Desert Isle Keeper
Fall is the third standalone novella in Claire Kent’s erotic sci-fi series Hold. All the stories to date take place on a series of planets described as being part of Coalition space, the Coalition being a strict ruling party that controls this part of the galaxy. The first story (also entitled Hold) is a dark and gritty introduction to a reality where political prisoners and murderers alike are kept on a prison planet, thought to be impossible to escape. However with years of planning, hero Cain and his new cell mate and love interest Riana find a way off the planet with the help of Hall, a fellow inmate who has certain psychic powers. In the second story, Release, Hall finds himself on an independent planet ruled by a Royal dynasty. The Coalition is determined to take control of the wayward planet. Hall enlists the help of a smuggler friend – Lenna – to get him and his new partner Princess Kyla off the planet before all hell breaks loose. Lenna is successful, but the fallout from her actions catches up to her in Fall.
Lenna’s story starts with her having been dumped by the Coalition on a stone age planet, a lifetime prison sentence in a place that is essentially like having traveled back through time to a prehistoric existence. Small bands of human hunter gatherers exist, primitive societies reminiscent of early Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon peoples. Lenna must fight for survival against the elements and aligning with a tribe is her best chance. Even better would be catching the attention of a prominent alpha male and becoming his mate. But can a woman from the future and a man from the past really form a meaningful and long lasting relationship? Or is Lenna better off trying anything to get back home?
What an interesting and provocative story! Each title has been entirely different in scope and scenario. While Hold has a high place on my shelf of favorite erotic romances, this story while definitely containing some erotic scenes, delves into deeper themes. It makes one question what one is are willing to give up in the name of love. Lenna’s introduction to her new home planet is harsh and violent. She barely survives an attack by the local wildlife when she encounters the first of the hairy, dirty, unkempt stereotypical Neanderthal type males, a man who tries to kill her. But another male from a different tribe who looks and acts similarly interrupts her almost death and deals his own blow to her would be assailant. Just as Lenna is wrapping her mind around what she’s seeing, a male that looks decidedly more like her is there. He’s clean, he’s well groomed, he’s handsome, and immediately the reader’s mind thinks, ‘Aha! Here is the hero! The one who’s going to save her!’. But that’s not what happens.
The men who come to her aid (some clearly better groomed than others) abruptly begin to depart. In desperation and with no ability to communicate in their primitive language, she offers them some of the berries she’s collected. They accept, hand her a sack made of animal skins and gesture that she should collect more and follow them. From there, Lenna becomes a part of the tribe, though as an unmated female she is relegated to the role assigned to widows and orphans, the ones on the outer circle of the fire. As luck would have it, she finds an ally, a man named Desh from her own world who was dropped on the planet as a teenager a few years earlier for his political crimes. Desh has a limited role in the tribe because he has not completed his first solo hunt but he understands the hierarchy of its members, their customs, and their language. A key custom is that when a man takes a mate, she is responsible for his personal grooming – so the men who have their hair combed and braided, whose bodies and clothes are clean (in short, the ones who look more human and less animal to Lenna) are taken. He tells Lenna that if she wants to get a favored position, she’ll need to become a mate to one of the leaders. Rone, the Neanderthal looking man who defended her clearly is a strong hunter and has a favorable position in the tribe. And he’s unmated.
Lenna and Rone are more than just opposites – they are worlds apart. But at heart they are still just a man and a woman. Lenna watches how the other women act and learns to imitate them, eventually sharing Rone’s bed. To her surprise, after expecting a rough and quick sexual experience that she’d grimace and get through, she finds herself attracted to Rone’s strength and the intelligence in his eyes. They might not be able to speak to each other, but he’s clearly attracted to her and she finds herself getting comfort in his arms. Gradually their connection intensifies as she learns the rudiments of his language, and their sexual experiences become more mutually fulfilling. It’s not the life she’d ever imagined having, but she is adjusting and can admit to herself that she is falling in love with Rone. But the second half of the story takes on some surprising twists, ones that make Lenna question where she’s come from and what she wants for her future. There are some quite emotional and heart tugging moments, decisions made and regretted, forgiveness sought and granted. Lenna and Rone deserve their happy ending. Interestingly, Desh, Lenna’s young tribe mate is set to get his own story, which – based on the three novellas in the series to date – is bound to take the series in another new direction. Fall might be an erotic caveman-type romance on the surface but it has a lot of emotional depth and a surprising insight into what makes the human heart tick.