her breast, he let his touch fall away.
Her cheeks heated, but she didn’t look away as she squeezed her fingers together, pinching her nipple between them. She shivered at the sudden spike of pleasure, more intense because he was watching her so closely.
“You don’t mind it either, do you?” The sudden warmth of his breath on her abdomen kept her shivering. He soothed her with an open-mouthed kiss and the gentle brush of his tongue, so sweet she wasn’t ready for the sudden shock of his teeth closing on her skin. “A little bit of pain.”
Her voice failed her, so she shook her head.
“It’s all right.” He hooked his fingers under her panties and dragged them lower. His mouth followed, hot against her hip and so, so soft. “Sometimes pain is a warning. But like this, with someone you trust…” She anticipated the jolt this time, but she still swayed when his teeth sank into her skin. “It’s a different kind of sensation.”
Her knees would barely hold her. “Ashwin…”
About the Author:
Kit Rocha is the pseudonym for co-writing team Donna Herren and Bree Bridges. After penning dozens of paranormal novels, novellas and stories as Moira Rogers, they branched out into gritty, sexy dystopian romance.
The Beyond series has appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and was honored with a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice award. Find out more at kitrocha.com, or sign up to be notified of their next release.