I’ve always been something of a sci-fi junkie. Space stories are my favorites, although they have been in relatively short supply lately. When I saw this one available on Amazon, I was delighted. The plot brought to mind the series Firefly and in particular the episode Trash, which involved a con within a con. As in Trash, this novella finds a motley crew dealing with a scam artist. The question is, can you really con a con?
In order to live, she had to die. Aurellia Popkiss had good reason for faking her “unfortunate” death as a young teen and tearing off into the big black with a rag tag band of misfits. They have lived in deep space ever since, surviving by scavenging and picking up odd jobs. Years of existing this way have let them all put behind them a past they would just as soon forget. But there is a problem with things you put behind you – sometimes they manage to catch up.
When a routine scavenger mission lands them with an unexpected stowaway the crew is wary but pleased. Young Kateryn is a beauty who claims she is from a wealthy family – a family that will pay a great deal of money for her return. Aurellia is skeptical of the girl’s story but they need the money (they always need the money), and plans are made to get the girl home without any inconvenient brushes with the law. Yet Kateryn seems far more interested in ingratiating herself with the crew than helping them contact her parents to arrange a way back to her former life. Thus begins a dangerous dance between Kateryn and Aurellia. A dance in which there can only be one winner – the person who manages the final bluff.
Welcome aboard the starship Euchronia, manned by a group of miscreants and headed by a danger loving, adventure seeking young miss. Along with Aurelia the crew is made up of Meri, the mad scientist slash doctor who patches them up and creates amazing weapons, Bam, one of Meri’s success stories who is part man, part machine and all fun loving pirate, Everhard, whose endless interest in the ladies earned him his interesting nickname, and Keys. Keys (Caderyn Keelan Alloway) is Aurellia’s first officer – and secret crush.
On the positive side, the author did a good job of convincing me of the unity of this group. On a small ship, everyone would need to be able to work and play together. There was a happy mesh of personalities here that had me thinking that would be fun and feasible for this lot. And I liked them all. Sure, they were a bit two dimensional, but they had just enough depth to make them likable rather than cardboard. The love story is a plus as well. The romance between Keys and Aurellia takes a back seat to the story of the con. As a result the HEA felt a bit rushed, but it was there and it was sweet enough to be satisfying.
On the negative side, I struggle with stories where some amazing young thing heads a band of criminals and this one was no exception. It didn’t seem likely that the crew would choose to follow Aurellia rather than Keys. She just didn’t have enough to recommend her as leader, and while I appreciated the author’s efforts to make her look astonishing, they unfortunately fell short for me. When Aurellia outsmarted someone it tended to be the kind of con I could see through. Since I’m the kind of person to whom you can sell swampland in Florida, that made it hard for me to be impressed. Also, Keys was older and more experienced. These factors tend to trounce sexy in terms of leadership for most people.
Overall, while the story had issues it also had heart. I would recommend this one to fans of sci-fi romance looking for a quick fix.