Formats available: ebook
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Series: Phoenix Brothers #3
Length: 218 pages
Publisher: self published
Date Released: November 16, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance
Unlucky-in-love salvage mechanic, Malin Phoenix, didn’t intend to get caught up in a coup and kidnapped by a sexy cyborg. But she finds herself swept into an adventure to help the deadly, emotionless CenSec, Xander Saros, retrieve an ancient Terran artifact and save his planet.
Soon she’s racing across uncharted space and is magnetically drawn to the cyborg whose strong arms and muscled body ignite a desire that burns brighter than a supernova. But Mal can never let herself forget that she can’t fall in love with a cyborg who can never love her back.
The crowning glory of the Centax Security program, Xander is heavily enhanced, his emotions dampened to nothing to allow him to be the most efficient, lethal killer in the galaxy. As he and Malin hunt for the remnant of the galaxy’s first computer, the Antikythera Mechanism, their quest leads them into the lair of a dangerous technomancer. But Xander can’t identify his greatest threat—the enemy or the fascinating woman who’s making him feel.
Take a smidgen of Firefly, a pinch of Babylon 5, a tiny bit of Deep Space Nine and a heaping helping of Linnea Sinclair’s Games of Command, and you’ll have something that might get within a couple of parsecs of Anna Hackett’s On a Rogue Planet – and I mean that in a totally awesome way.
So far, this series has simply been oodles of science fiction romance fun, while still telling a terrific science fiction story.
We have a bunch of space mercenaries, except these aren’t your usual mercenaries, well, not unless Indiana Jones was conducting his treasure hunting in outer space. (Wait a minute, there was this ship with the funny name and the furry co-pilot…but I digress, just a bit)
The Phoenix brothers, as introduced in the first two books of this series, (At Star’s End and In the Devil’s Nebula) are intergalactic treasure hunters. One brother is the business brains – also the captain – one is the pilot, and one is the xenoarchaeologist. Notice that none of these guys is a mechanic.
Phoenix Enterprises is a family company, so their engineer is also family. Malin Phoenix is more than a bit like Kaylee in Firefly, but not quite as innocent. She also isn’t just a mechanic or engineer, she also a genius at salvage, which is where this story begins.
She’s in the salvage yard on Centax, picking out the most excellent scrap with a friend, when the planet is attacked and she ends up running for her life across the salvage yard with a cyborg who wants to hire her brothers to steal the artifact that confers power on Centax.
Except Xander isn’t just a cyborg, he is the head of Centax planetary security, and he just got caught with his figurative pants down as his planet was betrayed. He’ll do anything to get it back. (That his brother is the planet’s political leader and has been captured also figures into his decision just a bit, even though Centax Security cyborgs aren’t supposed to feel much in the way of emotions. Xander clearly starts out with more feelings than he expresses or believes he has.)
When Xander seeks out Malin in the scrap yard, his only intent is to get off planet and hire her cousins. Meeting Malin adds a whole new dimension to his plans. He finds within himself the sense that he MUST protect and save her, no matter what the cost. It’s entirely possible that the EMP weapon that temporarily fried his cyber-circuits knocked out all his emotional filters.
But no matter how hard he tries, he’s never able to get those emotional filters back up. Everything else, absolutely yes. Suppress his growing feelings for Malin, absolutely no.
Malin can’t help but be attracted to Xander, at least when he shows her his more human side. The problem is that Malin knows that Centax Security cyborgs simply don’t have feelings. And even if Xander did, his planet needs him way more than one mechanic possibly could make up for. She knows he’s going to rip her heart out when he leaves. She just doesn’t know if he even has a heart to break.
Escape Rating A-: Just because I recognized some of the story’s antecedents doesn’t mean I didn’t have one hell of a good time reading it. And want more.
Linnea Sinclair is an awesome fairy godmother for any SFR story to have. She always did an excellent job of integrating the romance fully into the science fiction world she created, and she always created a fascinating SF world, even if, or perhaps because, some of them were places you wouldn’t want to live in.
Xander Soros is very much like Branden Kel-Patten in Games of Command. Not just because he is a combination of man and machine, but because Xander, like Branden, is not supposed to have emotions. He’s certainly not supposed to feel love or even lust. Discovering that he does feel, and that he can love, is a revelation for Xander, and a miracle that Malin can’t make herself believe in.
She has a history of falling for men who use her, then let her know that they just aren’t interested in a woman with engine grease under her fingernails. As far as she is concerned, Xander is just a different kind of wrong, and she can’t compete with an entire planet that needs him back on his “A” game.
The prize they hunt for is an old Terran computer. While I still can’t figure out which one it might be, the point is that the rulership of Centax still belongs to whoever manages to hold and keep the old thing. Their quest to find it and steal it back leads to a planet without a star that travels its own route through uncharted space. The rogue collector on that rogue planet runs Xander and Malin through a robotic gauntlet that tests their ingenuity, their will to survive, and their ability to work as a team.
When they win through, Xander believes he’s won everything he never knew he wanted. Malin is certain it’s the beginning of the end. Which one of them is right?
If you enjoy SFR, particularly if you miss Linnea Sinclair’s marvelous tales, take a look at Anna Hackett’s Phoenix Brothers. You’ll be glad you did.
p.s. If you’re wondering about that SF pedigree I mentioned at the beginning, well, Malin is Kaylee’s sister from another universe, and they have to go into the uncharted black. By way of a stable wormhole (Deep Space Nine) that operates like a Babylon 5 jumpgate, complete with hardware. Enjoy!