Lora Leigh continues her Breeds series and the newest to join the ranks is Dawn Daniels. The runt and last of the original Pride, it's Dawn's turn for her story. A Cougar, Dawn has dealt with her share of troubles from the past. Discounting all the normal tortures including mental, emotional, and physical that's to be expected from the Breed series, the new element to Dawn's story is that she's buried her past. Hence the title of Dawn's Awakening.
A nice element in this book for long time Breed readers? A lot of the earlier characters appear. Callan, Taber, Wolf, Merc, etc. Due to the fact that Dawn's character is seen from the first original Breed e-book, her family appears as her inner circle. Since moving the Breeds from the e-format to a mass market Berkley, the characters that already had their stories from the very beginning have always made a passing mention here and there since the premiere of Megan's Mark. Callan, specifically since he is their leader and the one to free them. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see more than Callan make a significance appearance. Wolf and his family, especially his daughter Cassie, makes a strong impression. It is quite clear that Cassie will take on as a sort of 'second generation' Breed as her story was definitely a set up for a future book. However, if the reader is hoping for an appearance by our last hero, Tanner, sadly enough, he was only mentioned in one sentence in relation to Scheme now pregnant with twins. Readers met the hero back in Taber's book, at the tail end with the introduction of Seth Lawrence and his father in relation to Taber's mate, Roni. It has now taken until now to see the reemergence of characters that readers met so early on.
The story itself was typical Breed: Breed character has suffered greatly from the time of their imprisonment and has used that to hold off their eventual mate. However, some things differentiate Dawn's Awakening from the others. Most obviously, we're back to a female Breed and a male human. It appears that Berkley is asking for books to spotlight Breeds of alternating sex every other book. We began the Berkley printed series with Braden, a male Breed, then to Harmony, a female, Tanner, back to male, and now Dawn. It's obvious that we're switching every other book.
Dawn and Seth have been in mating heat for the past 10 years. Though that plot line is not all that outstanding in a Breed book, the fact that it was instigated only by a slight touch was surprising. Not even a kiss like with other Breeds such as Braden and Harmony. Looks like Leigh is trying to find new ways for her characters to discover their mates. Much like Tanner's Scheme where the reader was held in suspense whether or not Tanner and Scheme were in mating heat at all, even to the later half of the book. But what makes Dawn's Awakening mating heat sequence interesting? For 10 years Dawn has avoided Seth and in turn, Seth stayed away having been shown the atrocities that were taped of Dawn suffered as a child. With that knowledge, in the prologue, we see that Seth has been warned to stay away from Dawn and he complies though he already admits that he loves her. Ten years later, the most surprising knowledge is that Seth has moved out of mating heat and is engaged to be married. The kicker? Dawn has not moved out of her mating heat.
Let's discuss the character of Dawn. Personally, I think there's always an extra challenge when the Breed is the female. The reason? The hero has to be obviously extra strong and alpha to match up. A writer can get away with more 'alpha male' tendencies of character when writing in the paranormal sub genre. That's obvious. There's a popular trend now with the notion of 'mates' in which paranormal characters can feel beyond a doubt who is their destined mate. Coupled with that notion, alpha males are given more slack in terms of arrogance, etc where a contemporary non-paranormal male character could not get away with. So, when the Breed is a female, not only must the male be written to be able to match the female, but an expected element of Leigh's Breeds is the protectiveness of characters in regards to their mates. Both males and females though the males are obvious. We see Dawn getting jealous and protective of Seth throughout the book. However, Leigh nicely balances the scales in which Seth, the ex-Special Forces, is quite capable in fighting and is equally protective of Dawn. Overall, although I was hesitant in reading another female Breed, since I didn't like the way Harmony was written in terms to Lance, I thought that Leigh did a good job in making Dawn tough as any other Breed, but with an obvious vulnerability to her character as well. There was something achingly tender about her haunting dreams and the obvious need for her to face her past before it gets too late.
Seth was the one to put a halt to things in this book. Since he knows the devastating effects of mating heat, he refuses to enter in it again as he comes into contact with Dawn once more. Even it was sometimes frustrating to see him try to get rid of Dawn under the pretense of not wanting to hurt himself nor Dawn, it was still understandable. The main driving force and block in their relationship is Seth's great reluctance in making Dawn somehow look at him and see the captors from her painful past. Along with that, Seth just wants to settle down. He knows that his choice of a bride won't come near to what he feels/felt with Dawn, but at least he can have something in his life.
The action plot was your usual 'life or death situation' for the Breeds with an apparent assignation attempt on Seth for control of his corporation and his support of the Breeds. Another underlying plot was centered around Cassie. Cassie is no longer the young child that we met in Elizabeth's Wolf. She's now a young adult and is coming into her own. Rumored to have odd, almost psychic powers, Cassie's the one to tell Seth ten years before that the day will come for Dawn's awakening and that ultimately she would return to Seth. Cassie also adds another layer of paranormal with her constant contact of Dawn's childhood projection. There's someone out there obviously watching Cassie, especially in the end, and it's apparent that the unknown character will either end up in her book or may actually be her future mate. Cassie is definitely a strong secondary character throughout the book.
Ironically, though Mercury's the next book up, he's only mentioned briefly as a part of Dawn's team but no more information into his story. However, Merc should be an interesting book since he has found and ultimately lost his mate in the past. We'll see how Leigh handles the issue...
Another point of Dawn's Awakening was the intensity of the scenes. Namely, sex. Almost seeming to take a step down from the more extreme scenes of Tanner's Scheme, Dawn and Seth's scenes are much more mainstreamed. Though it fit for Tanner's character and his reputation for being the wild Bengal along with his twin. Overall, Dawn's Awakening wasn't as 'extreme' as the previous book and though it was written in the language and style to be expected of Leigh, it wasn't at the 'higher' level of Tanner's Scheme. The move was probably a good tactical move on the part of Leigh and her editors/publishers. Some reviews on Amazon noted that Tanner's Scheme was "too much" even for regular Leigh readers, and to say that is really saying something.
There was not a lot of unexpected twists in terms of plot if compared to other Breeds. In my opinion, this one was more character driven by the couple rather than the action plot. However, the moving of the entire Breed story line would take place on behalf of Cassie's side story that appeared along with the main story of Dawn. Though not the strongest of the books, it was enough to keep me reading and have a drive to finish the story. This one was an easy read, though I think the emotional depths were not hit in terms of other Breeds. It wasn't as emotional as Tanner's constant wondering whether or not Scheme was good/bad and if she was his mate. The emotion for Tanner was his struggle in the fact that he fell in love with the full knowledge that his body was not showing mating heat signs. That constant internal battle didn't appear in Dawn or Seth. Even though the book was emotional in terms of what Dawn had suffered and the sacrifice of Seth in walking away, Leigh could have taken the opportunity to extract more reaction from her readers.
3 out of 5: Good read. Will become a 'keeper' solely because I already own the other Berkley Breed books and will continue with the series. However, it won't be a re-read copy.