In Helen “Hell” Roston’s elite black ops world, failure isn’t listed as an option in the rulebook. As the leading guinea pig in a dangerous combination of virtual reality training and a mind-altering serum, though, every day offers a thousand ways to blow it. And the very real sexual chemistry that sizzles between Hell and her trainer is messing with her head even more.
COS Commando Jed McNeil is an expert in mind manipulation games. He’s been chosen to be Hell’s monitor and anchor in the Super Soldier Spy program. Trained to compartmentalize his needs and feelings in an assignment, he’s unprepared by how much Hell affects him.
When the experimental serum gives Helen incapacitating headaches, her pain throws Jed into protect-at-all-costs mode. A position the fiercely independent Hell would rather die than be in. But with a rogue CIA faction out to sabotage the program, Hell has no choice—even if it makes her head explode. It’s trust Jed, or die.
Since the back cover copy pretty much summarizes the story and anything more would spoil it for those who haven’t read the book I am not doing my own summary of the story and I’ll get straight to my thoughts on the book.
When Gennita Low offered an opportunity to review an eARC of VIRTUALLY HERS I was very interested because romantic suspense/action adventure novels intrigue me and was curious how it would work in a futuristic setting. I have several of Low’s books on my bookshelves but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet so this was my first encounter with her work.
I must start by saying that I did not read the first book in this three-book story. Not for lack of trying but I couldn’t get a copy of VIRTUALLY HIS within the deadline to read and review this one so I sort of went in blind. I have an obsessive and compelling need to read books in order and while I must praise Gennita Low for her ability to make it a very good stand-alone read I still felt something was missing for me to fully enjoy the story. It was not that I missed something tangible, just those little nuances that make books that are connected in a way that these are that bit more enjoyable. After reading this book I also found out that VIRTUALLY HIS is the start of the story between Hell and Jed and their story will continue in VIRTUALLY ONE, which is the third book of this trilogy.
This being said I must say I am still overwhelmed by this book, both positively and negatively. Without the head start of VIRTUALLY HIS I had a lot of catching up to do on what was going on, what the game was and who the players were. From the start the intriguing plotline captured my attention and I was wondering where it was all going. In the first part of the book there were many times I would get a bit lost in the technical stuff surrounding virtual reality and remote viewing. I would get distracted from the plot and the romance by the abundance of world building, technology and terminology. This made the pace much slower and the action much less present than I am used to in suspense and action adventure romances, certainly in the beginning. It also didn’t leave much room for the characters to develop and for me to get emotionally connected with them. I think this would have been different if I had been able to read VIRTUALLY HIS before reading this one. Therefore, even though technically it’s not needed to read VIRTUALLY HIS first because very subtle references throughout the book fill in the blanks, for the complete enjoyment of the story between Jed and Hell I am nonetheless inclined to recommend doing so.
Fortunately, after a number of chapters into the story, the plot came to the forefront and started to unravel. I started to catch on as to where things were going and getting into the story much better. The connection with the characters, the pace and the action also started working for me. There were the occasional scenes where I still wasn’t able to completely wrap my mind around the remote viewing and virtual reality stuff because whenever the story would go into the technical details of it, I tended to zone out a bit. Still the storyline and dialogues definitely made up for that and together with the characters and plot developments they were fascinating enough to keep me interested despite my trouble with the technicalities of how remote viewing worked.
When the plot started to unfold and Jed and Hell’s relationship started to develop I became much more enthralled by the book and I think maybe it is my own limited knowledge or interest in the technology that causes my reluctance to embrace the virtual reality and remote viewing because I have to say that Gennita Low knows her stuff. After the stint of world building in the beginning she managed to intertwine it nicely with romance and plot, and intrigue me enough with it to want to know more about it.
At the end there were two things that threw me for a loop. First there was a fairly long flashback scene that, to me, seemed somehow out of place. It would have made more sense and been more logical to me in an earlier spot in the story. I did like this scene a lot because it provided me with more insight in Jed’s character and background. The other thing was the cliffhanger ending and I do not like cliffhanger endings even though this one is understandable and justifiable. Certainly after discovering that the story of Hell and Jed is being told over three books in total and that the Virtually trilogy is not one of stand alone stories on different main characters.
So in short, I really liked this book. It gave me a different kind of romantic suspense from what I am used to reading. Even though the complex and extensive world building and technology took away from pace and action, in my eyes, the combination of characters, romance and plot is definitely unique and well written. My interest in the other installments of this trilogy is definitely sparked as I will continue my search for VIRTUALLY HIS and am looking forward to VIRTUALLY ONE, if only to know how the story of Jed and Hell continues.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10