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Posted: 15 June, 2015 at 9:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Reviews on this page:

RK Mann: The Trader: Man With No Face

Anne McCaffrey: The Dragonriders of Pern

Christine Meierz: Farryn’s War

Sheryl Nantus: In the Black (Jo Jones) — In the Black (Toni Adams)In the Black (The Bookpushers)

Carol van Natta: Minder Rising

Lizzie Newell: Sappho’s Agency

Annie Nicholas: No Refuge

Cathy Pegau: Caught in Amber

KD Penn: Hot Redemption

Lynn Rae: Desire Disguised

Rosalie Redd: Untamable Lover & Untouchable Lover

Quin Ripley: ERO-5

Teresa Noelle Roberts: Bad Kitty — Thrill-Kinky

Denise Rossetti: Yours to Desire

Nico Rosso: The Limit of Desire

TM Roy: Discovery—A Far Out Romance

Bad Kitty (Teresa Noelle Roberts)

Review by Marlene Harris

Bad Kitty is the direct followup to Thrill-Kinky. And while it helps in understanding the world of the space-freighter Malcolm to read both books, I think it would be possible to read Bad Kitty without reading Thrill-Kinky first.

Review-BadKittyOn the other hand, why would you? These are short burst of Firefly-type fun, and the worldbuilding gets deeper the further in you go.

Where Thrill-Kinky was mechanic Rita’s story, Bad Kitty is felinoid Xia’s journey. While it isn’t completely clear what Xia does on the Malcolm, it is very clear who she is. Mik and Gan rescued her after she killed her rapist, back when she was about seven. Mik and Gan are her dads, no matter who (and what) her birthparents might have been.

But in the big action scene in Thrill-Kinky, the now adult Xia begins to unravel the secrets of her life before Mik and Gan rescued her, and those secrets begin to unravel her. Felinoids, in spite of their generally cute appearance, are apex predators. They are very smart, with long retractable claws and very sharp teeth, and they like to hunt. But Xia is a special case. Somewhere between the death of her birthparents and her adoption by Mik and Gan, someone trained Xia to be an assassin. A very, very good one.

However, Xia had learned to suppress those bad memories, and not see everyone and everything as prey. The meditation techniques that Gan taught her have helped, but not enough. Now that the memory genie is out of the bottle, the darkness inside Xia wants her to feed it with more blood and more death.

Most felinoids learn how to distinguish prey from play when they are young. They are taught by their parents as part of growing up. But at that critical juncture, Xia was taught to kill instead. Her ability to keep her instincts at bay is fraying.

When the Malcolm lands on the lawless planet Cibari, Xia finds someone who can help her deal with all her felinoid impulses. The warlord of Cibari, Rahal, is an adult felinoid who strikes Xia as sex-on-legs. Rahal sees Xia as the mate he never expected to find. So while Rahal was more than willing to help his buddy Drax out of jam, he is highly motivated to protect Xia at all costs.

Little does Rahal or Xia know that the cat-girl is firmly fixed in someone else’s sights, and that her long-buried memories are about to jump out and bite everyone who cares about her. Especially the undercover bounty hunter who has lied his way into both Rahal’s and Xia’s hearts.

Escape Rating B+: Just like Thrill-Kinky, Bad Kitty is also a very-hot-sex-into-love story. Rahal and Xia (and eventually Karn/Cal) are definitely into the screw first and work out relationships later school of thought (or libido). There is plenty of insta-lust all around, but it works in this story.

Xia and Rahal are both members of a species that just likes playing, with anyone and everyone, in infinite combinations. Often with infinite diversity. Cal/Karn is pretending to be an interstellar playboy and arms dealer who is notorious for swinging every way possible. These three are meant to fall into bed (or a pile of cushions together.

As their stories combine, the play becomes more serious, and none of them are expecting it. Rahal is pretty sure that Xia is his mate, but Xia has no idea that the mating drive exists among her species. It’s a private thing, and she was raised by non-felinoids. But they all end up feeling it long before the drive is so all-consuming that rational thought disintegrates.

But the underlying story here is the story of Xia’s birth and origins. Cal/Karn comes to Cibari on a mission to bring Xia back to her grandmother. But something about the way that the job is given to him doesn’t mesh with the way felinoids operate. Something is off, and Cal/Karn decides to figure out what that something is before he takes Xia away from the only security she has ever known.

The more Xia remembers about her true past, the more heartbreaking her story is. The climactic moment when she has to decide whether to be the girl that Mik and Gan raised or the assassin that she was trained to be is surprisingly touching.

Her reluctance to reach for true intimacy, and to let go of the nightmares that rightfully haunt her sleep, gives this story its heart. The mission to take down the baddies who are after all of them gives the story its punch. And its fun!

Caught in Amber (Cathy Pegau)

Review by The Book Pushers

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Jan 28th
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recently out of rehab, Sasha James is determined to keep her head down, complete her parole, and never touch amber again. The chip in her neck controls her cravings for the highly addictive drug, but also tracks her every move. Not that she goes anywhere other than work and the halfway house she calls home—a far cry from her luxurious former life as lover of the mining colony’s top drug dealer, Guy Christiansen.

Agent Nathan Sterling has no desire to see Sasha fall back into amber, but his sister has become Guy’s latest conquest and the unexpectedly attractive Sasha is the key to getting her back. So in exchange for an introduction, he offers Sasha the one thing she can’t refuse—her freedom. From the chip, her parole, and even the planet if she wants. Though he would be sorry to see her go…

Torn between her growing attraction to Nathan, fear of Guy and the allure of amber, Sasha accepts. But who will save her if Guy refuses to let her go a second time? (This blurb came from the author’s website.)

review-caughtinamberI was browsing Netgalley (I know this appears to be a common theme) looking for upcoming books when I ran across Caught in Amber. I was already reading Rulebreaker, also by Pegau and set in the same world, so I took a look at the blurb. Everything about it just screamed my name so I went ahead and requested a copy. My advice is that you do not start reading this if you have anything you are supposed to do for the next several hours, including such things like sleep, eat, or go to work. After introducing the characters and the set-up, Pegau does not let up on the tension until the book ends.

Sasha was such a complex person. She was paying her dues for breaking the law and determined to do what she needed to live out the terms of her parole while she regained as much of a life as she could. Sasha went from the pretty girl next door to the mistress of a suspected drug kingpin, drug addict, and then ex-convict. Along the way her family decided that she had made her choices so they decided she was no longer part of the family. Sasha was strong enough to leave Guy but not strong enough to resist her amber addiction. She was caught shoplifting in an attempt to get enough money to pay for her next dose. As a result of stealing, when the reader meets Sasha all she had was a few acquaintances, her permanent convict chip and a weekly appointment at the parole office to ensure she stayed off of amber. Amber was the drug of choice for the mining colony and it seemed to possess a mixture of the effects of cocaine and methamphetamine. Its name was derived from the signature color.

Nathan wanted one thing and that was to rescue his sister, Kylie, from Guy’s clutches and her amber addiction. Privy to knowledge about Guy’s latest set of mistresses, none of whom were still living, and their physical similarities to Sasha, he deduced that Guy still had an obsession with Sasha that he could use to his advantage. Nathan didn’t want anything bad to happen to Sasha but he also was willing to do and promise whatever he had to gain Sasha’s assistance. I thought he was extremely callous but it was understandable. Heck, he even thought he should be ashamed of some of the things he promised. However, as the book continued and Nathan began to see Sasha as more than a tool his mindset changed. That resulted in my liking Nathan as the hero and not just as a protective older brother.

Pegau had my sympathies for Sasha from the very beginning. Even though she made a series of bad choices she had learned her lesson. Not to mention she developed an iron will and refused to get sucked back into Guy’s world. I was really worried about her as she spent more time dealing with Guy’s obsession and around the temptation of amber while juggling Nathan’s interest. I was continually amazed by her choices and her dedication to get Nathan’s sister out despite the danger to herself, and not just physically but mentally. In fact she was the one who kept Nathan from destroying their chances of success several times. Nathan took a while to grow on me. A few times he verged on TSTL actions brought about by the combination of his sense of protectiveness and guilt at bringing Sasha into the situation. Once Nathan’s viewpoint of Sasha changed, I totally fell for him. He played the criminal so well yet he also felt responsible for everyone. I enjoyed his interactions with his work partner, Natalia Hallowell, and Guy’s personal assistant, Genevieve Caine. He never once treated them like they were less than equals which I thought boded well for his continued relationship with Sasha. My heart completely melted as he honored his bargain with Sasha, gave her the freedom to do whatever she wanted and then asked if she would stay with him.

As I said in the beginning, Pegau continued to crank up the tension as the book progressed. Each time I thought I could take a breather, things got more exciting which increased my reading enjoyment. I really enjoyed the tension build up and how Sasha and Nathan got to know each other. I also liked the supporting characters such as Natalia and Genevieve who had so many layers hinted at but never revealed. Pegau also makes sure that the bad boys get their comeuppance one way or another. While Caught in Amber is the second book set in this particular world you do not have to read Rulebreaker first but it will introduce you to the world and its peculiarities. I enjoyed reading Caught in Amber and I am looking forward to Pegau’s next book.

I give Caught in Amber an A-

Desire Disguised: Love Under A New Moon, Book 2 (Lynn Rae)

Review by SFF Dragon

(An ARC was given to me by Science Fiction Romance Quarterly)

Desire Disguised is a third-person novel set in “outer space” with an indeterminate time period, specifying neither a date or whether it is the future or past as we would measure time on Earth, and featuring a sister and her much younger brother who have crashed on a strange planet after spending years on the run from assassins.

The blurb

Cara Belasco’s secrets have chased her across the galaxy, but when her ship crashes on an isolated planet, she discovers a man who could become her perfect refuge … if she’ll let him. Action, adventure, and sizzling romance will keep you turning the pages of Desire Disguised, Book 2 of Lynn Rae’s exciting sci-fi series, Love Under a New Star.

Cara Belasco has been on the run from assassins since childhood. Living in the shadows with her younger brother and one elderly guardian, her luck nearly runs out when the smuggler’s ship carrying them crashes into a soggy jungle planet.

Ben Zashi, the stalwart head of security who rescued her from the wreckage, is very curious about her cover story, and Cara has to fend off his inquires as well as her escalating attraction for him. Will the secrets she’s been hiding come between them, or can Cara allow herself to find passion with the one man who longs to protect her?

Content Notes: Spicy, Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Suspense


review-desiredisguisedThis is the first book I’ve read by this author and, having read the blurb, I was anticipating that Desire Disguised, the second book in the Love Under A New Star series by Lynn Rae, would be packed with hot love scenes, risky situations and action with wall-to-wall assassins hunting down Cara Belasco, her ten year-old brother, Mat, and their companion, Soren, and that Ben Zashi would be up to his eyeballs fighting them off whilst he tried to keep the three of them safe. This impression is quite far from the actual story.

It is very definitely Science Fiction, and has some suspense along the “will they be found” type of line, and there was a love scene or two between the very innocent Cara and Chief of Safety and Security, Ben, but nothing that could be called adventure, unless you count going to school or work, which were brand-new experiences for Mat and Cara respectively. The only action is at the end of the book and lasts all of five minutes. There are some things I was expecting that never materialised. There wasn’t an assassin in sight, and the last time they were found, one of their two remaining companions was killed, and they had to run again. This all happened two years before they crashed on Gamaliel and found themselves taken to Pearl, the somewhat small and only town on the planet. Most of the panic and need to run and hide seemed to be generated by the remaining companion, Soren, who spent most of the book in a coma because of injuries he sustained in the crash. Ben was only curious about their cover story because they refused to allow their blood to be taken for DNA printing and be put on public record.

As I read, and the story of Cara’s and Mat’s short, lonely and miserable lives unfolded, it became apparent that the book is primarily a Sci-Fi Romance with a happy ending, at least for now. This is not a cliff-hanger but uncertainty about the future, and possible discovery by the assassins, is still there. The book concentrates mainly on Cara’s fear of being found again and her growing trust in—and feelings for—Ben, and his for her, as both she and Mat discover what their lives could be like if they were able to actually live them. When they were forced to flee from their home planet, Cara was about ten years old, although her current age is never given. Until that moment, she had lived her life in two rooms, with occasional visits to a garden. Mat was a baby she met for the first time on the day they fled, so neither had any idea what a normal life could be like, and this story is more about their voyage of discovery than anything else.

I really enjoyed reading this book and generally liked the interaction between almost all of the characters. Even if they only passed briefly through the story, each gave something which was useful, especially to Cara in terms of a woman’s perspective which she desperately needed. Others gave something to Mat that he could enjoy and get excited about. I really didn’t like the nosey trouble-maker, Myltin Tarl, who seems to be looking for some kind of vicarious revenge and decides the newcomers will pay the price for crimes they never committed against him in the first place. He is the worst kind of busybody who thinks innocent children should be made to pay for the crimes of their parents, even if there is no proof that the children are even related to the perpetrators. I think telling him long ago to mind his own business, stop interfering in things which have nothing to do with him and get a life would have been better than trying to not hurt his feelings and pandering to his over-inflated ego.

On the whole, this was a well-written and very enjoyable read, although not quite the action-packed book that was promised. I still liked it enough to want to read more by this author. I’ve given this book a rating of three and half stars out of five. It was a very good book, but not the book you think you’re getting when you read the blurb.

Discovery—A Far Out Romance (T.M. Roy)

Review by Jo Jones

review-discoveryOregon naturalist Dr Kent Xavier, after a harrowing breakup with his two-timing fiancée, flees to the wilderness to nurse his broken heart—and wounded ego. Some peace and quiet amidst the emerging flora and fauna of very early spring was just what he needed.

Lured into exploring the beautiful planet, xenobiologist Povresle takes a moonlight walk and meets with disaster on a slope of loose rock. The native dominant lifeform who comes to her rescue is at first chaotic and angry: but his curiosity and intelligence soon dispel his frightening first impressions.

Two scientists from very different worlds discover the most important element of all: love. But will their respective cultures keep them apart forever?

T. M. Roy says that Discovery—A Far Out Romance is “a short and sweet read, something easy to polish off in an afternoon at the beach or with a pot of tea and a fire”. I have to agree.

Dr. Kent Xavier is the main character in Discovery. When he arrives home early and finds his fiancée in bed with another man he goes on a camping trip to try to heal his hurt. Not far from his campsite an alien group is taking samples. When Povre, one of the women in the group, wanders off and is trapped in a rockslide Kent comes to the recue. Because of the rockslide Povre does not get back to her group in time and is left on the planet when her people leave. Kent is the one to help her.

Kent and Povre are both great characters. Kent is one of those men you would love to meet. He is kind and wants to help without asking for anything in return. You can tell that Povre is an alien (water and Povre are a bad mix and the scene where Kent put her in the shower is priceless) but like Kent she has a wonderful personality. Although Kent and Povre are different species they are attracted to each other even knowing they can never stay together. Their feelings grow as they end up on the run from several groups trying to capture an alien.

This is Science Fiction Romance so we know the destination. It is the journey that makes this such a good story. There is enough action, adventure and romance to satisfy any SFR fan and there are enough twists and turns to keep a predictable plot interesting. Povre and Kent share center stage in the story but Kent’s point of view is often front and center. It is a nice change to have the male as the main character and Kent does a great job of carrying the story.

Seeding ERO-5 (Kindle edition) (Quin Ripley)

Review by Cyd Athens

“ERO-5—Environmental Recursion Operation number Five—or Eros as nearly everyone in the terraforming field affectionately called it, would be a new home for humanity, a place to spread out. It was one of the most ambitious undertakings mankind had ever attempted.”

Review-SeedingERO5We are introduced to the tale with the dedication, “For fun.” It could have just as easily, and perhaps more accurately, started with a dedication, “For one-handed reading.”

The story begins and [spoiler alert] ends with graphic sex scenes [/end spoiler alert]. This is not romance or erotica; this is porn with far too many of the trappings. The condensed version of the plot is that five scientists—two female and three male—are sent to an alien planet to terraform it and prepare it for humanity. However, upon their arrival on the new world, the quintet just can’t stop fucking one another—in pairs, groups, same-sex, hetero-sex, indoors, outdoors, and so forth. One of the female scientists, the introvert who eventually becomes the group’s linchpin, figures out that the planet is inhabited by deep sea creatures. Those tentacled beings are affecting the humans in such a way as to cause the increased sex drive. And none of the scientists are immune to the hyperactive sexuality. To make acting on their sexual urges even more convenient, all of them were implanted with anti-fertility devices before leaving Earth. Sexually transmitted diseases, however, simply aren’t mentioned.

In addition to the main character, the botanist, Taisia, a bisexual woman who begins the story in the throes of a lesbian sex dream, and by the end is paired up with Robert, a stereotypical “dark skinned and well muscled” man with an “insanely huge” eight or nine inch dick (euphemisms for big black guy with “big black cock”), we also have the female biochemist, Kristen, a heterosexual who’s never been with a woman, but, before the story is done, has had sex with one. Hiroshi, the Asian mechanical engineer, and Daniel, the team’s medic and computer specialist, round out the cast. Noticeably absent are any substantive medical or logistics support.

There is not a single chapter here that doesn’t include graphic sex. In fact, the purported plot gets so buried that the story reads like it could have been titled, Porn Stars in Space. What’s more, not only do none of the characters suffer any of the normal effects of overindulgence; they are always hot, hard, wet, and ready for more.

Somewhere along the line, it appears a decision was made that this tale didn’t need editing. The spelling and grammar are fine, but both head-hopping and literary constructions which must be reread to make any sense abound. “For fun” should not come at the expense of solid storytelling.

As an example of one of my pet peeves when reading porn, we are treated to gems like this one, “He penetrated her shallowly, watching himself dip into her, then pulling back until he almost slipped out. He repeated this, going deeper by millimeters each time.” How she could possibly know that exact measurement without vaginal calipers or some other device, I have no idea.

There is a dearth of conflict to be resolved in this book. The tension is primarily that of a sexual nature. Not surprisingly, the aliens are magical, able to communicate in the humans’ language with no problem whatsoever, and provide much better medical services than the equipment the scientists brought with them.

Again, unsurprisingly, this is a HEA story where, regardless of any compatibility factors, these characters fall in love—because here, sex equals love and these people have a whole lot of sex. This is a tale for those looking for a salacious romp where the science fiction is little more than a backdrop.

Farryn’s War (Christie Meierz)

Review by Normalene Zeeman

Review-FarrynsWarFirst of all, I loved this book. The characters were unique, the world building was stellar, the plot was very intricate while keeping to a main storyline that kept me interested and turning pages as fast as I could.

We initially meet Farryn after a scuffle in a bar turns bloody—his blood—and he needs help from his most current concubine to repair the tissue. I don’t much like him at first as it seems he doesn’t treat his women well and doesn’t have much respect for women at all. We discover he thinks he has been betrayed by his soulmate, has been exiled from his homeworld, Tolar, and is currently pursuing a tightly focused quest for world dominion on his new home, Far India, and that is all that keeps him going. We meet some of this subordinates and they are dangerously fun members of the local Mafia and deliciously quirky, but fiercely loyal to Farryn. Soon we find out his relationship to his women is much more nuanced than it at first appears.

Farryn and the other Tolar are all vegetarians, live very long lives, have peds, small flipper-like flanges, instead of toes but their feet work the same and the rest of their body is mostly human-looking. Some of them are empaths, some high functioning and others barely empathic at all. Farryn has been exiled for killing a mother and child during his time as the ruler of the world when he was power-crazed. His soul bond with his mate, Sharana, was severed and he was exiled offworld.

We meet Sharana as she sets off to find Farryn and tell him she still loves him and wants to be with him no matter where he is. She feels that if their soul bond was still intact she would be able to find him more easily but a tip from a friend, Lord Bertie of the planet Brittania and scion of a formidable galaxy-spanning, pharmaceutical company helps her to narrow the search to Far India. Bertie is a good friend to both Farryn and Sharan and wants them reunited if possible. Bertie is a stereotypical British Lord, but has humor and smarts and is very funny.

Sharana get captured by Central Command, a galaxy-spanning intelligence agency, as soon as she hits the ground and is used by the ruthless agent, Adeline Russell, who will torture her to get Farryn to do what she wants based on what she thinks she knows about the bonding relationship. The story from there on is Farryn trying to find Sharana and rescue her and Adeline trying to learn about the Tolar and their secrets from Sharana. The storyline has depth and breadth as we learn a little about the history of the Tolar and the civilization as it is now in A.D. 2533.

The setting is alien but still familiar as it is based on the spreading cultures of Earth as they settle planets outside our system. Much of the clothing and decorations are based on Earth items so they are familiar and, of course, there is coffee and tea. The descriptive passages explaining the ties between Farryn and his friends/frenemies/enemies are very familiar if you have enjoyed the plans-within-plans of The Godfather.

I was way more interested in the plot than in the sex, of which there is almost none, but the deep feelings between Sharana and Farryn were enough to keep me happy all the way to the end and beyond.

As you get closer to the end you learn more about Tolar and some very cool things happen—you meet sentient ships, you learn what happened to the Chairman in the very beginning, you meet Bertie’s brother and some very cool Tolar outcast warriors and at the very end you find out there are three more books set in the world—yay!

As I said, I LOVED it and now am looking to read the other three in the Tales of Tolari Space:

  • 1- The Marann

  • 2 – Daughters of Suralia, and

  • 3 – The Fall

Hot Redemption (KD Penn)

Review by RK Shiraishi

Hot Redemption is set in a gritty, futuristic world where work is hard to come buy and most of the people still living on Earth live in fairly desperate circumstances. The hero, Epic, robs strip clubs for money to care for his younger siblings after their mother’s death and father’s suicide. Phoenix is a stripper who has managed to rebuild her life after a horrible past with a drug addicted abusive boyfriend. There is apparently a universe of many worlds centered around the authority and worship of the Duchess-if the duchess is real or symbolic is not quite clear. There is also a stratified human society explaining the diverse racial mix of Epic’s family.

review-hotredemptionEpic strikes a deal with Phoenix for a big score on a much more affluent planet, and most of the narrative (done in duel first person) revolves around planning for the big score—and whether or not their alliance will hold. And sex.

The craft is used quite effectively—the alternate first person point of view actually works quite well. The dialogue is sharp, the pacing apt, and the style is consistent. It is never a dull read that’s for sure. KD Penn is a pen name for the writing team of D.T. Dyllin and Kenya Wright, both of whom have several works to their credit.

This novel has very explicit sex scenes, violence, and profanity. Drug use, shootings, kidnappings are all par for the course. This is an edgy book to say the least and perhaps not to everyone’s taste. Though SF Romance is difficult to define, I would describe this as futuristic erotica. First, because the SF element provides and interesting setting but is not critical to the plot. Second, although many romances are heavily erotic, I tend to prefer equal attention to the emotional aspects and character changes in the love interests when I seek out a romance. Epic and Phoenix have all kinds of sex, but emotional development is not this novel’s chief aim. It’s all about the action and the sexin’. This doesn’t make it bad; but it is what it is.

So, how did I feel about it? My personal reaction was mixed. There are many things to enjoy, and in terms of pure escapism with erotica, action, and not taking anything to seriously, KD Penn can write it well. Still, as per my personal taste, it was a bit over the edge. I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Epic was a drug addict and he kicks the habit conveniently easy for the sake of plot. Some of the sex scenes were very explicit with raw language. There are also scenes of orgies and sexual slavery, which I was not keen on reading more of.

Phoenix, the heroine, was well written and well conceived. She is a stripper who refuses to let people use and define her. She takes care of herself, handles sleazy club owners, is comfortably sexual on her own terms, and a truly smart. She is likable. It is therefore puzzling as to why all the other women in the book (other than deceased mother and a kid sister) are mainly reduced to hair color and breast size. They rarely speak a word unless offering sexual services and mainly referred to as ’sluts’. Even by the heroine. And the final act of violence, which I won’t spoil, did not sit well with me.

Verdict…this is for a specific audience. It is dark, edgy erotica. Read only if that is what you are looking for.

In the Black: Tales From the Edge #1 (Sheryl Nantus)

Review by Jo Jones

In the Black is Science Fiction Romance written the way I love. It is a romance but a romance wrapped in a mystery. Here is what I said about In the Black the first time I read it.

review-intheblackThe First Time I Read In the Black:

It is SFR but SFR with a difference. First look at the premise:

When Sam Keller left the military, she ran to the far end of the galaxy. Now she captains the Bonnie Belle, a spaceship full of courtesans who bring a little pleasure to hard-up men on mining colonies.

OK, a ship full of courtesans. That is a first for me. So it must be erotica, Yes? No, it’s not!!! Instead this happens:

When one of her girls turns up dead, it’s Sam’s job to find out who killed her, fast.

So it is a mystery but, wait a minute. It is supposed to be a romance. Where does that come into the story? Here is where:

Marshal Daniel LeClair is as tough as steel and quick on the draw. But when his vacation gets replaced by an assignment to help find the killer, he can’t help angling for a little action with the saucy, hard-charging Sam.

They are attracted to each other but guess what?

With a killer on the loose and threatening the Belle, attraction is there but romance will have to wait.

In the Black was a really fun read that kept me guessing the entire time. The mystery is the focus of the story. Sam is a great character and Marshal Daniel is a match for Sam. There are problems with them getting together and the way Sheryl Nantus got to the HEA without changing the responsibilities and commitments both Sam and Daniel had was unexpected and very elegant. All in all, a great fun read that has an unusual setting.

The Second Time I Read In the Black:

The first thing I noticed was how, once again, I fell into the story. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I still wanted to keep reading. As I read I did notice things I missed the first time.

It did not take Sheryl Nantus long to set the tone and build the world for In the Black. The writing was great and the character-building fantastic. Early in the story I knew a lot about each of the eight people on the Belle. It was the same when Marshal Daniel entered the picture. All of this was presented as part of the action and dialog in the story. I liked how Nantus kept the mystery was as focus of the story while the romance developed as the two main characters worked together. In the Black held up to a second reading and is on my favorites shelf for future re-reads.

In the Black: Tales From the Edge #1 (Sheryl Nantus)

Review by Toni Adams

Are you in for a good mystery that involves high profile courtesans, a space cowboy, and a quick-thinking captain?

Wait, why did I just imagine “Firefly” for a moment?

review-intheblackThis could have have been, in an alternate universe where Fox never cancelled “Firefly”, one of their episodes. I can easily see the crew of the Serenity being involved in this story. Heck, I’m pretty sure Jenny, the ship mechanic, could have been a close cousin of Kaylee.

The foundation of this story is simple and relevant to what makes our society click. Mining planets are spaced very far and in between. After long weeks of working with very few women around, men have very strong sexual needs. Mining companies understand that blue balls may result in a delayed workload. Courtesans provide that need.

Each courtesan ship is assigned a route and they visit a planet for two weeks. After an extravgant display showcasing the many talents of the courtesans, the workers schedule their appointments while the shop is docked. While sexual needs are being seen to, the ship goes through its own needs: maintenance and laundry.

The ship is pretty much a large articial intellience machine. Even so, I really kept imagining it as a sentient ship, just like Moya from “Farscape”. In fact, I feel like this novel was a mish-mash of a whole bunch of science fiction shows. Nothing too direct is referenced or, if it was, I did not catch it. They were more like similarites that would shape how I imagined the characters and the ship.

The Bonnie Belle is docked for the majority of the novel so Nantus explores the small details of the maintenance of the ship. From the way laundry is settled, communication is handled, security, and even gravity is used, it was very technical and logical. It was very interesting how everything on the ship was monetized, including the use of gravity. Details like these have me appreciating this novel as more of a mystery noir type than a romance.

I really loved that a detail such as laundry was involved. I’ve always wondered about laundry in space. It would be a waste of power and water resource to use a machine within a ship. Conan O’Brien had already asked Chris Hadfield (the astronaut who did that great David Bowie music video) this question.The answer is that they eject their laundry out of the window so it burns upon re-entry. What happens during a long voyage through space? You can’t just keep ejecting all your laundry out. Does that mean everyone is floating around naked? (Note to authors: I have no problem with this line of reason, you are free to have your hot, muscled space men float around in space because they ran out of laundry.)

Back to the review: After two weeks, the ship usually takes off for the next planet. Except it does not go smoothly for the crew of the Bonnie Belle. On the small account that one of the courtesans was murdered.

From this small incident spurs a whirl of problems. The big corporations (courtesan alliance and the mining company) are very anxious since they are rapidly losing money. Courtesans are grieving and frightened and also losing money. Lots of money is being lost. Even in space, people will worry about money. On top of that the captain is stressing out and the miners are horny. Problems in a small space with nowhere to go create lots of tension.

In swoops Daniel LeClair, a space marshall (descended by a line of lone rangers, hence cowboy), tasked to solve the mystery. Even though there is crazy pressure from all sides, he still has eyes for the captain of theBonnie Belle, Sam. Sam, the soldier veteran who has escaped from some horrible battle. She is full of mental scars but she can still kick some major butt. LeClair is intriqued by the sexy captain. What is a highly-skilled soldier doing manaing a lowly courtesan ship? Another mystery of which LeClair tasks himself with.

There is the barest, slimmest sexual content or even romance fun in this novel but it makes it up as an enjoyable mystery read. It pretty much reads like a special science fiction episode. I could even picture the dramatic breaks for commercials and teaser trailers.

I am not an avid reader of the mystery genre so I was guessing it every step of the way. At the risk of spoiling the reveal, just think of what a ship of courtesans would be concerned about. Then it all makes sense.

For a romance novel with courtesans, I was not gifted with any interesting sexual fun times. Each courtesan had hinted at some interesting talents. Then again, I suppose a courtesan would not show without full payment? In hindsight, it would not have made a load of sense to include the sexual exploits of the courtesans. It would have just been needless fluff and greatly weaken the novel. Although there are hints that there will be sequels to this novel, so here’s to hoping.

If the smexy times were minimal, then the romance happened so fast that I missed it by a millisecond. The love that blossoms between our characters happens in a blink and they’re already thinking of getting into each others britches. Usually, I get pretty miffed that it’s the “love at first sight” trope. It’s vain, boring, and unrelatable unless you’re a Disney princess. This novel does that, but adds in a realistic touch: both protagonists have traveled in space alone for a long time and they are very, very horny. Both characters each try to reason to themselves that it’s just lust due to being alone. When a threat occurs to the other character, then the love slowly begins to rise. I appreciate this so much. It is what any other normal human would do in that situation. Become physically attracted but question that it may be nothing more. Then spend an inordinate amount of time debating on developing feelings despite obvious signs. Who has been guilty of this? All of us, including myself.

Thank you Nantus. I forgive you for the lack of smexy times for telling a great story. It was definitely a refreshing respite from the lackluster pile of so-called romance books piling up on the floor. By the end of the novel, I had very solid hopes that this would be a strong couple. I was genuinely happy with how it all worked out.

I also imagined a sweet song playing as the screen faded to black as I read the last chapter.

In The Black, Tales from the Edge #1 (Sheryl Nantus)

Review by The Book Pushers

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Reviewed by: E

review-intheblackWhen Sam Keller left the military, she ran to the far end of the galaxy. Now she captains the Bonnie Belle, a spaceship full of courtesans who bring a little pleasure to hard-up men on mining colonies. When one of her girls turns up dead, it’s Sam’s job to find out who killed her, fast.

Marshal Daniel LeClair is hot as a star and quick on the draw. When his vacation gets replaced by an assignment to help find the killer, he can’t help angling for a little action with the saucy, hard-charging Sam. She’s got brains, attitude and a body he wouldn’t mind investigating.

Sam, six months lonely, might just indulge him. But the Guild that owns the Belle wants the case closed yesterday. With pressure coming from all quadrants, Sam and her marshal clash over false leads and who’s on top. But when the killer threatens the Belle again, romance will have to wait. It’s a captain’s job to save her crew, no matter the cost. (This blurb came from the author’s website.)

I eyeballed this blurb a few times torn between liking the idea of space, woman captain, murder, law enforcement in space and not quite sure what I would think about a heroine responsible for a ship full of courtesans. Obviously my curiosity took the lead and I am so glad it did because I enjoyed this first installment and I am rather curious to see what Nantus has up her sleeves for the next one.

After a rather unpleasant event in the military, Sam never thought the hardest thing she would have to face was as Captain of a courtesan ship. Only after she realized her assignment meant selling pleasure without being able to partake or even without having the platonic closeness of the people she served with did she start to regret her job but even then it was out of loneliness . There was a definite wall between Sam and the courtesans because she wasn’t one of them and as an ethical Captain she also turned down any overtures. On one of her routine mining colony visits, she discovered a renewed interest in life and men as she dealt with a rather messy murder and the marshal brought in to close the case.

Daniel was a loner. He didn’t play by the established rules and never let anyone influence him into altering his decision about a case regardless of the status of the individuals involved. As a result he had the best closure rate and also no possibility of settling down to a plush quiet promotion. When his plans to finally take a vacation were interrupted by a murder investigation, he thought it would be a quick one and then he could get back to his vacation. Instead, he discovered a nosy, prickly, protective ship’s captain and a rather tangled mesh of potential motives, false clues, and too many suspects.

I enjoyed watching Daniel navigate through both the investigation and Sam’s defenses. She was so wounded and suspicious of anyone in a position of authority or power because of the event that effectively ended her military career she provided both help and hindrance in the investigation. The sparks between Daniel and Sam were very evident as much as both tried to blame it on a long dry spell or other excuses. Seeing their mutual trust gradually grow despite their obstacles and the increasing stresses of the investigation as time passed without a resolution was a lovely treat. It was such a contrast to the barrenness of the mining colony and the brutality of the original murder.

When I was thinking back on my impressions of this story Nantus seemed to almost include two separate relationships. The primary romantic one between Sam and Daniel and a secondary platonic one between Sam and the courtesans on her ship. The courtesans had a certain amount of trust in Sam as the ship’s captain but that was due to her job not to her person. At the same time Sam did not understand how they could do what they did or even know how to relate to them on an interpersonal level. Seeing that change and watching Sam’s bewilderment as she did what she thought was right and the results was almost like a reaffirming that Sam wasn’t permanently damaged, just a bit scarred.

In addition to the characters, I thought the universe Nantus created was very fascinating. The power of the Guild with its checks and balances, and fail-safes even over the vast distances of space and how that power was used by varying individuals in different roles. The idea of space Marshals who were supposed to be independent, neutral, and able to deal with a variety of situations reminded me of tales of the wild wild West and the Rangers or gunslingers who enforced the law or what was called the law. The ships making supply or other runs between mining colonies or outposts who were dependent on their regular arrivals and therefore had an element of power and protection. Desperate men and women who signed contracts almost impossible to pay-off because the Company/Guild provided and therefore charged for everything needed to survive making retirement or early pay-out a pipedream.

Growing up I read a lot of westerns and In the Black Nantus took one of my favorite childhood story flavors, added some adult elements, moved it out into space, and created an overall whole I enjoyed reading. As a result, not only am I looking forward to her next SFR but I am also going to look at her backlist and see what other gems I can find.

I give In the Black a B.

Minder Rising (Carol van Natta)

Review by The Book Pushers

Publisher: Chavanch Press
Publish Date: Out now
Reviewed by: E

How I got this book: ARC from Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

A millennium into the future, all children are tested for minder talents, and the best are recruited for the Citizen Protection Service.

Agent Lièrén Sòng is recovering from a near-fatal crash. He should want nothing more than to get back to using his talents to interrogate criminals for his covert CPS field unit, but being sidelined gains new appeal when he makes friends with a woman and her son. Imara Sesay, road crew chief and part-time bartender, breaks her ironclad rule never to get close to customers when she asks Lièrén to teach her son how to control his growing minder talents.

Unexpected deaths in his field unit make Lièrén suspect he isn’t a lucky survivor, he’s a loose end. He should pull away from Imara and Derrit to keep them safe, but when the local CPS Testing Center is entirely too interested in Derrit’s talents, Lièrén must make an impossible choice. Can he stay alive long enough to save Imara and her prodigy son? (Blurb from Goodreads)

Review-MinderRisingI was looking for something new to read several months ago and stumbled on a list of science fiction romance by women authors. I looked at the blurbs and titles and decided to read Overload Flux, book 1 of the Central Galatic Concordance series. I really enjoyed it so when the list of books available for this issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly came out and it contained Minder Rising I almost tangled my fingers up sending my request in as quickly as possible. While you could read Minder Rising without reading the first book, some of the events are linked, and there is a brief reference to what might be setting all sorts of things in motion across Galaxy.

Lièrén barely survived a fatal crash and lost his work partner at the same time. As he continued his healing, instead of being assigned to another covert unit he was stuck undergoing repeated questioning about the accident, his partner, and his previous cases. To escape from the confines of his hotel room or from busy work in the office he regularly stopped in a local bar and ended up becoming friends with Imara, a part-time bartender, her son Derrit, and another employee. As they grew closer, he started to learn some of their secrets and began to help Derrit control his mental abilities. As tempted as Lièrén was, he tried to maintain a certain distance since from the family because he fully expected to be assigned elsewhere as soon as he was cleared to return to full duty. However, other members of his former team started to turn up dead, some by violent means, others by what appeared to be undiscovered health issues and his attempts to get a date to return to full work were never answered. When Lièrén himself started to encounter a series of accidents and incidents, he began to wonder how long he would manage to survive his unknown enemy. After Derrit’s routine minder testing appointment became anything but routine, Lièrén began to have serious fears about CPS and its seemingly unlimited power.

I really enjoyed several aspects of this story from the world-building, the characters, the romance, and the intrigue. Lièrén’s job and his quiet personality combined to make him into someone who adored his rarely seen family but did not tend to make friends or have lasting relationships. Imara and Derrit on the other hand were both seemingly open and friendly but they had secrets of their own. Watching the three of them slowly build a relationship on several levels was very rewarding. Imara and Lièrén became friends and then transitioned to a lovely gentle romance as they tried to live their lives under the shadow of CPS and its multiple threats. I really liked how van Natta showed the changing bond between Derrit and his mother as he matured under Lièrén’s guidance and training. Lièrén and Derrit’s parental/coaching bond really touched me especially when Derrit called Lièrén, “uncle” in Mandarin.

As much as I thought the expansive world was fascinating and enjoyed the variety of different Minder abilities, what struck me the most was how the Galatic default appeared to be Asian in nature. While other languages were spoken, the language of business seemed to be Mandarin. I also thought the combination of fluidity and yet rigidity of family bonds, obligations, and benefits were strikingly different from North American attitudes. I really liked the differences because they helped to anchor me to the story and kept me wondering if/when “family” was going to interfere. I absolutely ended up loving Sòng’s family and Imara’s family by choice.

While I enjoyed this story a lot, I did find myself wishing van Natta had been a bit clearer about CPS, its testing, and its information technology network. I was a bit confused when Lièrén was manipulating data. Even with this distracter to the flow of the story after I finished reading, I decided van Natta was on my list of authors to follow for new releases. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next in the Central Galatic Concordance.

I give Minder Rising a B

No Refuge: Known Universe Book 1 (Annie Nicholas)

Review by Jo Jones

Hunted to near extinction by an alien race called the Ko, my people have run from Earth and drifted so far among the stars we can’t remember the way back. We live everywhere, but call nowhere home. The Ko want us erased from existence and memory. They don’t even want our DNA in the space dust. Humans disguise themselves as other alien species and hide in plain sight. It’s the only way we can survive.

review-norefugeI believe in the myth of Earth. I’ve even discovered a bona fide book written in the dead language of my people. My man, Brody, dreams of a secret human colony. He’s searched for years, hunting any rumor we’ve run across, and finally he’s made contact. Usually, he’s the one grounding me to station and keeping my head out of the atmosphere. Time for me to return the favor…that is, if I can ditch the Ko who’ve discovered me, thanks to my incessant artifact-hunting. If we don’t make our rendezvous, and the Ko don’t kill me, Brody just might…

Content Warning: Aliens, cargo ships, and a fast paced race against all odds.

No Refuge is a novella and a very quick read. Like the blurb says there are aliens, cargo ships and an exciting race against time. While No Refuge is book one in a new series it reads more like a prequel. Why? Look at all that has to be included for the series to work.

World Building: All of the following have to be explained in a very short time. Start with why humans are hiding disguised as aliens. Then there are all the different alien races. Add the rumor of a human secret world. The space station where the story’s starts has to be described. All of this happens and is part of the story in 93 pages.

Characters: This is Brody and Lucille’s story. They are two humans disguised as another alien race. I loved both and they were fully fleshed out. That took time. There also had to be side characters to keep the story moving. The Ko who hate humans are introduced and there is a hint that Lucille has discovered something important in defeating the Ko.

Backstory: Why humans are running and hiding is revealed. Brody and Lucille have been together for several years and how they met and how they have managed to hide is part of the story.

Plot: Brody and Lucille have to find the ship that will take them to the secret human world with out getting caught by the Ko who are looking for them. That required all of the world building and character development to work.

Annie Nicholas manages to stuff all of that and more into 93 exciting pages. So why the prequel feel? It seemed to me that when Brody and Lucille got where they were going the groundwork for the series was in place and everything for the real story of how the humans were going to survive is ready to start. Now that I have read No Refuge I am also ready to see how the story in the Known Universe series develops and will be on the look out for the next book.

Sappho’s Agency (Lizzie Newell)

Review by RK Shiraishi

Sappho’s Agency starts out with a promising enough premise. A world similar to our own (far future) with a society based on sea-faring and gender segregated roles. There also seems to be a culture of ritualized reproduction and breeding; lineage hierarchies; and another alien culture. It a complex world rich in possibilities.

review-sapphosagencyThe two main protagonists are a doctor, Sappho, and her wife. Daisy, who work in a clinic responsible for assisted fertility and reproduction-not just the science but the act of sex itself. Their job is a combination of fertility specialist and sexual therapist as far as I could tell. They are hired to assist with the mating of two clients whom they suspect are from wealthy influential families. This has possible political implications which are not yet clear.

In any event, the promising start unfortunately fails to deliver. This is largely due to craft related issues. Just like description and dialogue, writing sex is a craft skill that needs to be developed. There is a fair amount of explicit sex- fetish, BDSM, and discussions of non-consensual sex play-among others. There was no content warning. There are troubling issues of unclear consent, breach of ethics, and many other issues. I don’t know the writer’s intentions, but the discussions of sex were poorly handled.

In terms of romantic arc, as a romance reader, it was never clear to me where the romance was intended. Was it the two doctors? The client and the intended mate? A polyamorous romance? It’s in first person from the view of the doctor, Sappho, but I was left puzzled as to why. This came across as more of a women’s erotic journey-a separate genre-and not a romance.

This frustration, combined with the poor handling of sexual situations, led to me DNF this particular book.

The Dragonriders of Pern (Anne McCaffrey)

A classic review from Toni Adams

How I discovered Anne McCaffrey came from a Book Funk I suffered with during a senior high school day.

When I don’t have a good book to read, the kind of book where I toss everything aside, then I go into a complete book funk. Complete with Japanese animated gray lines descending on my body. Life is absolutely gray and apathy takes over.

review-thedragonridersofpernI usually cure my Book Funk by reading a delectable romance by a favorite author and the rush of happiness sends me back.

Sometimes, the apathy is too strong and I just pick up any random book. During a lunch period in high school, I went to my favorite place to go to mope. Not to the band room to oogle at the cute band member I was crushing on, not to the corner quad to enjoy a game of tag with the misfits, or the science room to study and oogle the smart guy I was crushing. I went to the Library.

I had trailed my fingers along the book spines. Just for a lark, I trailed my fingers as high as it would go to the shelves above. My eyes had idly scanned the titles until my fingers stopped on an empty, thick spine. The spine was thick, darkly colored with frayed edges. It looked old and boring.

And yet I pulled it off the shelf.

In faded lettering the title read: “The Dragonriders of Pern”. I could almost picture a spotlight shining upon me. I knew before opening this book that I was going to be changed. Within a nanosecond, my apathy was banished to the locked box in the corner of my mind. What’s even more amazing? The librarian gave me a small smile and said: “I had a feeling you would reach for that”.

Before “Dragonriders of Pern”, I did not consider myself a reader of science-fiction. As I look back, I realize I did read a lot of books about traveling through time or parallel dimensions. I had just viewed it as more of a fantasy. When I thought of science fiction, I thought of novels with horrible artwork and technology that went over my head. It was the artwork that usually stopped my picking up science-fiction novels. I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If I like the artwork, then I go in with a happy, expectant feeling. So I’m really glad that I didn’t see the original artwork for “Dragonriders of Pern”. I would have dismissed it as corny and moved on.

The Dragonriders changed everything for me, The world that McCaffrey with the weyrs became the foundation for every fantasy story I would read. Pern became my home world.

Pern, the planet threatening by Thread, a biological thing that destroys life. I always just pictured Thread as a wiggly black thing flying through the air. The only defense the planet had are the dragons and their fiery breath. People are able to ride dragons but the dragons choose their riders through a special ceremony. There is even a hierarchy to the dragons that the humans follow. There four Weyrs, a sort of colonies with their own Queen, leader, and community.

The series takes us through the trials of being Impressed, the connected between a dragon and its rider, the devastation of Thread, and the politics of the Weyrs. McCaffrey’s world of Pern is intense and it will be near impossible to tell you about them all. I can tell you that it’s not just a fantasy. I was surprised when the science-fiction portion kicked in later. Spoiler alert: Pern was terra-formed and let’s say Thread was kinda their fault.

The way that McCaffrey forms Pern just makes sense to me. It’s so deceptively simple: humans and dragons work together to fight thread. There! Don’t you see how beautiful that is?! It’s not humans versus dragons, it’s humans and dragons working together. As a fan of dragons, I hated reading stories about knights killing dragons. Or anything harming dragons. I love my reptilian-like creature that is aloof and hoards shiny things. I can relate to a certain way.

Everything I imagine of dragons, I owe it to McCaffrey. I daydreamed of impressing my own dragon eggs.

When McCaffrey passed away, I sobbed. I collapsed into my sofa and sobbed. I felt like I lost my only connection to Pern. Her son, Todd McCaffrey has done a great job of continuing the story but he has a different voice.

Anne McCaffrey will always be the mother of dragons in my world.

The Limit of Desire: Limit Wars #3 (Nico Rosso)

Review by The Book Pushers

Captain Jessa Tok is a veteran soldier, but when an artillery strike separates her from the squad she commands, it may be the end of her career and her life. Then a single Dawn Soldier fights his way behind enemy lines to find her. The last man she’d expect. The one soldier she’d had a fling with and was trying to forget.

Sergeant Ryder Hiltop never thought of himself as a hero. He’s a career soldier, just trying not to get killed. But when his captain is lost during an attack, he has to go find her. And not just for the sake of the other Dawn Soldiers. A shore leave with Jessa left an indelible mark on him, and he’ll do anything to make sure she’s safe. But is it a suicide mission to find her? And if they manage to fight their way to safety, can their brief affair grow into something more?

review-thelimitofdesireI’m a big fan of science fiction romance, and when I got this request from Rosso I was nervous about starting in the middle of a series, but super excited to read it. Even though it’s the third book in the Limit War series, it was really easy to follow and readable as a stand alone.

Jessa is captain of her squad and a hard-core soldier. Her one extended fling was with a man from her squad and, with him, she feels like a woman first and foremost. During a somewhat routine mission, Jessa gets separated from her squad and hurt during an attack. The last thing she expects is for Ryder to come and rescue her.

Ryder is content being a soldier, but if there is anything he wants more than to just survive, it’s Jessa. He risks everything by going to rescue her. And even after he finds her, they embark on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. But will their time together be enough to convince Jessa to take a chance on him?

Being a fan of both science fiction romance and suspense books, this novella was right up my alley. I loved that Rosso kept the plot moving right along. The action was high intensity and kept the story at a fast pace. I really enjoy the premise of the Limit War and the battle and fight scenes were very well done, I could picture everything running through my mind like a great movie.

I was also really impressed with how well Rosso was able to write a real and genuine female character. I’ve read some male author heroines before where it doesn’t always work out that way, and I was so happy to really click with Jessa so early on in the story. Her struggle to find a balance between super-soldier and her feminine persona was something that endeared her to me that much more. I loved her finding peace in deciding to be with Ryder and making it known to her squad that she could still be a badass and in love at the same time.

Ryder was great as well. He had such a laid back way about him, but when it really mattered, he was also ready to kick ass and take names. His desire for Jessa was obvious, and I really liked that he didn’t let her just brush him aside. That he was ready to fight for her and them, regardless of the potential loss.

All in all I really enjoyed this novella—I will definitely be checking out more books by Rosso in the future. The romance was real and sweet and sexy, the action was so realistic and kept the story moving at a pace that kept me engaged and at the edge of my seat. Science Fiction Romance fans will definitely want to check this one out!

I give The Limit of Desire an A-

The Trader: Man With No Face (RK Mann)

Review by RK Shiraishi

(This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)


review-thetraderTHE TRADER: MAN WITH NO FACE is a SF novel with romantic elements. It focuses on the plight of a (humanoid?) trader, a Patusian, who is captured and disfigured to the point of only having gaping holes for a mouth and nose. He is also being hunted as food for a group of aliens called the Kin. Grim. Definitely. And the trader has gained the power of telepathy. Surprise!

Maranth, the heroine, is a cultured, educated woman from a planet called Veddi which sees itself as more civilized than the rest of the galaxy. She is currently sent to work as a medical volunteer on a mining colony with her robot companion, Doc, a character I really grew to like. The Maranth-robot relationship makes for an exciting adventure pair.

The colony is attacked and she is taken prisoner-forced into indentured servitude to use her medical talents for a people known as the Afthari. Maranth is a complex character-she is very well educated, yet naive. All of her life she has been sheltered from violence, or deprivation, explicit sexuality (or any sexuality). She has a hard time grasping the realities of other’s desperation and poverty; sometimes with a condescending sense of doo-gooder-ness. Her capture and enslavement wake her up to a world that isn’t fair or protected.

Yet, despite her naivete, she has a fundamental kindness which leads her to have compassion for the Patusian when others only view him as grotesque. This leads into a more complicated plot about the nature of the Kin aliens as well as Maranth’s society.


So I only gave the bare bones of the characters and plot. This story is space opera, meaning there are lots of aliens and lots of worlds and plenty of action. I thought RK Mann did a fine job of developing truly unique planets and technologies. As mentioned, the medical robot was in itself almost book worthy. Another notable plus is that RK Mann doesn’t shy away from presenting the realities of grinding poverty. A lot of SF and SFR I read tends to avoid the issue of poverty (’cause in the future everyone’s equal) or makes it into a dystopian adventure. People in RK Mann’s world are poor amid wealth—not because of zombie invasion or alien attack but by the human vices of greed and violence. RK Mann presents rich, developed worlds and doesn’t try to make them all pretty.

I liked this book much more than I expected to. The title was a bit cumbersome and the blurb did not stand out, so it wasn’t one I immediately took notice of. Yet, some word of mouth on Goodreads made me take a second look and I was glad I did. It doesn’t always do to judge a book by its cover. And this one surprised me in a good way. It is not a perfect book, the POV took some getting used to at times and the commitment to detail makes for some long, descriptive passages. The initial introduction of the trader and the aliens who hunt him can be jarring and frightening. This is not a light beach read. Still, it holds together.

Reservations…mainly concerned the romantic plot. Although I liked both the characters a great deal, it may not be the HEA development that most romantic readers expect. Sweet heat level, which is fine, but the emotional ups and downs relationship-wise are not as prominent. This is SF with a nice dab of a love story, but for those Romance readers with a capital R, it may not suit.

I found it a decent read with some interesting characters and ideas. Content warning: there is a scene of sexual assault and attempted rape.

Thrill-Kinky (Teresa Noelle Roberts)

Review by Marlene Harris

For a TV show that ran for 14 episodes (plus one movie) Firefly is a show that is turning out to have a very “long tail” when it comes to influencing SF, particularly science fiction romance. And that the show’s influence seems to show most strongly in SFR rather than hard SF or space opera probably says something about its appeal and what fans see as its underlying strengths.

Review-ThrillKinkyGetting down off soapbox now. Well, sort of.

Thrill-Kinky is the first book in at least two that the author has set in the future world of the tramp space freighter Malcolm. Malcolm, like the Firefly-class ship Serenity, is crewed by a bunch of verging-on-criminal misfits who mostly do good while occasionally carrying enough freight to barely pay the bills and docking fees.

However, unlike in Firefly, the crew of the Malcolm is made up of multiple species, a polyglot that only gets more poly as the story continues through Thrill-Kinky and into Bad Kitty.

The captain Mik is human, but his first-mate/business partner/husband Gan is not. The mechanic (and star of Thrill-Kinky) is the very human Rita, but her best friend Xia is definitely felinoid. And the final member of the crew is Buck, an ex-soldier with a few mechanical body parts and a whole lot of PTSD.

The story begins with Rita out picking up garbage on a planet that sounds like Risa on steroids, during the planet’s annual festival celebrating sex and love. The entire crew of the Malcolm is partying except Rita, and Buck. Buck’s PTSD doesn’t like crowds.

Rita likes them just fine, but the slag she is picking up is a cash crop on a planet famous for its neuro relays. Supposedly they are paying extra to get the crap picked up during the multi-day festival. Of course, anything too good to be true, like the payoff they will get for this surprisingly simple and totally legit job, turns out to be not true.

Rita finds a Banjali tied up and severely bruised inside one of the dumpsters she’s supposed to, well, dump. Drax is an agent for his planet of flyers, and he’s on planet to prevent an interplanetary incident between his people and the local government. Obviously, he’s been betrayed.

Fortunately for Drax, the crew of the Malcolm and especially Rita are exactly what he needs to thwart the bad guys (and girls, and others) and protect the cultural artifact on loan from his planet. He was planning to catch the thieves in the museum red-handed (or pawed, or whatever) by flying in through the skylight and waiting for the baddies to show up.

Instead, Rita climbs through the skylight, and the cat-girl goes all predator on the assassin who is out to take Drax (or pieces of Drax) in. And while everyone chases down the baddies and tries to stay alive, Drax discovers that it is possible to fall in love in just a couple of days – if the person you fall for is wired to the same thrill-kinky strain that you are.

Will true love conquer all, or will Drax return to his planet, his people, and his suddenly boring life as a secret agent?

Escape Rating B: Thrill-Kinky is fun and surprisingly fluffy for a romance about two people who like to have sex while threatened with death and dismemberment. Rita and Drax both get off on being in danger, and the high that comes from surviving it. This is actually fairly normal for Drax, his people have sex while flying. Both because they can and because it aids conception. But sex is distracting and flying is dangerous and the combination is definitely a thrill if your heart can take it.

The romance here is of the lust at first sight persuasion. Drax and Rita set each other off from the moment that they meet. That they are being chased by bad guys in a speeding (and shooting) vehicle just adds spice to their first encounter.

The plot device of the Malcolm crew needing to handle Drax’s assignment without his skillset or his high-end tech toys is a great way for readers to get to know the crew and just what they are capable of.

While the action, and therefore the thrills, never let up, Rita and Drax discover that they are made for each other in every possible way, except one. Rita is a spacer, and Drax is an agent for his planet and people, willing to give his life (which he very nearly does) to protect his home. Also the Malcolm is definitely on the low-end of space freighters, and Drax is very used to a high-living, “smoothstyle” life. Rita is pretty much from the wrong side of the tracks. And Rita is all too aware that whatever they have can’t last, and probably can’t even be real, because there isn’t enough time, and there isn’t going to be enough time, to make it real.

Unless Drax is willing to gamble his whole life for the ultimate thrill – with Rita.

Untamable Lover & Untouchable Lover (Rosalie Redd)

Review by Jo Jones

Untouchable Lover and Untamable Lover read as one continuing story. As the reviews on the two would be very much the same, I decided to review them together.

Review-UntamableLover Review-UntouchableLoverRedd has created a unique world where the battle for Earth and her water are part of a year long contest by two different scouts from the planet Lemuria. The contest takes place on Earth and a year does not sound that long. However it is a Lemuria year not an Earth year and a Lemuria year is very long. It takes 20,000 Earth years to make one Lemuria year.

You see the how the contest starts. The book then skips almost 20,000 years as the contest is drawing to a close. Now Earth is populated by humans native to the planet and several Lemurian created races.

The plot is simple. The scouts have each created their own warriors. Those warriors are fighting each other. The scout with the winning warriors gets to decide what will happen on Earth. One scout would bargain for water. The other scout would make humans slaves and take the water.

While the plot is simple the way it plays out is not. Nothing is straightforward and there are numerous twists and turns. The action is seen through the eyes of more that one character. In fact you get to know both sides as well as some of the natives of Lemuria. At time the changing point of view is a distraction but it does add depth to the story line.

The prolog is action filled and provides the base for the world building as well as the start of the back-story. As the action progresses the fine details of the world are filled in. Each character has a unique back-story and that comes out in flash backs and dialog.

Both books are filled with description. Like the change in point of view it was sometimes a distraction and for me it intruded on the flow of the story. There is plenty of action, danger, tension and romance in both books. While this is Earth it is an Earth unlike the one we know. The unusual characters and setting add to the fantasy like feeling of the story.

While this is Science Fiction Romance don’t look for a traditional HEA. The main characters do get together but the contest still goes on. Do look for a very exciting story filled with interesting characters. Book Three: Unimaginable Love will be out in the Fall of 2016.

Yours to Desire: ES Siren #3 (Denise Rossetti)

Review by Psyche Skinner

The setting of this novella, a long haul space ship, feels authentic from the very first page. Not because the reader is subject to lengthy exposition but quite the reverse, from the first page each room the characters enter seems to have a palpable patina of age and use that does not cause one to wonder about all of the mechanics behind it.

review-yourstodesireTo begin with, the main characters seem somewhat exaggerated examples of their types—the reformed tough guy and rich nerd girl—but over the course of the story they become more convincing as the details of their personal histories emerge. The course of the romance from initial attraction, through a series of obstacles, to consummation is certainly not complex but it is essentially believable. More depth might have been added if I had read the first two books in the series but the story seemed quite complete without them.

The plot is more in the nature of a traditional romance than an erotic romance—with misunderstandings, delayed consummation and matrimony. But a plot revolving about a drug that makes women uncontrollably libidinous combined with a lot of fantasies and yearning makes for an erotically charged story throughout. It might, however, have helped if a few episodes outside the romance were shared so the reader could understand what sexmeth was used for and who the victims were, to explain the obsessive nature of Lily’s research and Connor’s investigation.

Lily Kwan is more convincing as a research scientist than is common in genre romance where women’s careers are often skimmed over or unconvincingly described. It is not that her work is described at the molecular level or that her approach to developing a drug antidote is at all conventional, but her haste and self-justification seem to spring from a the character’s driven mindset rather than resulting from the author glossing over difficult details.

I had only two reservations about this book. Firstly [spoiler alert] the villain is given an unnecessarily hideous fate about which the ostensibly honest characters in law enforcement are completely blasé. One would hope that police characters we are meant to admire would not just shrug over a prisoner being sentenced to cruel and unusual punishment and them tortured and murdered illegally while incarcerated because they personally had decided he deserved it? [/ spoiler alert]

The second is not really about the story at all but an old bugbear of mine about inaccurate covers. The main characters in the story are described as a blue/black-haired heroine of East Asian descent and a tough tattooed and dark-haired Hispanic-looking hero—but the cover shown on Amazon depicts them as a blond clean-cut Caucasian male and brunette Caucasian female. One hopes this is out of carelessness or lack of appropriate stock photos, because for readers like me, diversity is an attraction in a book and not something that needs to be white-washed away.

This title is currently available at no cost from Amazon and I think that it is well worth a look if you are interested in a story that is a traditional romance at heart but set in a world that is the very opposite of the usual bonnets, breaches and fields of flowers path-to-true-love clichés.

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