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The Mandrake Company #2

Trial and Temptation

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After ten years of flying freighter ships from planet to planet, Val Calendula never thought she would apply for a job as a combat pilot in a mercenary outfit. But her brother has gotten himself into financial trouble, and he’s heading to a mining prison if Val can’t pay off his debts. Mercenaries don’t always live long... but they make good money while they’re alive. A few combat bonuses, and Val could earn what she needs. The problem? She might have graduated from the military flight academy, but she hasn’t fought anything more dangerous than dust bunnies on the bridge lately. To make matters worse, the man in charge of hiring pilots was her instructor back at the academy. Commander Thatcher was almost as brilliant as he was arrogant and condescending, and he never seemed to think Val was smart enough to be there. She has no idea if she’ll be able to convince him otherwise now... or if she’ll be able to stand working with him.

When Gregor Thatcher left the military, he never expected to run into any of his former acquaintances, much less the one he admired and mooned over during his two years teaching at the academy. Back then, he never told Val Calendula he cared for her, partially because officers weren’t supposed to have relations with cadets, but mostly because he didn’t know how to speak of his feelings. He might not have any trouble grasping navigational mathematics and astrodynamics, but people are more problematic. Gregor is elated that Val has entered his life again, but he’s fairly certain she hates him. Worse, he’s responsible for deciding whether she’s qualified to be a combat pilot. How can he judge fairly when his tongue tangles and idiotic words come out of his mouth whenever she’s around?

When the captain sends Val and Gregor on a mission to pick up a military advisor and deliver him to a planet at war, Val hopes she’ll have an opportunity to prove herself capable of the piloting position. Gregor hopes he’ll have the opportunity to improve Val’s opinion of him. But when the military advisor goes missing, and they’re forced to divert to a dangerous moon base, the mission turns into a fight for survival. Val may learn too late that there’s more to Gregor than that aloof exterior… and that inside is a man she could love.

Trial and Temptation is a full-length science fiction romance novel of 73,000 words. It is part of the “Mandrake Company” series and is recommended for readers who enjoy space-based adventure (such as Firefly) and steamy love stories (in the style of Linnea Sinclair).

250 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 17, 2014

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Ruby Lionsdrake

28 books470 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 134 reviews
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,901 reviews1,510 followers
March 18, 2015
Although you could probably read this one as a stand-alone (seriously, the characters from the previous figure very, very lightly in this one), I still recommend you read in order. Not only will you have a good idea what to expect, but the first story is ever so slightly better, I think.

Not that there's anything wrong with Val or Gregor. Indeed, they're lovely and a great couple; I fell for Val almost immediately and Gregor wasn't far behind. The plot was much more straight-forward, though, and the sci-fi just a tad lighter sprinkled, so the story as a whole felt a lot more linear. Probably because it was a lot more linear. There's really no tension about whether of not Val would qualify and be offered a position with the company, for example (it's clear she is a good pilot from the start—however rusty). And I never quite felt the danger they were in throughout, somehow.

Which makes it sound like this was a weak story and nothing could be further from the truth. It's action-packed and gripping and the pacing is excellent. Indeed, I gulped it down in a few short binges and emerged eager to find the next. So far, this series is shaping up very well, indeed.

A note about Steamy: Way lighter than I expected, actually. There's some light kissing but only really a single explicit scene that, while very hot and not short, is still all alone by itself... Well worth the wait, though...
Profile Image for Beth.
3,127 reviews262 followers
June 8, 2020
Trial and Temptations is an action packed, science fiction story that includes space travel, planetary war and an endearing romance between a socially awkward genius pilot and a hotty pilot recruit.

Geogor Thatcher had a huge crush on his training Val Calendula. He never thought he'd see her again once he left the military. Val Calendula needs money to save her brother. She joins the mercenary crew of the Mandrake Company only to discover the man that tormented her military career, Georgor Thatcher, is now in charge of her fate in the Mandrake Company.

Sent on a desperate mission to transport a general to a war riddled planet, Geogor and Val discover appreciation for each other flight skills while the attraction between them blooms. Geogor seems to be suffering from Asperger, which makes his pursuit and attraction to Val and Val's ability to see beyond his botched attempts very endearing.

I found Trial and Temptations a highly entertaining and a very enjoyable read.

Written by: Ruby Lionsdrake
Series: Mandrake Company
Sequence in Series: 2
Print Length: 203 pages
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Scifi | Fantasy
Find this book on: Amazon

Reviewed for: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Cheesecake.
2,670 reviews358 followers
September 21, 2019
Loved this one.

Ten years ago he was her teacher and she thought he hated her. Now she depends on his good opinion to get the job as a pilot for the Mandrake Mercenary outfit.
Val truly didn't like him when they first knew each other. As they are forced into close company she realizes she had misjudged him and once she sees that she starts to appreciate him.

Gregor is written like he's autistic but nothing concrete is ever said. He's crushed on her for years. There's a war they are paid to intervene and a jackass admiral who clouds the waters with his prejudices.

But mostly it's a raucous stage for Val and Gregor to fall in love on.

I look forward to seeing them in the next books in the series.

Safety is good

Profile Image for Mei.
1,881 reviews410 followers
May 18, 2015
This is a second installment where another set of characters are the hero and the heroine.

We've already met the hero: Thatcher, the strict and almost cyborg-ish member of the Mandrake mercenaries! :)

Here we discover that he is yes, strict and sometime seems like he has no feeling, but he's also very perplexed with why other people do not understand his actions! It was hilrious to read! LOL

The heroine, a "normal" woman first loathes him, but when they're thrown together in a very dangerous situation, she cahnges her point of view. She glimpses his humanity and realizes that he has strong feelings, but is unable to express them.

Slowly, she pulls out his feelings and introduces him to a more human approach to life! It was endearing to read and I liked that too!

A great SF romance with a lot of action, damger and some real hot moments! :)
Profile Image for Elizabeth Stephens.
Author 21 books614 followers
June 29, 2020
4.5 stars. Weird assault scene. Terrible covers. But still a fantastic and refreshing series overall

I really loved this one, almost and maybe as much as the first. Great leads, great build up, totally fun and dynamic characters. However I really did not like that a sexual assault takes place and the culprit is not only able to get away with it, but remains a decorated hero afterwards and the whole incident is brushed off.

I also (again same as the first book) wish there were more sexy scenes (there's just one) though the build up almost makes up for the lack. Lastly, I really really hate the covers. They are cheap and tacky and do not represent the quality of the novels!
Profile Image for Vero.
1,420 reviews9 followers
July 14, 2015
Another winner in this series! I very much liked Thatcher. He was so clumsy, but still so good.
His interactions, his inner motives, the dialogues - it all made the book so enjoyable.
The love interest was also very nicely done. An interesting and relatable woman. No beauty contestant, no wonder woman. Just a nice gal.
The story had the same great pace and good writing. I like the world-building a lot and it was very nice to meet again with the mercenaries of the Mandrake company.
Profile Image for Eirene.
150 reviews16 followers
November 16, 2015
I want a dwarf mango tree.

I liked it, maybe not as much as the first and third book but it was a satisfying read anyway. The hero reminded me of Zachary Quinto's Spock but like... shier and obsessed with flying.

Profile Image for Whitney (whtnymllr).
Author 1 book38 followers
March 27, 2022
Fantastic Sci-Fi Romance!

Wow! This is so well done. I’ve been struggling to find a sci-fi romance that I’m excited about, and this 100% hit the spot. Definitely has a bit of a Firefly feel to it, but with romance. It’s Super sweet with a bit of steam at the very end, but I wouldn’t call it a slow burn since the kiss pretty early. The two leads felt really compatible with each other. Also, they each had a personal plot line to resolve and the mistakes they made really made sense for their characters. No forced miscommunication nonsense here!

Gregor is a total sweetheart despite having a Spock-like exterior. The word autism is never used, but he’s clearly on the spectrum. And it’s really well done — you really get that he processes and reacts to the world differently, and his portrayal is consistent. (It absolutely drives me crazy when a character suddenly gains neurotypical social skills because the romance is progressing — and that does NOT happen here.)

I liked Val a lot too — her reactions were really understandable, but she also is patient and gives people second chances — even when it’d be socially acceptable for her not to. She really listens to all the characters she interacts with, which made me feel like she was a perfect match for Gregor, who has trouble expressing how he feels.
Profile Image for Jessica.
500 reviews57 followers
July 27, 2020
Autistic or eideditic hero -- different
Profile Image for Judy Lewis.
1,566 reviews42 followers
January 8, 2018
Title: Trial and Temptation
Series: Mandrake Company
Author: Ruby Lionsdrake
Designation: Book Two of Series, Full-Length Standalone Sci-Fi Romance, NO Cliffhanger
Genre: #sciencefiction #romance #action #adventure
Reading Platform: Kindle Edition
My Rating: Five Delightfully Entertaining Stars*****
Jackpot! I've found another great author to add to my list of favorites! This is my first time reading Ruby Lionsdrake but it certainly won't be my last! I love, love, love romance and adore science fiction, but throw in a generous serving of pulse-pounding action, thrilling adventure along with a sprinkling of snarky humor and I'm in heaven! And Ruby Mandrake just delivered the perfect combination in Trial and Temptation, the second riveting release in her popular Mandrake Company series. Granted, I sorta started out of order by reading Book Two without realizing it was the second of the series but no problem, each of the books are full-length standalones and can be read in any order. However, I did race back to Amazon and picked up Mercenary Instinct, the first book of the series, so I can read it next and then resume reading them in chronological order. Trial and Temptation is an exciting, imaginative, fast-paced exceptionally well crafted, well written and well edited science fiction romp filled to the brim with action, adventure, danger, humor and romance. The narrative is beautifully written in the third person with clearly defined his and her perspectives from the two protagonists, handsome mercenary Commander Gregor Thatcher and beautiful former freighter pilot and hopeful new mercenary, Valerian Calendula. Neither Gregor nor Val are your traditional hero or heroine but I fell head over heels for both. They were not your typical lovers either...you know...love at first sight...meeting and instantly falling into lust and love. In fact, these two unlikely lovers met ten years earlier when Val entered the Galactic Conglomeration as a cadet and Gregor was Lieutenant Commander Thatcher, her academy instructor....her very arrogant, pompous, know-it-all instructor. And apparently he hasn't changed a bit, so get ready for some fireworks with these two. They were the cutest couple ever and absolutely perfect together, playing off each other brilliantly. The entire dialogue was smart, sexy, at times funny, well executed and flowed effortlessly. I was immediately drawn into the story by the snark and attitude of the strong, sassy Val who was determined to secure a job as a mercenary in order to make enough money to bail her brother, Yarrow, out of trouble but was so afraid she might fail since her former academy nemesis, Commander Thatcher, would be the one to decide if she could pass muster and become a permanent employee of Mandrake Company. Val was an absolute delight and poor Gregor was far from your typical charismatic alpha male hero. Poor thing...he was totally clueless when it came to wooing a woman but I have to give him an A+ for effort. Once he set his mind to the task, and, of course, put it on his list, he's determined to win the heart of cadet Calendula. And yes, the brilliant Commander had a list for everything! lol.... No spoilers from me but I will say if you enjoy thrilling well-written science fiction loaded with danger, drama, action, adventure and steamy romance, then Trial and Temptation is most certainly the book for you.

Did I like this book? No, I LOVED it! I was immediately drawn into the story and once I started, I couldn't stop. I read well into the wee hours of the morning; I simply had to discover, do they or don't they, and I was not disappointed! Would I recommend it? You bet and I am but only for adult readers since there are some steamy love scenes included. Will I read this author again? Abso-freakin-lutely! As a matter of fact, as soon as I finish this review, I intend to devour Book One, then hopefully pace myself on three other books in the series. And the most important question of all, was I entertained? Oh lawd, yes! Totally and completely entertained. I loved it! Fabulous entertainment and an awesome read.
Profile Image for ~♥*Marianna*♥~.
664 reviews47 followers
October 22, 2020
Oh goodness, that was adorable! With some nice action thrown in!
Thatcher’s mind processes were hilarious and Val dealt with his quirks perfectly!
The ending left me feeling all “awwwww” and smiley.

Their relationship was the main plot with the mercenary mission as a vehicle to their interactions. I really enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Jo  (Mixed Book Bag).
2,619 reviews48 followers
December 25, 2014
I loved Mercenary Instinct and could not wait to visit the Mandrake Company again. Commander Gregor Thatcher was a side character in Mercenary Instinct (he got a small mention only) and Val Calendula is a brand new character in the series. However, the two are not strangers. They met years ago when Val was a cadet and Gregor was one of her commanding officers. Now both have left the military and are part of the Mandarke Company.

I think Gregor Thatcher is one of the best awkward male characters I have ever had the privilege to meet. He is brilliant in his field but he just does not get small talk or how to relate to the people around him. He tries so hard to appeal to Val and everything he says just comes out wrong. For me that was his big appeal. It takes being stranded in a very dangerous situation for Val to see him and appreciate him for the wonderful man he really is. The two have to carry Trial and Temptation and they do a very good job of keeping things moving.

As always in a series I would have liked to see more of the characters from book one but that did not keep me form enjoying adding Gregor and Val to the list of my favorite characters. The fact that this is primarily Gregor and Val’s story means that it functions well as a stand along story. I still recommend reading Mercenary Instinct first and after you finish these two you can move on to book three The Assassin’s Salvation.
Profile Image for Kelly.
4,836 reviews168 followers
August 19, 2020
I'm digging this series. Not just because it's about mercenaries in space (although that's a big part of the draw), but because these characters are so nicely flawed. Gregor has zero social skills and comes across as hard, arrogant, and overly obsessed with the rules. In reality, he simply can't relate to others with ease and has to rely on his flawed understanding of social cues when he interacts with them.

Man, I felt for the guy. For all he acts like a robot, he's well aware that his responses are something that get made fun of. And yet, he can't help it. He's responding the only way he knows how. I loved loved loved that moment of clarity Val had when she saw he wasn't trying to demean her or act arrogant, it was just the way he was.

Honestly, it isn't arrogance so much as Gregor has a very logical mind. He's extremely literal and he doesn't quite grasp how people don't say what they mean. To be fair, he holds himself to the same high standard he sets for those under him. Which means his attraction to Val throws his life into disarray because she doesn't fit into a neat box. She's sassy and makes sex jokes at inappropriate moments.

I kinda liked that about her.

I have a couple more books to go with this series and I'm loving on the crude, rude, yet honorable mercs making their living in space.

-Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal
Profile Image for Cogito_ergo_sum.
591 reviews14 followers
May 11, 2016
3 stars.

This sci-fi romance was action packed with laser gun fights, fighter jets(?), and assassins. Furthermore, the novel was well written with clean prose. But what I liked most of all was that the hero was unique. It isn't often that a romance lead has a social mental disorder. (I suspect he has some degree of autism.) His genuine effort to try to interact with people made him very likeable, in my opinion, and memorable. The heroine, on the other hand, while some of her internal dialogue was amusing at first, grew somewhat boring later on in the story. Compared to the hero, she wasn't as interesting.

This is the first book that I've read in the series, and I'll look at the other books too.
Profile Image for Szinna.
413 reviews12 followers
October 2, 2016
Wow, egy nagyon érdekes főhőssel találkoztam ebben a könyvben. Bár nincs kimondva, a főhős nyilvánvalóan Asperger szindrómás, aki nem tudja megfejteni mások érzelmeit, nem is próbál hazudni, mert csak még jobban összezavarná ezzel saját, kicsi rendezett és logikus világát. Emellett zseniális pilóta és matematikus, aki tökéletesen tisztában van elszigetelt helyzetével, és hiányosságaival. Mindez pedig finom humorral megfogva remek karaktert eredményezett. Mikor át kell nézni egy csomó helyet, de az első a listában nem az, amit a hősnő és a logika javasol, hősünk zavarát hősnőnk finoman a lista átrendezésével megoldja.
A hősnő érzelmei túl gyorsan fordultak át, és a történet második felében az akciók nem igazán izgalmasak, de ez miatt csak egy csillag levonás jár.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,709 reviews6 followers
July 2, 2016
This book was perfectly fine, but I enjoyed it slightly less than the first one of the series. While all of the elements that I previously enjoyed were there: funny dialogue/inner monologue, alternating third person povs, a slow burn romance, a steadfast and loyal H, and lack of ow/om drama, overly explicit intimate scenes and foul language, this story fell flat for me. Maybe it's because the H reminded me so much of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory and his inner monologue was frustrating. It's strange that I'd find a book about mercenaries caught in a war zone boring, but there you have it. I kept looking for something else to read. I wish I liked this more.
Profile Image for Samantha.
725 reviews29 followers
September 7, 2015
Maybe closer to 2.5 stars, but I read this right off the heels of GAMES OF COMMAND, which I am fairly certain colored my view quite a bit. It didn't quite live up to expectations and wasn't as well written, which made it more of a tedious - rather than fun - read....(the insta-love on Val's part was also SO annoying to me sighs - I get regretting her misunderstanding of his behavior, but it switched into love just a bit too fast to be believable for me).
Profile Image for Jess.
1,487 reviews102 followers
December 28, 2014
This is the second book in the series, I liked it a little more than the first. The characters were a little more engaging and I found myself rooting for them more. The plot was still intense with a lot of details and fighting. This series definitely feels like it's leaning more towards more science fiction than romance. I'm going to bench the series for a bit and come back to it.
Profile Image for Grace.
246 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2015
A lot of people say they like this story better than Viktor and Ankira's. I felt that there was definitely more angst in Val and Gregor's story than the first.

I'll be interested to see how Yarrow's issues work out.

Basically, if you liked the Mandrake universe, you'll like this!
Profile Image for Nessa.
2,982 reviews39 followers
October 21, 2018


OUR HERO reminds me very much of Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper. Except for the hot bod and the handsome face, his mannerisms, his intellect and the way he tackles problems and excels in his studies makes him close to perfect - a cold robot. I rather like characters like him because it's nice to see how the misunderstood, awkward man gets the girl and how it happens is oh so intriguing. There was that here...except it didn't reach my expectation. What would have made this better would be an ongoing, slow building sensual chemistry between the two. The story started off with me wondering WHEN we will get to the attraction to start. It did surprise me when the heroine suddenly kissed him when they were locked in freezer container...the mood just didn't call for that kind of abrupt romantic scene to be honest. While the kiss scenes were nice, the passion and attraction just ended along with it UNTIL the next one initiates again. The consistency of their emotions just didn't flow in my opinion, which is rather sad. As a character, I did like Gregor. I think he's like the hot nerd, and he's the kind of man I would want to be stranded with because he's resourceful with his quick mind I just want to jump his bones.

OUR HEROINE, I had a hard time liking. Frankly because she kept judging the hero (I know he deserved them but when you read about his thoughts...it just seemed unfair) and she's always so sarcastic towards him and basically not that loveable or cute....she seems kind of selfish too. I didn't think she was the right kind of character for a vulnerable man like Gregor. I don't mind that she seems more the hard ass and woman with her own mind...but she just appears like she's also constantly trying to prove herself and gahh...she just rubs me the wrong way. She's hot but to me she's not cute and endearing at all. All her actions just doesn't appear genuine.

OVERALL this would have been better if the heroine was acceptable to me, but I also wished there was a true chemistry and sexual tension that built right from the start and not hit me like a brick in the face a few chapters later.
Profile Image for Livvii.
233 reviews
May 25, 2017
What is not to love about this book??

This was another fun and action packed sci-fi adventure. Well written, it grabs you right from the start and takes you on this fast paced mission, with some awesome characters for company. I liked that this book focused on a different member of the Mandrake Company crew. Although we were introduced to some of them in the previous book, we didn't really get a chance to really get to know them. I think that Thatcher was a great character, especially with his social awkwardness. I thought that it made a nice change for the leading male love interest, to not be particularly comfortable or confident when it came to women, and for him to not be good in social situations. I thought that this really showed off the diversity among the characters. I also loved Val's characters, and feel that her character made a good contrast to Thatcher's. The combination of her confidence and Thatcher's difficulty in social issues, provided some good comedy moments.

This story had a really divers range of settings and characters, and each were created with their own individual feel to them. The writing overall had a great flow, and it never felt like the romance side of the story took over from the plot. I would highly recommend this to any science fiction lover; especially if you like a bit of romance thrown in. However I would suggest reading this series in order, as you'll have a better understanding of the world that this is set in, as well as some of the references made to the first book.

A really fun read!
Profile Image for Llaph .
1,054 reviews26 followers
November 18, 2017
Val and Gregor were just an awesome couple. I so love the super smart guy who is confident in his own intelligence, but woefully ignorant when it comes to social interactions. She writes these types of characters so well. Gregor reminded me of at least one of her more recent characters so I knew I was in for a treat.
The background story of the war going on was a nice touch—the admiral was a jerkface however. I mentioned this in my review for the third book, but I’ll mention it hear too. The crap he tried to pull with Val seemed more poignant because of the current events. I always think something like that is despicable, but it is even more so in this story. Simply because a person has position due to money, fame, politics, or whatever doesn’t give them leave to act like that. It has been something that has been known for the longest time … but it just seems different right now. I wonder how this book will hold up in a few years with a situation like that.
I adored seeing how Val and Gregor got together and seeing how their assumptions were just that and how they altered things to work for the other person. Yay for lists~ lol
Profile Image for Cat.
715 reviews7 followers
August 6, 2020
I loved this book, especially how I got major Star Wars vibes but also lots of delicious steam. I adored our nerdy, logical, socially awkward hero -- his point of view is a delight to read. In a contemporary I might have wondered about the possibility of his being on the spectrum but within this context I just thought of him like Spock [yes, I know Spock is *not* from Star Wars][and YMMV on the rep]. I thought the protagonists had great chemistry and made a great team, and I enjoyed the epic scope of the mission to rescue a famous admiral and bring him to a rebel faction for a strategy assist. Also, for those who are reading the series in order, there's a fun Easter egg at the beginning that comes off of the MERCENARY INSTINCT epilogue!

Note: there are some instances of sexual harassment (not by the hero)

Thanks to Goodreads and Ruby Lionsdrake -- I won a copy of the complete Mandrake series and am slowly working my way through all 7 books.
Profile Image for The Book Worm.
633 reviews11 followers
March 13, 2023
Just like with book one in this series (Mercenary Instinct), I loved the action/science fiction side of the story way more than the romance itself. 
While I was obviously happy for Val and Gregor's happily ever after moment, I believe their relationship deserved a bit more of development. And while I did love Gregor as a main character, his quirky behavior deserved a medical diagnosis, one I would expect an advanced society to be able to reach - and probably even treat.
In any case, I still liked Trial and Temptation very much (though the Kindle and the paperback editions deserved a better cover), and I still intend to read the rest of the books in the series. 

Profile Image for Sarah Boni.
85 reviews12 followers
August 4, 2020
I finished this in a day and it was pretty good. I kinda expected the same male and female character types for this series but was surprised at the mix. Thatcher is a character I was interested from the first book and I was a little disappointed when I got a closer look. The “I’m super smart but somehow struggle to understand the smallest and most basic forms of human communication” trope isn’t my favorite and one that does get repeated again in Tracker’s Dilemma. But overall a nice read. The plot was fun and had a few twists.
Profile Image for Coral.
1,491 reviews52 followers
July 4, 2017
3.5 stars. Better than the first one. The characters were better formed. You could see the attraction developing between them, rather than *BOOM!* I want to jump your bones.
World building was ok. You'd definitely want to read the books in order to see how the universe works.
The action sequences were hit and miss. I enjoyed the space battles and dog fighting. But the hand to hand action was still lacking flow; I tended to skim.
I'll continue with this series.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 134 reviews

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