Desert Isle Keeper
Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair is a book I find myself re-reading at regular intervals, three times in three years so far. The first time I read it I considered it a guilty pleasure, with its dramatic plotline and the so very obvious Cinderella theme. It was only on rereading it that I discovered how delightfully well-crafted the novel is.
First a word on the world-building: like all of Linnea Sinclair’s novels, this book is set in a complex universe in which different nations and societies fight wars and form alliances. Here, there are three nations: the rigid and orderly Zafharin Empires (partly ancient Rome and partly Soviet Union without the camps); the far more messy and disordered Conclave; and the cruel and, for other races, incomprehensible ‘Sko. These nations come with their individual political parties, with traditions and their own language, and I love them. All three used to fight among another, but three years ago the Empire and Conclave forged a truce, which is still regarded with distrust by most of their citizens.
Because she is broke and does not want starport officials watching over her shoulder while she is doing some much-needed repairs on her battered-down ship, Conclave freighter captain Trilby Elliot has landed on an otherwise uninhabited planet in the middle of nowhere. (Yes, that name made me pause, too, but there is an explanation for it.) She is very much surprised to witness a ‘Sko fighter crash on the planet’s surface, but eager to investigate the ship’s wreck because salvaged parts may bring in some money. The pilot is not ‘Sko, however, but an Imperial officer, still alive. Trilby transports him onto her ship and puts him into sick-bay. She is sorry about that almost immediately as, on waking up, the pilot suspects her of being in league with the ‘Sko and even threatens her life until she can convince him that she has saved him and would be perfectly happy to take him to the next Conclave starport, Port Rumor, once repairs on her ship are finished.
Lieutenant Rhis Vanur was on a spying mission in ‘Sko territory and barely got out alive. Now he must get back to the Empire as quickly as possible. Seeing that he desperately needs the use of Trilby’s ship, he swallows his Imperial pride, apologizes for his rudeness and actually helps her with repairs. Rhis is not used to being either conciliatory or pleasant, and the experience proves to be quite eye-opening. At the same time, being around a very pretty woman who is both genuinely kind and not at all fazed by his arrogance or military reputation is rather intoxicating.
I don’t want to give away more of the plot, because it is beautifully crafted and offers many surprising twists – at least at first reading. Now I just admire how carefully these twists are prepared. I also love the way Trilby and Rhis interact. They are both adults, and it shows. When they misstep or act out of bounds, they need to work to patch their relationship up again, but when events demand it, they are capable of acting without pettiness or foolishness.
Trilby is an clear embodiment of Cinderella in that she is a lowly freighter captain, with just a droid to assist her. Her last rich and influential lover dumped her as “low class trash from Port Rumor.” Less obviously, Rhis is a variation of Sleeping Beauty. In fact, that’s the way I understand his falling in love with Trilby so fast. He is ensnared in the efficiency, arrogance and rigidity of his Imperial background, and when he sheds this mask, quite cold-bloodedly, to manipulate Trilby, he has no inkling that this leaves his heart wide open to her appeal.
So, yes, I adore Finders Keepers and plan to reread it in about a year’s time. It’s highly romantic, very fast-paced, with beautiful world-building, and it features two strong, fascinating main characters. It and the equally spell-binding Games of Command are my favorite Linnea Sinclair novels, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.