Hope’s Folly is about a man, Admiral Phillip Guthrie, who is leading a nascent organized counter-force against the corrupt leader of an empire. Guthrie is working with less people, less ammunition, and less money – but not less skill. His talents and that of his crew aboard the airship of the title, Hope’s Folly, are what give them more than a fighting chance against the despot.
Captain Rya Bennton is a former ImpSec agent, which I believe makes her a bad-ass mix of CIA, SWAT, Navy SEAL, and perhaps someone out of CSI. In addition, she is the daughter of a former colleague of Guthrie who died while serving with him. Aboard Hope’s Folly, she is on a revenge mission.
Guthrie blames himself for Cory Bennton’s death and cannot believe his immediate, intense attraction to the woman he remembers as a pudgy, annoying little girl he had called Rya the Rebel. Now grown-up, Rya has lots in front, lots behind…and gives him lots of lip. It only increases their mutual sexual attraction, something he spends (and rightly so) three-quarters of the novel fighting. But even while Guthrie is fighting his attraction, he has to focus on keeping his motley crew alive and ferreting out the mole – or moles – that hide in their midst.
Hope’s Folly is the third in a futuristic series about – as I understand it – an inter-galactic war for supremacy. I need to qualify that it’s a statement informed only by this one book and I had a difficult time, particularly at the outset, in understanding conversational nuances. Where exactly are they in space? Where is Earth? Does it still exist? What year is this? What’s a Calth? Sorry, where is Calth? Who are these gods? A KyIi-what?
This is not just my first book in the series, not just my first book by Linnea Sinclair, but also my first ever science fiction romance. When I opened Hope’s Folly and read that it also featured a May-December romance, I realized this book was to be a multi-tiered baptism by fire for me. I was truly out of my element and it took me a while to move from the ginger dip of my toe in the shallows to an all-out appreciation of the depths of the book.
I finally got there though, due to great storytelling and very emotive characterization. The relationship combination of Guthrie as the injured but tactically brilliant commanding officer and Rya as his tough and just as tactically brilliant security worked for me despite my huge (and it is huge) aversion to 10+ age differences between protagonists outside of historical romance. Sinclair did not shy away from the issue of their ages. In fact, it is high on Guthrie’s list of reasons why he should keep his distance. For Rya, it is very much less of an issue and I respected her for looking beyond that, just as I respected that a man in his position as her superior would consider it a serious stumbling block.
Normally I pretend what I don’t like is not there, so I routinely delete moustaches, imagine away cowboy boots and dye blonde hair. But Sinclair never let me forget the age difference. With Guthrie, I was forced to look that age difference right in the eye and realize “it doesn’t matter”. In this much at least, this book was a personal romance-reading-changing experience. While it was turning my preconceived notions topsy-turvy, it also delivered a very nice love story.
Apart from Rya’s interactions with Phillip, I truly enjoyed Rya as an individual character. She is twenty-nine years old and has had frank sexual relationships with other men. During the course of their adventure she pauses more than once to appreciate the sight of someone she tags as Mr Nice Ass (and no, it isn’t Phillip). This type of contemporary character (albeit placed in a futuristic setting) is refreshing and much appreciated. The only issue I had with her had to do with her clashing personality types. She is sexually active, and – quite outside of her sexual interactions – open and upfront about what she knows, what she wants, and what she can do. But Sinclair gives her a body image hang-up that did not ring true to me.
Not only did it not ring true for Rya’s character, it also clashed with what I had come to understand of the book’s world, where humans, half-demons, kyi-Ragkirils and furry-but-intelligent, sentient creatures live side by side. It struck me as odd that in such a landscape, women could still be suffering under height and weight related stereotypes. Odd and depressing.
However, regardless of the myriad hang-ups I held, as I began to read Hope’s Folly, I enjoyed it despite myself. The romance was well developed between the two characters, believable, and in the end, sweet. The action was fast-paced and so clear as to be dizzying. I got lost through most of it but that’s my own failing; that I enjoyed it so much despite my previous lack of experience with the series and the genre is a testament to Sinclair’s writing skill. I will be interested in walking further down the futuristic romance lane to read the first novels in the series as I’ve liked what I’ve read so far.