A title like Captive Desire may put you in mind of a 1980s old school romance with a Fabio cover, but this book dates from 2018 and is the the second erotic science fiction story in Robin Lovett’s Planet of Desire series. It’s an opposites attract romance featuring two species previously at war who are stuck on a planet where desire can be deadly. While sex is definitely a big highlight of the book, combine it with some unique world building and intriguing character dilemmas and you’ve got an enjoyable read.
Assura is a military operations specialist, recently defected from the human Ten Systems brutal regime. Along with her crewmates, she stole a ship, the Origin, and crash landed on the planet Fyrian after a fierce battle with the Ssedez, a golden skinned alien species seeking revenge for the human decimation of their race over a hundred years before. For both species, the air is toxic and makes them crazed with lust that is barely slaked by sexual acts (solo or otherwise).
Ssedez General Gahnin was widowed when his first mate was killed by humans during the disastrous war that caused his people to obliterate their home planet to fool humans into thinking they’d been exterminated while escaping to a new home. He’s expected to observe another traditional century of mourning before looking for a new mate and his attraction to the enemy human is more than just disturbing – it could ostracize him from his people. But like Assura, he is powerless to stop the urge to relieve the lust. Forced to work with Assura as the human crew works to repair The Origin, they agree to use each other to keep the madness at bay. There is an antidote to the atmospheric poison that helps in some circumstances, but isn’t enough for Gahnin’s mating urge not to be triggered. Is Assura his real destiny or is fate playing a cruel trick on two strangers forced to work together to survive?
The sex scenes in this romance are plentiful and not only provide some erotic titillation (especially the ‘sex games’ that Gahnin and Assura have to participate in for the pleasure of the planet’s local inhabitants) but are a useful device for keeping our main characters attached by various body parts. It’s an extreme version of a forced proximity romance. When Assura and Gahnin aren’t making out, they are sharing their life experiences with each other and discovering that labelling someone ‘an enemy’ is a lot easier when you don’t see them up close and personal. Having hated humans for so long, Gahnin reluctantly comes to admire Assura for her strength and courage, more important to him than his physical attraction to her body. Developing real feelings for her, the stirrings of the mating bond are alarming but when it comes to the point where he realizes he would risk his life to save hers, he can’t deny those feelings any longer no matter that his mourning period is not over. But these are extraordinary circumstances and his fellow Ssedez aren’t as quick to judge as he’d expect (especially since his commanding offer has also fallen for a human in book one of the series, Toxic Desire).
Assura’s feelings are more complicated, made so especially by her role on the starship Hades under the brutal leadership of General Dargule before she defected and joined The Origin. She’d been in charge of prisoners and forced into situations requiring her to do things she despised. One of her prisoners was a Ssedez, and she worries about what Gahnin will think when he finds out. Her brash exterior hides a damaged psyche and it will take more than a roll in the hay to make her believe she’s worthy of Gahnin.
There are some action-packed scenes throughout the story, and the Ten Systems regime is not about to let a bunch of rebels get away so easily, which makes for an intense finale. While our couple finds a compromise to get their happy ending, there are more Origin crew suffering the same lustful toxicity who will be seen in future books. Captive Desire doesn’t pretend to be a serious science fiction novel and won’t be for everyone. But sometimes hot aliens, imaginative sex scenes and otherworldly adventures are the perfect escapist read.