Purple Haze, book two in Kelly Jensen’s Aliens in New York series picks up around six months after the events of Uncommon Ground, and sees Dillon Lee and his billionaire (alien) lover happily living together though still working to accept the huge changes that have occurred in both their lives. Because this is a direct sequel that refers to events and features recurring characters from the previous book – which it would be helpful to read first – there will be spoilers for Uncommon Ground in this review.
Six months ago, Dillon Lee would have laughed at the idea that aliens existed – despite the huge amount of ‘evidence’ amassed by his late grandfather, a conspiracy theorist of the first order. He’d have laughed even harder – probably – had anyone told him he’d fall in love with an alien, and that not only was his grandfather an alien, he wasn’t his grandfather at all, but his father – and that Dillon himself is half alien as a result. But that was then – and this is now; and Dillon has come to accept the truth. His father was Wren – one of the five clans from the planet Jord – and Steilang Skovgaard, the man Dillon loves with all his heart, is from the same planet, sent to Earth twenty-five years earlier, along with several other scouts (who have since died) in order to help build a sanctuary for the members of his clan.
As we learned in the previous book, Lang hadn’t heard anything from his clan for over seven years, and towards the end of it, he had to face the fact that they may never be coming to Earth at all. So many years of devotion and loneliness, and he realised that the mission he was literally bred for may have been a futile one, but with Dillon in his life now, he hasn’t found it as difficult to accept that and adapt to his changing circumstances as it might otherwise have been. For Dillon, too, life has taken unexpected directions; in addition to finding out the truth of his heritage, he’s putting down roots – with Lang, yes, but also by setting up an art school in the city in the property left him by his father, and is looking forward to its opening in a few week’s time.
Purple Haze opens on New Year’s Eve, with Dillon and Lang out dancing at a club. It’s not really Lang’s thing – he’s never been comfortable in crowds – but it makes Dillon happy, he likes seeing Dillon happy… so he’s happy, too. The trouble with being a reclusive billionaire who keeps himself very private however, is that when it becomes known he’s out on the town with someone, the paparazzi pounces. He and Dillon have trouble leaving the club and have to dive back inside to find another exit – but not before the camera flashes going off in their faces render Dillon temporarily unable to see.
Fortunately, this condition doesn’t last long, but in its wake, leaves Dillon with unpredictable, crashing headaches – and he gradually notices other changes, too, changes that are going to have serious repercussions on his life with Lang and may possibly part them forever.
Whereas the plot in Uncommon Ground focused mostly on building the relationship between Dillon and Lang, and on Dillon’s gradual discovery of the truth about his father’s origins, Purple Haze raises the stakes considerably for our heroes as it becomes clear that some latent ability in Dillon has been awakened – and it’s unusual enough for the Jord Elders to want to know more about it.
Kelly Jensen has once again achieved an excellent balance between the various elements – romance, suspense and sci-fi – of her story, and does a great job of defining the alien society of Jord and contrasting it with that on Earth through Lang’s gradual realisation that his thought processes have become more human than Jord. All his life, he’s been dedicated to serving his clan; subservient to the ruling Wren, never questioning the rightness of his mission, he’s been focused on fulfilling his obligations, but after twenty five years among humans, he can no longer accept that picture or his role as somehow ‘less’ than. The intensity of his love for Dillon and his despair at the thought he might lose him forever spurs Lang to rebel against his inbred sense of duty and everything he has ever known about himself and his people in order to fight for the man he loves.
The connection Ms. Jensen has created between Dillon and Lang is practically palpable, and the way they just fit together in spite of their differences, is simply lovely. Among the small supporting cast, Dillon’s mum and grandmother are nicely rounded characters who offer a little light relief, and his relationship with them is really well written. This is also true of the relationship between Lang and the other major secondary character, Upero – the Artificial Intelligence on his ship. Like Lang, Upero has evolved somewhat during their time on earth and he’s become the sort of ‘starchy old-retainer’ type character who chides their charge while secretly being fond of them (if it’s possible for an AI to be fond) and even manages a side of snark from time to time.
The pacing is excellent, with a gradual sense of foreboding hovering in the background in the first half of the story as the tension and suspense gradually ramp up to provide a genuine element of doubt as to the final outcome, and there are some truly emotional moments, ones I admit brought a lump to my throat. But one of the things I enjoyed most was the message that came through loud and clear, about the power of human emotions and most importantly, that love and faith in those we love really can conquer all.
Purple Haze is a thoroughly entertaining read that combines an exciting plot with an emotionally satisfying romance, in which the author has once again packed a lot of plot and character development into a relatively small page-count. I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Dillon and Lang or Aliens in New York.