Shielder (Shielder #1)

Be afraid, Nessa.

Catherine Spangler
Shielder, book one
Kindle Edition, 358 pages
Published February 6th 2014
First published April 1999
ISBN 9780986060274

The Controllers have engineered a virus that is killing Shielders. In the hopes of finding a cure, the Shielders need a human host to get the deadly virus past Controller checkpoints and to a medical lab on the planet Santerra. With her people facing extinction, outcast Nessa dan Ranul volunteers to be the host and is injected with the virus. She has only four weeks to make it to Santerra before it kills her.

When her ship breaks down in deep space, she’s rescued by her most dangerous enemy—a shadower, a bounty hunter who tracks down Shielders. She can’t tell him the truth about her dilemma, or he will turn her in to the Controllers.

Shadower Chase McKnight has an agenda more pressing than claiming bounty rewards—vengeance. He doesn’t have time for a homeless waif who ignites emotions he buried long ago. He refuses to allow anything to deter him from his mission, which results in traveling away from Santerra—while the time bomb inside Nessa is ticking down. But she doesn’t dare trust this man who is an enemy of Shielders.

Their secrets and agendas don’t prevent the growing attraction between them, even as they fight their individual demons—even as time runs out for Nessa. Only love can bring them full circle, offering Chase redemption, and the chance to save Nessa—and ultimately, her people.

Ten years ago, still just a child, Nessa was all but abandoned by her parents due to her medical problems put on by severe seizures. Out of her entire village, only her brother has stayed by her. All others either ignore or curse her. Such is a harsh life for the Shielders, ever hunted by the Controllers.

As a deadly virus begins to annihilate her people, Nessa volunteers to do the one thing that would finally give her life meaning, infecting herself so that she might carry it to someone who could cure it. She has but a few weeks to make to Santerra. And she has great hope in her success, until her ship breaks down in the middle of space... right in the flight path of Chase McKnight, a bounty hunter working for the very souls out to destroy Nessa and her kind.

Chase is one tough pill to swallow. His attitude is rather reminiscent of a Mr. Han Solo, whom I have yet to comprehend why so many women fall all over themselves for such a character. The space cowboy act does not do it for one such as I. At least not outside of a Cowboy Bebop episode.

Back to where I was...

Chase begrudgingly agrees to take Nessa to her destination. Albeit at his own time, own pace, and around his very strict rules of conduct. But while he has Han's attitude, he's got Luke's heart. As he consoles Neesha through her seizures and feeds her foods beyond her imagination, Chase struggles with memories of his past. And, too, with the present as its forcing him back to the one place he doesn't want to return-his lab.

Nessa is, at first, bewildered by Chase. He looks at her. He touches her. He threatens to jettison her pet, her only friend, off his ship. Okay, so that last one more freaked her out than anything else. But even as she breaks his rules and pushes his patience, he remains gentle. And caring. For a while anyway.

While Nessa isn't that leading female who gives it back as good as or better than her male counterpart, she does equally invoke the reader to rise up in support of her. She's respectful. She's determined. But mostly, she's naive.

Chase, meanwhile, ... That man wanted me to hate him. I mean, he really wanted me to hate him. There aren't many characters I feel the need  to vent aloud about but Chase was one of them. It started with their first kiss. Which came out of freaking nowhere and was pushed on Nessa at that. The first *two* times they were intimate, he finished without getting her off. The poor girl had no idea what she was missing. Through it all, she holds strong with her lies and manages to hack the system of Chase's ship when he fails yet again to follow through on his word to get her to her destination.

She sneaks off the ship, buys two child slaves, and pockets his gold. All with good intentions.

And ever driving Chase to infuriating madness. So much so that he declares her his own slave, having indebted herself to him more than she could ever repay. And then sex becomes an obligation.

To which Chase drinks himself into a stupor when he finally realizes how much he's taken advantage of Nessa. First her virginity. Now this.

Amazingly enough, he does manage to make an acceptable marriage proposal once all of the lies come out and Nessa gets her vaccine. Despite the horrible frustration brought on by these two, the story does end rather well. If a bit mushy.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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