Desert Isle Keeper
These Broken Stars
I love books that capture the imagination and send it soaring. This gem of a young adult novel combines science fiction, romance and the questions of right and might to create a unique and intriguing story.
Tarver Merendsen is anxious to escape the party on board the luxury spaceliner Icarus but knows that as a war hero and officer he is required not just to make an appearance but to mingle. It is his job to be photographed with the rich and fake in order to keep the funds coming to the troops on the front. The evening is turning into another yawn fest when he sees her. Her luxurious clothing and air of ennui label her as one of the elite but her snub nose (the only one on the ship not surgically altered into perfection) and her bright red hair show her to be a nonconformist. After helping her out of a spot of bother Tarver takes a seat at her table and the two share the first genuine conversation he’s ever had on the upper decks. Then her friends show up and dismiss him before he can get her name. That’s okay – he’s nothing if not patient and he plans to find her again – soon.
When Lilac LaRoux, daughter to the richest, most powerful man in the galaxy, spots Tarver on the viewing deck the next day she gives an inward groan. Anyone who catches her attention catches her father’s attention – and his attention tends to send you to very bad places. Determined to see that Tarver doesn’t suffer for showing her the only good time she has had in months she gives him a very cold, humiliating brush off when he approaches her. She can tell by the look in his eye that the message was received and that he will avoid her in future. What a shame he can’t tell by the look in her eyes that the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.
Their plans to avoid each other for the rest of the journey are thwarted when the Icarus is yanked out of hyperspace later that night. When Tarver sees Lilac pushed and tossed about by the stampeding crowd racing for the evacuation pods he snatches her to safety. But this forces them to share an escape pod, not something that makes either of them very happy. The adventure does not go smoothly. The pod is hit by an electrical surge which takes out its control panel. Lilac, showing a surprising hidden skill, is able to jump start the release procedures and the two find themselves hurtling towards the planet below them.
Tarver knows they are in quite a bit of trouble. While Lilac’s father might leave no stone unturned in looking for her, there are a lot of stones in the galaxy and he has no idea if the last coordinates Icarus was able to send from hyperspace will be of any use to the search parties. Their best hope would be rescuers from the ship but they are forced to watch as Icarus falls slowly toward its death many miles away. With the homing beacon on the escape pod broken during the electrical surge and their less than gentle landing taking out all other electrical systems, their pod will look like any other piece of debris from the sky. Grimly, he prepares to spend several unpleasant days in Ms. LaRaoux’s company while he works to get them rescued.
But Tarver has misunderstood the situation. Princess she might be but practical is her standard when it comes to survival. After a bit of a rough start Lilac begins to work very well with Tarver and the two hold a slim hope for the future. And then the whispering starts. . .
This is a surprisingly absorbing read. I found myself glued to the page, eager to learn just what was happening and why. I wasn’t just caught up in the plot, though; the relationship between Lilac and Tarver captured my attention as well. I was grateful that while there was contention between them they kept the cruelty and nastiness to a minimum. I am often amazed at the super human forgiveness needed to make an HEA work but the authors wisely didn’t take the problems between their leads to that level. While I felt it took a bit to get to the impetuous behind Lilac’s behavior I was grateful that we were left with plenty of time for our two leads to think – and love – their way around the problem.
Initially, I was concerned that Lilac would either come off as a fraudulent wonder woman or a complete door mat. Thankfully she is neither. She possesses well explained skills and decent intuition. She and Tarver both work at the rescue and both save each other on a regular basis. Tarver makes a nice counter point to Lilac in that he is both skilled at survival and compassionate. He gives her the time she needs to make the adjustment to a harsh and totally unexpected lifestyle while still setting a realistic pace for their survival.
I also liked the sensuality of the story. Two teens with a mutual attraction to each other are bound to let their interest turn sexual at some point in time. While it is never explicit, the novel does show us their growing and fully consummated intimacy. I thought the physical aspect of their romance was handled with discretion and skill.
The plotting is complex enough that we are anxious to see how things will work out and the mid-section throws a wrench into the works that makes it look like all will be lost. It is intriguing to see just how that is handled and the ending is rather explosive.
If you like science fiction novels that contain strong romances I am happy to recommend this one. It’s a fantastic read for fans of that genre.