Defying Convention, by Abby Niles, is a romance that takes place at a science fiction convention. Her main characters are both writers, a successful science fiction writer and a struggling investigative reporter. But both writers have big secrets.
Luke Blaster is not his real name, but everyone knows that. His real name is Luke Evans. But as Luke Blaster, he is the successful author of the Farmen series. Well, successful until the sixth, and latest book, that is. In the most recent Farmen book, Luke killed off his hero, Ben Frank. And killing Ben has gotten Luke about the same reaction that killing Sherlock Holmes got Conan Doyle–except with new technology. Sales of the book have tanked. The Farmen Fan Organization has organized hate mail campaigns in every possible media. Luke’s career might be over. So Luke is at the con to see if he can salvage anything from his self-created mess.
Emma Portland is an investigative journalist whose last several investigations have been scooped by rivals at other news agencies. Her hated editor has sent her undercover to the con with the promise that if she finds a story, she can keep her job, and the threat that if she doesn’t, she’s fired and blackballed. Her editor expects her to fail.
Eddie, Emma’s brother, is back at a con for the first time in two years. He is Emma’s guide to the geek scene. Eddie used to go to all the cons with his ex-wife, but when his game design company became more important than his marriage, Fiona left him. Now Eddie is rich, but lonely. And he sees Fiona everywhere he turns. He also sees Emma making the same mistake he made, putting a job she that may not be right for her ahead of what is really important.
In order to work undercover, Eddie gets his sister dressed up as Princess Leia. The early version, with the white dress and her hair in the side-buns. That costume is a classic. When Emma steps out of an elevator and sees Luke being beaten by a group of guys with Nerf swords, she immediately gets in the way. She doesn’t know about his book, and too many against one just isn’t fair in her book.
Luke is fascinated by the only woman at the entire con who doesn’t know who he is and hasn’t pre-judged him. Emma senses a story, but is equally fascinated by the man behind it.
Meanwhile, the Farmen Fan Organization decide to teach Luke Blaster the error of his ways, live and in person. They decide to run a LARP, that’s Live Action Role Playing game, as part of the con, casting Luke Blaster as his dead hero, Ben Frank. Emma’s new involvement with Luke means that she has cast herself as “Ben’s” love-interest, Mia Marrows.
The LARP, the books, the con, and the so-called “real” world overlap each other, as Eddie, Luke and the Farmen Fan Organization each use the LARP to attempt to teach various characters different lessons, sometimes at the same time. It turns ugly when Emma’s journalist rival turns up, and everyone’s real secrets come out.
The romance part of this is fun to read. I enjoyed these people, and I wanted them to get their happily-ever-after. The secondary characters, too. This was one where all the characters had some stuff they needed to work through, and the story really shows how they got where they are, and that they earned their reward.
I picked this up because it takes place at a science fiction convention. There were a lot of years when I regularly attended at least three science fiction conventions every year and I have friends who have organized cons. So I know too much about the setting, and this didn’t quite match. If you’re looking for a book that gives the flavor of a science fiction convention, the best book is still probably Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb. It’s a murder mystery where the famous sci-fi author is so hated he gets murdered at the beginning and the rest of the book is about the new sci-fi author/amateur investigator. The description of the murdered author was so true-to-life that a very real and very much alive famous author received a number of copies of the book out of “concern” at the time it was published. I’ll leave you to guess who that was. (Hint: he’s still alive)