Feehan is a new-to-me author. This series, Sisters of the Heart, revolves around six women who meet during grief counselling and are all victims of violent crimes. The women are drawn to each other and decide to jointly purchase a 130-acre farm in Sea Haven, where they share the responsibility of taking care of the property in addition to pursuing their own interests. They work to restore the farm so that it is operational, and each of them receives five acres to herself. They all work together in building each other's homes. Each of the women also has a psychic gift: They all appear to be bound to an element. Their love for each other also binds them together. Although they may not be related by blood, their affinity for each other binds them in their hearts.
Rikki, the protagonist, is a sea urchin diver. She loves the water and is drawn to it. Her autism makes every-day life a challenge: She cannot buy groceries because fluorescent lighting has a negative effect on her, she needs her routines to give her stability, her diet is very limited because she doesn't like certain food textures, and she does not like anyone in her personal space. However, when she is in the water - her element - she is free. There is nothing more calming for her. Rikki cannot create water that isn't there, but she can manipulate the water around her - directing the rain to beat down faster or slower or making the waves increase or decrease in intensity.
As if her autism was not challenging enough, Rikki has had a lot of tragedy in her life. At the age of 13, her parents were killed in a house fire. Rikki was bounced around from foster home to foster home, and two of the foster homes that she lived in were also destroyed by fire although there were no casualties in either incident. Even her fiancé was killed in a fire on her houseboat. Although never criminally charged for any of the crimes, Rikki's biggest fear is that she somehow caused the fires or started the fires while she was asleep! How can it be merely a coincidence to have been affected by fire on so many occasions?
When Rikki rescues a man during a storm at sea, her world is turned upside-down. This man has no memory of who he is or what happened to him. He tells Rikki that his name is Lev and that he is in danger. She wants to take him to the hospital for treatment of his concussion, but he insists that it would not be safe for him there and that she take him back to her home. Although his first instinct is to act defensively and in self-preservation mode, Rikki is not scared of him - not even when he grasps her around the neck as if to choke her in his confusion while drifting in and out of consciousness. What is it about this man that Rikki feels driven to defend and protect?
Rikki's world changes with Lev in it and, while recuperating, the two begin to fall in love. Lev gets his memory back, and we learn that he and his brothers (the Prakenskiis) were taken from their parents as young children and trained by government operatives to be spies/assassins for their country. They learned to withstand pain and torture, and each also developed psychic gifts. Lev's gift is that he is able to communicate with animals.
On the day that Rikki rescued Lev, a yacht owned by a wealthy man went down and his bodyguard was presumed dead. Lev, working undercover, is that bodyguard and his presence puts Rikki in danger when a "cleaner" (someone who is sent to "clean up" messes by way of assassination) is sent to Sea Haven to determine whether Lev really did perish in the accident.
I could not help but fall in love with Rikki. She is such a unique and unusual heroine. Feehan has a way of writing that immerses you into the character's world. Her insight into autism makes me wonder whether she is autistic herself or has a loved one who is. Despite her autism, Rikki finds a way to make a life for herself where she not only copes but thrives. She truly is a remarkable woman!
I enjoyed the effect that Rikki had on Lev, and I enjoyed how their relationship developed. I love the way that Lev accepts Rikki's boundaries, but he also pushes her a little out of her comfort zone all the while giving her stability to ground her. I really couldn't help but fall in love with Lev, too!
Rikki's and Lev's steamy scenes are totally hot! One scene went on for one whole part of the audiobook, which was over an hour! I am glad that I wasn't driving when I was listening to that part, but it sure made doing the laundry a whole lot more fun! I think that this book is the most explicit that I have listened to.
During the story, we learn that the Drake Sisters of Sea Haven also have special powers and that one of Lev's brothers is married to a Drake sister. Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is an entire series for the Drake Sisters! Not only do I plan to continue reading the Sisters of the Heart series, but now I simply must read the Drake Sisters series as this one seems to be a spin-off of that one.
I became so sucked into this series that I just had to host a Reading Challenge for it on my blog!
The narrator, Angela Brazil, suited Rikki perfectly! She is an absolute pleasure to listen to. I loved her Russian accent for Lev's voice at the beginning, although I wish she would have continued it throughout the book. Unfortunately, once Lev assumed the identity of "Levi," he no longer used his accent. Sometimes it can be hard for female narrators to successfully pull off narrating male voices, but not so in this case!
MY RATING: 5 stars!! Loved it!!