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keatingTaylor Keating’s Game Over is a paranormal romance from TOR books, but if it didn’t have a female heroine it would probably be called an action-adventure or a fantasy story. Don’t be misled by the beefcake cover – this story is first and foremost about staying alive. A synopsis is tricky…

River Weston is half fae and half guardian, and the result of a forbidden relationship. Orphaned at birth, she has no idea she’s anything other than human. Then, in her early twenties, she meets a guardian. He tells her what she is, what she needs to do, and finds himself drawn to her – a forbidden relationship.

River Weston is a video game designer, and so eager to solve the bugs in a complex virtual reality game she remarks that she’d be willing to sell her soul. That gets the attention of a dark lord. He’s imprisoned in a virtual reality of his own, but gains limited access to hers, and traps her in her own game. She finds an ally in a game  character who is no longer a game character, but an imprisoned soul. Together, they might be able to win the game. Their survival depends on it.

River Weston is a video game designer in a post apocalyptic world, where werewolves stalk the empty streets. When a game malfunction leaves her apparently trapped in virtual reality, her co-worker and occasional bed partner Nick must protect her as best he can in both the real world and her virtual one. Meanwhile, the police suspect River in the brutal slayings of her other co-workers, and the government agency funding the team is looking for results – and anything that indicates River is unusual.

There’s a lot going on here – almost too much to keep track of. The various plot arcs mean there is no shortage of internal and external threats to our couple, and the pace is brisk, but that’s at the expense of deep investment in any one aspect of the story. The ending is abrupt and leaves many questions unanswered. However, this is part one of the three-part Guardian series. Typically, in a romance series, there several stories with the same setting, or overlapping characters, but each story tells of a different couple. That’s what I expected here, but the Guardian series is different. Each story furthers the relationship of River and Chase, as they encounter new obstacles, so Game Over is largely setting things up.

The core of this story is a couple who do not know or trust each other, forced to work together to survive. Although Guardians are supposed to protect fae, both characters are strong, complex, and protect each other, which I appreciate. There’s also the rare and much appreciated fact that our heroine was sexually active before meeting her partner.  I’m leery of stories where a character learns that a) they are special, and b) they are preordained to save the world, because in clumsy hands the symbolism of this type of story is forgotten while the superficial details remain (sometimes a problem in the fantasy genre). Based on part one, the story, character development, and fantasy aspects of Game Over all work well. I’m curious to see where they go from here. Mind Games is part two, and Fair Game is part three. They also have beefcake covers, but I’ll just ignore that.

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