As I read True Blood, I kept flipping to the front cover to check the writer’s name. Doesn’t Patricia Waddell usually write historical romances? Her offering of SF romance is terrific!
The Llyndar, a Korcian freighter ship, is traveling through an area controlled by the League of Planets when it explodes, killing all 46 crewmembers aboard. The Korcian Empire demands the perpetrators or else it will declare war against the League. To defuse the situation, the League embassy forms an investigative tribunal, which includes a diplomat from the League and a neutral party. The Empire, however, sends an Enforcer, a member of the Korcians’ highest-level security force.
Cullon Gavriel, the Enforcer, approaches Danna MacFadyen, the diplomat, and confides to her that one of the dead crewmembers was a True Blood – and the first in line to the Korcian Empire’s throne. True Bloods are Korcian males who can trace their lineage back to the eight families that colonized and once ruled the planet Korcia. However, a military government has ruled Korcia now for the past 1000 years and True Bloods do not hold any political power, so why would someone want to kill one? Cullon is to find out if the explosion was a tragic accident or an assassination, and he wants to speed up the investigation by using Danna’s psychometric ability, a type of psychic power with which she can touch an object and see visions from the past involving its owner.
While trying to ignore their growing awareness of each other, Cullon and Danna collect some possessions of the dead True Blood, and Danna’s visions from them show a connection to the Conglomerate, a powerful criminal organization. Cullon now wants to pursue the investigation by himself, but Danna doesn’t want him to run a one-man tribunal, so she tells the League ambassador about the True Blood crewmember and the link to the Conglomerate. Cullon is not happy when the ambassador does not disband the investigative tribunal.
The mystery of the True Blood’s death is an engrossing one and provides satisfying twists and turns. The romance between the two leads is equally satisfying. Cullon avoids long-term relationships, knowing that his unstable, dangerous job is hard on them. However, the depth of his feelings for Danna has him rethinking his standpoint. Danna chooses to be his lover, knowing it would only be an affair and not knowing what to do when she begins to have feelings for him, too. They make a passionate, compelling couple.
There’s a lot to like in both leads. Danna doesn’t deny her gift, but has opted for a career in diplomacy, which takes her far away from her home planet, Earth. She is intelligent, composed, and shows guts when she stands up to an intimidating warrior such as Cullon. She is self-assured, comfortable with her sexuality, and not afraid to show how she wants to please her man. Cullon makes a magnetic, sexy first impression. He oozes danger, so much so he rather alarmed me. He is a police officer and an executioner and very good at his job. However, his protectiveness and concern for Danna warmed me up to him and his later tenderness and affectionate displays endeared him completely to me.
The world building that Patricia Waddell does is outstanding and imaginative, yet she also conveys the human-like aspects of her alien worlds. There are a few hiccups. Certain SF details are similar to ones I’ve seen in some SF movies. It’s very convenient that Cullon, whose warrior stance reminded me instantly of Star Trek’s Klingons, looks physically like a human man, and the true reason for killing all of the freighter ship’s crew is almost exactly like the plot twist in a great non-SF film. These familiar details actually made the book more comfortable and accessible for me, although there is one odd detail that is coincidentally like one I read in a well-known Georgian period romance. I also had a hard time turning off my 21st century sensibilities when Cullon and Danna always had unprotected sex in the numerous (and hot) love scenes that show their deepening feelings toward each other. Contraceptive methods are never mentioned and I found myself wondering if Cullon and Danna were simply not worried about pregnancy and just how do Korcians conceive anyway?
However, True Blood came thisclose to being a DIK for me. Waddell’s mix of mystery, romance, and SF was impressive, very well written, and definitely not to be missed.