This is a revision of a book originally published in 2008 as Across the Stars.
Solae O’bora, bounty hunter, teams up with Raav Asirian, mercenary, to deliver a ransom. The recipient, Fyn Du-ket, killed Solae’s mother and sister years ago. Raav and Solae have a lot of sex, which Solae hates that she loves. In Solae, the author is going for “tough in the captain’s chair, submissive in the cabin” but ends up with “domestic abuse victim in denial.” Raav is supposed to be a sexy, dominant alpha, but I only wanted Solae to get him naked as a precursor to shoving him out of an airlock. Honestly, the best thing I can say about this book is that it ended.
Raav kicks off the book in what we will learn is classic Raav style by conspiring with a local bar owner to coerce Solae into sex. The bar owner will shake Solae down over the bounty she is arresting on the premises, whereupon Raav will swoop in and offer to clear the whole thing up – provided Solae grants him whatever sex he wants for a whole night. Not only does the author not consider this problematic, she even has Solae be grateful: having known and lusted after Raav for some time, she is thankful that he has manipulated her into sex so she doesn’t have to give consent.
If you like that idea, then read on. Nearly every sex scene in the book follows this pattern of Raav wanting sex, Raav getting sex, and Solae having such amazing orgasms that none of the petty details leading up to said orgasms seems to matter.
As a partner, Raav is abusive. When Solae flirts with a bounty – which is her entire MO, and should not have come as a surprise – Raav shoved her roughly against the wall before denying his jealousy with the convincing assertion “I don’t do jealousy, but just so you know, everything to do with you is my business.” He introduces her to some sex equipment by handcuffing her to it WHEN SHE IS ASLEEP. Her sexy expressions of consent include phrases like “You son of a bitch!” and “What the fuck are you doing?”, but of course her vagina is producing moisture so it’s all good. After a few rounds of this behavior, “Tears filled her eyes with the realization that she loved him. She hadn’t wanted to, had fought her feelings for him, but there it was.”
Those must have been some orgasms.
This book struck me as pornographic instead of erotic (and by the way, if porn is your thing, fly your flag, but it’s not mine and it’s not what the book is sold as.) It doesn’t work for me because it’s focused on physical images and physical lust instead of character-based attraction. We never understand why these two characters like each other. We just know that Raav has been stalking Solae for a decade and thinks she’s hot, and that Raav makes Solae’s panties wet.
The author’s voice, in my head, felt very much like that of a teenaged boy: “There’s this hot bounty hunter chick who has sex with guys to bust them. And she totally wants this hot spaceship captain but she doesn’t want to admit it so she’s so glad when he blackmails her. Then they go on a space adventure and fuck all the time and she wears hot outfits like a schoolgirl miniskirt with a corset and thigh-highs, plus three inch heels. Oh, and a thong, and she flashes it at the bouncers so she can get in a club, where anything goes – from chicks making out with each other to chicks getting groped by guys. It’s wild, man. One time she acts like the awesome captain guy is not the boss but he totally shows her by stripping her clothes off and spanking her in front of this crew guy and she gets off on that humiliation so hard! Whenever Solae wants to make some decisions Raav just bones her until she’s like okay, I’ll do whatever you want, cuz what strong women really want is to be dominated by an even stronger cock. Dude, it’s so hot.”
The women kidnapped by Fyn Du-ket are treated with contempt by the characters because they fall in love with Du-ket. But I saw little difference between these women and Solae, who resolutely believes herself in love with a man who repeatedly assaults her. Solae lost a great deal of my sympathy by her jerkish handling of these kidnap victims, threatening them, using tracking devices, and taking away their clothes from the kidnap and replacing them with clothing she thinks is better. She also forcibly returns them to a magistrate who gives her the creeps (their preference is irrelevant) and worries that their future husbands will be distressed at their affection for Fyn.
In addition to unlikeable main characters, problematic tone, and profound consent issues, this book also has an implausible plot. There is a coincidence that, in order to be a surprising reveal, requires the characters involved to have been absurdly stupid and pointlessly reticent. There is an old mystery, but fortunately, the only eyewitness’s word can be corroborated with video footage, which for some reason could not have been revealed at any point in the previous decade. There is a villain who confesses upon confrontation and then monologues. The list goes on.
Long story short, we have a jerk main male who is, if not a rapist, then living in the darkest of the fifty shades of gray, and a faux tough-lady heroine whose decisions are entirely governed by the moisture levels in her underpants. They are awful to each other and to everybody else in the book while boinking their way through a series of increasingly implausible plot points. I love sci-fi romance, and I want desperately to recommend a great read. For now, I will have to settle for warning you off of a bad one.