Review: Pets in Space 4 by S.E. Smith and others

Review: Pets in Space 4 by S.E. Smith and othersPets in Space® 4 by Alexis Glynn Latner, Anna Hackett, Cassandra Chandler, Donna McDonald, E.D. Walker, J.C. Hay, Kyndra Hatch, Laurie A. Green, Pauline Baird Jones, Regine Abel, S.E. Smith, Tiffany Roberts, Veronica Scott
Format: eARC
Source: publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genres: anthologies, science fiction romance
Series: Pets in Space #4
Pages: 1480
Published by Cats, Dogs and Other Worldly Creatures on October 8, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

For a limited time only! Pets in Space® 4 is proud to present 13 amazing, original new stories! Join the adventures as today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors take you on a journey to another world. Pets in Space® proudly supports Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that provides service animals to veterans and first responders in need. Join New York Times, USA TODAY and Award-winning Bestselling authors S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Tiffany Roberts, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie Green, Donna McDonald, Regine Abel, Alexis Glynn Latner, JC Hay, E.D. Walker, Kyndra Hatch, and Cassandra Chandler for another exciting Pets in Space® anthology. Get the stories before they are gone!

Proud supporters of Hero-Dogs.org, Pets in Space® authors have donated over $7,100 in the past two years to help place specially trained dogs with veterans and first responders. Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Pets in Space® 4 today!

My Review:

Some of the pets featured in this series may be small, but every book in the collection – and every story in it – is huge. Sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively.

This is a BIG book. At over 1400 pages, it’s a really, really, really big book. Like 30+ HOURS of book. There’s plenty here to sink your reading teeth – or your own pet’s actual teeth, into. Not that all of the pets featured in this series necessarily HAVE teeth, you understand.

And then there’s the supposedly cursed rock, but it isn’t one of the pets. Only the quarry of one.

Like all of the previous books in this series, Pets in Space 4 is a limited run, so if you love science fiction romance as much as I do, it’s worth getting while it’s available, for extended reading pleasure. This isn’t a book you can tackle in one sitting – except possibly on a trans-Pacific flight – if you read very, very fast. There’s a lot of book here to love.

Also, calling the entries in this book “stories” doesn’t really do them justice. The works in this collection are nearly all novella or novellette length. In other words, they are all long enough and meaty enough to have each been released on their own. Reading Pets in Space 4, or any of the Pets in Space collections, is like reading a whole bunch of generally excellent short novels all in one swell foop.

I’ll admit that I haven’t read the whole thing – at least not yet. I’ve been following this series since its inception, and it’s a collection for savoring and dipping into when the mood strikes or when one needs a reading pick-me-up.

So I attacked this the way I usually do. First I dive into the stories that are set in worlds that I’m already familiar with. Which led me to Dark Guard by Anna Hackett, set in her Galactic Gladiators series, Spydog by Laurie A. Green in her Inherited Stars series, Winter’s Prince in Alexis Glynn Latner’s Starways series, and that one with the cursed rock, Star Cruise: Idol’s Curse in Veronica Scott’s Sectors SF series.

They are all excellent, and also completely different. And feature different pets as well. Dark Guard is an exile story. There’s a temporary wormhole, long since closed, and a couple of tribes of slavers that have a lot to answer for. The day is saved in this one by a cyborg cat, named Cat, with that feline tendency to be disobedient and protective at the same time.

Winter’s Prince is all about an amusement park planet, a quest gone wrong, a search for true love and a genetically engineered unicorn. It’s also an excellent followup to my favorite story from the Pets in Space 4 Sampler, The Magic Mountains.

The cybernetically enhanced Spydog Maura, in the story that is of course named for her, knows what’s best for her human and isn’t the least bit shy about making sure it happens – whatever he might think!

And last, but not least from my perspective, the marvelous Star Cruise: Idol’s Curse – my favorite story so far. The story is lovely, the dog Charrli is adorably bouncy, but the rock is ugly. And cursed. Also blessed. Sometimes at the same time. It’s complicated. The rock is complicated. The setting on the intergalactic cruise ship is marvelous, and the romance between the cruise’s events director and the Third Officer is just a perfect little cocktail of a story – complete with paper umbrella.

I’m far from done with this book. I’ve got a couple more entries from familiar series to get into. Then I’ll look for the rest of the cat stories – because my own cats would accept no less. Then I’ll finish with the series entries that I’m less familiar with just to see what new worlds I want to dive into next!

All in all, Pets in Space 4 is an excellent reading time and a more than worthy companion to its predecessors in the series.

Escape Rating A for this out-of-this-world collection!

Review: Pets in Space Sampler by S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Tiffany Roberts, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Donna McDonald, Cassandra Chandler and Alexis Glynn Latner

Review: Pets in Space Sampler by S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Tiffany Roberts, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Donna McDonald, Cassandra Chandler and Alexis Glynn LatnerPets in Space 4 Sampler by Alexis Glynn Latner, Anna Hackett, Cassandra Chandler, Donna McDonald, Pauline Baird Jones, S.E. Smith, Tiffany Roberts, Veronica Scott
Format: ebook
Source: publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Pets in Space
Published by Cats, Dogs & Other Worldly Creatures Books on May 4th 2019
Publisher's Website
Goodreads

Pets in Space® 4 Sampler: Stories & Art
from some of today’s best known and award winning Science Fiction Romance authors!

NEW & EXCLUSIVE short stories from
* S.E. Smith, Lords of Kassis series
* Anna Hackett, Galactic Gladiators: House of Rone
* Tiffany Roberts, The Kraken series
* Veronica Scott, Star Cruise series
* Pauline Baird Jones, Project Enterprise series
* Donna McDonald, My Crazy Alien Romance series
* Cassandra Chandler, The Department of Homeworld Security series, and
* Alexis Glynn Latner

Not enough? Check out the preview chapters of their upcoming Pets in Space 4 stories from:
Laurie A. Green, Regine Abel, JC Hay, E. D. Walker, and Kyndra Hatch! Finish off this fabulous Sampler with gorgeous alien artwork from Tiffany Roberts.

My Review:

When I received multiple invitations to grab this FREE sampler this weekend, I just couldn’t resist. I’ve loved every single one of the Pets in Space series, so I was certainly up for a teaser for the next one.

Don’t let the words “sampler” or “teaser” fool you. There are plenty of complete stories in this collection. But those complete stories are also teasers or prequels for stories that will be in the next Pets in Space collection (Pets in Space 4) and are also introductions to worlds that these authors have already created and have appeared in previous Pets in Space collections.

And there are some outright teaser chapters. I’m certainly officially teased all the way around!

This was a collection where I enjoyed all the stories, although often, as was intended, I found myself wanting more. Of course that more is going to be provided in Pets in Space 4.

My favorite prequel in this anthology was Anna Hackett’s House of Rone: Beginnings. While the House of Rone series is a new series for the author, it is a spinoff from her terrific Galactic Gladiators series. Readers of the series have met Magnus and Jax before, but not like this. Magnus has dropped a few sparse hints of what his life was like before Kor Magna, and Beginnings is that story in full. It’s a great place to get into the world of the Galactic Gladiators without having to have read any of the previously published books.

I also enjoyed Pauline Baird Jones’ Code Blue. It takes place in her Project Enterprise series, and while I’ve read the first book or two in the series, I’m not as familiar with it as I’d like to be. But the love I have for this story without having much background means that it can be joyously read by anyone else who hasn’t read the series.

What makes this so much fun is that it is one of those classic stories of family lore, as the protagonists, Doc and Hel, are telling their children, yet again, the story of how the family pet Piggy Love, first came into their lives – and sort of saved them. By grunting like the little piggy that he is. The story is light and fun and Piggy Love is absolutely adorable – which is way more than can be said about the vulture-people he helps them overcome.

But the story I absolutely loved in this bunch was The Magic Mountains by Alexis Glynn Latner. It’s the longest story in the book, at novelette (very short novel) length. And while it is set in the same future history as stories in the previous anthologies, I don’t remember those and this story stands on its own.

The Magic Mountains is, on the one hand, a story about a visit to an interstellar amusement park that goes very, very wrong. It also kind of a “wolf with red roses” story, in that the heroine finds herself attracted to her extremely dangerous partner in this wild adventure. That she’s an academic who is able to give in to the wild side in herself is part of what makes this one so delicious. And unlike the usual symbolism of the wolf with red roses, this one feels like it has the chance of a happy ending – because the wolf treats her as an equal and not as either a victim or as potential prey.

Escape Rating B+: For any reader who loves SFR, or anyone who is looking for an introduction to the genre, and especially anyone who loves the Pets in Space collections and feels like October (and Pets in Space 4) is a long, long time from now, this sampler is a real treat. And it’s FREE! Right HERE!

I’m certainly teased, and I’ll be back for the complete collection, in all of its reading glory in October!

Review: Desert Hunter + Pets in Space 3 Spotlight + Giveaway

Review: Desert Hunter + Pets in Space 3 Spotlight + GiveawayEmbrace the Passion (Pets in Space Anthologies, #3) by S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, E.D. Walker, Tiffany Roberts, Carol Van Natta, Alexis Glynn Latner, J.C. Hay, Kyndra Hatch
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Pets in Space #3
Pages: 1305
on October 9, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Pets in Space is back! Join us as we unveil eleven original, never-before-published action-filled romances that will heat your blood and warm your heart! New York Times, USA Today and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta, Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner, E D Walker, JC Hay, and Kyndra Hatch combine their love for Science Fiction Romance and pets to bring readers sexy, action-packed romances while helping our favorite charity. Proud supporters of HeroDogs.org, Pets in Space authors have donated over 4,400 in the past two years to help place specially trained dogs with veterans. Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 today!

My Review of Desert Hunter by Anna Hackett

Because Desert Hunter is a short story, this is going to be a short review. Especially since I have plenty to share with you about Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 – the anthology that this story is included in.

Desert Hunter is also part of Anna Hackett’s absolutely marvelous Galactic Gladiators series. The story of the Galactic Gladiators and the women (and men) who love them begins in Gladiator, but Desert Hunter is a fine story to give you a taste of this fascinating world.

FIEND!

The hero and heroine of Desert Hunter are neither gladiators nor are either of them part of the kidnapped Earth crew – not that they don’t have ties to both. But those ties are tangential to this story. Bren, Mersi and the all important Fiend are all Carthago natives, and the inherent cruelty of the place and its corrupt power structures have scarred them all.

Bren and Mersi’s romance is a combination of the classic tropes of friends-into-lovers and hero-feels-unworthy. Yes, I know that second one isn’t really a named trope, but it ought to be. Bren and the caravan captain Corsair saved Mersi’s life back when she was a runaway slave. While Corsair has found his own happiness with one of the Earth crew, Bren has loved Mersi while keeping himself apart from her – not willing to even see that she loves him as well.

It takes the intervention of a big, hairy, matted dog named Fiend to show Bren that his taint is no bar to being loved and wanted, and that he does have plenty to give, and not just to Mersi. And that even the scarred and broken ones are still worthy of being loved.

The message that it isn’t what you are but what you do that matters is lovely. Of course Fiend steals every scene he’s in – and that’s just how it should be.

Escape Rating B+

Spotlight on Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3

It’s no secret that I loved the previous Pets in Space collections, Pets in Space and Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 2. And that I also really love Anna Hackett’s work, so when Anna asked if I’d be willing to do a spotlight for the latest collection AND that she would let me host a giveaway for one of the Galactic Gladiators titles, I was all in. I would love to have a review of the entire Pets in Space 3 collection to accompany this spotlight, but the book just came out yesterday and even I don’t read that fast. Besides, I do love these collections and want the chance to savor every story.

You will too.

So, just to whet your appetite a bit, take a look at the descriptions of the rest of the stories in this collection – then get them while they’re hot! Or cool, or lukewarm, or whatever body temperature each member of this intergalactic menagerie prefers. And don’t be put off by the stories that are series entries. Like Desert Hunter, these are meant to serve as introductions to their series – not that you won’t want to add the rest of each series to your TBR pile the minute you’re finished. I know I will!

HEART OF THE CAT
By S.E. Smith
Series: Sarafin Warriors Book 3

Prince Walkyr d’Rojah’s mission is to find an ancient artifact known as the Heart of the Cat, a revered gem that holds the mystical power that connects his people with their cat-form. He isn’t the only one searching for the Heart. A secret sect determined to overthrow the royal families wants the power contained in the gem, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to obtain it.

Trescina Bukov’s affinity and ability to care for large cats has taken her all over the world. A frantic call from a rescue group compels her to fly to Wyoming in the western part of the United States. She is confused and wary when she discovers the injured leopard is more than he seems.

Walkyr is shocked when the human female caring for him connects with his leopard and recognizes who he is. Now, he has to contend with the assassins who followed him, his leopard who wants to claim the woman, and find out why all the clues in his search for the Heart of the Cat are pointing to a planet so far from home.

When Walkyr discovers the secret that Trescina has been hiding, he is forced to make a difficult decision: let her go, or kidnap her and return with her to his world. Can Walkyr convince Trescina that their lives are bound in more ways than one or will she flee, taking her secret and the future of the Sarafin species with her?

QUASHI
By Ruby Lionsdrake
Series: The Mandrake Company

“If she’d had a hand free, she would have scratched her head. Lab rats didn’t trill, did they?”

When Chanda decided to finagle her way into a job she wasn’t qualified for, she didn’t expect to end up on a ship full of hulking mercenaries. They’re rude, crude, and so covered with scars and tattoos that she can’t imagine any woman being interested in them. Except perhaps for the soft-spoken doctor with the haunted eyes.

She would love to know more about him, especially since he stares at the game logo on her T-shirt rather than her breasts, but a little problem comes aboard the ship at the same time she does. Quashi. Furry alien fluff balls with stubby legs and very expressive antennae. Are they harmless – or a danger to the ship? And why were they in a box labeled lab rats?

When some of the creatures go missing and systems start malfunctioning, Chanda is assigned the task of quashi wrangler. Though she’s worried she isn’t qualified, the intriguing doctor is also sent to help, and she’s determined not to fail in front of him. Maybe this is her chance to find out what network games he plays and why his past troubles him. But as the lights flicker and the ship’s life support systems are threatened, Chanda realizes there might not be time for romance. If they can’t round up the missing quashi before it’s too late, she may never see home again.

STAR CRUISE: MYSTERY DANCER
By Veronica Scott
Series: The Sectors SF Romance Series

Tassia Megg is a woman on the run after the death of her elderly guardian. Her search to get off the planet in a hurry comes when chance directs her to an open dance audition for the luxury cruise liner Nebula Zephyr’s resident troupe. If there is one thing Tassia can do, it is dance!

Security Officer Liam Austin is suspicious of the newest performer to join the Comettes. She shows all the signs of being a woman on the run and seems to fit the Sectors-wide broadcast description of a missing thief, accused of stealing priceless artifacts. As he gets to know Tassia during the cruise, he starts to wonder if she’s something more – a long vanished princess in hiding from deadly political enemies of her family perhaps? And what’s the story with the three-eyed feline companion other crew members swear Tassia brought aboard the ship? Does the animal even exist?

As the ship approaches its next port of call, all the issues come to a boil and Liam must decide if he’ll step in to help Tassia or betray her. Life is about to get very interesting aboard the Nebula Zephyr as Liam tries to uncover the truth. Could F’rrh, the peculiar alien cat he has been hearing about, be the key to the mystery and Tassia’s fate?

OPERATION ARK
By Pauline Baird Jones
Series: Project Enterprise

She’s a USMC Sergeant deployed to the Garradian Galaxy.

He was raised by the robots who freed him from slavery.

It’s a match made nowhere anyone can figure out.

They clashed as enemies but joined forces to defeat a common foe. Now they’re tasked with returning some freed prisoners to their home worlds. In the next galaxy. With an alien, a robot, and a caticorn. It was a bar joke without a punch line, though Carolina City has a feeling it is out there—like the truth.

Kraye isn’t eager to return to his galaxy where the dark secret of his past lays in wait, but he’s willing to risk it in hopes that Caro can teach him what the robots couldn’t: how to be human.

Together they must face a dangerous journey, a lethal enemy with a score to settle, their unexpected desire, and an uncertain future if they make it out alive.

Can Caro and Kraye navigate the minefields—both emotional and space based—to land a happy homecoming for the sentient animals in their care? Can the man raised by robots learn how to kiss the girl while the starchy Marine decides if she is willing to bend the rules for a happy ever after? Don’t miss Pauline Baird Jones’ newest Project Enterprise story!

CATS OF WAR
by Carol Van Natta
Series: A Central Galactic Concordance Novella

Military Sub-Captain Kedron Tauceti counts the days until he can leave the rare metals factory and his current duty station as the liaison to the Criminal Restitution and Indenture Obligation system. The post was protection—and punishment—for exposing a theft ring in his previous assignment. He’s more than ready to get his career back on track on a new base halfway across the galaxy, even if it means leaving behind the one person who makes him want to stay. Not that he’s told her, because technically, he’s her warden.

Former financial specialist and current indenturee Ferra Barray, hiding from her past, only has three months to go on her restitution sentence. She’s lucked into a tech repair job, and If she keeps her head down, she’ll be free to figure out her future. Unfortunately, the local boss behind every illegal scheme in the facility wants her to steal for him, and she’s running out of excuses. And now the heroically handsome Tauceti, who she hoped could help, is transferring out.

Everything changes when Ferra discovers two genetically modified cats. Saving them takes incredible risks. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if she can’t convince Tauceti to take them with him and keep them until she’s free to come for them.

When trouble erupts at the factory, it might just be the cats who save them. Find out what happens in this exciting stand-alone novella from Carol Van Natta’s award-winning Central Galactic Concordance space opera series.

HUNTER OF THE TIDE
By Tiffany Roberts
Series: The Kraken #3

HIS SOLACE AND HIS HOPE

Randall Laster crossed Halora to hunt the kraken, sea monsters that weren’t supposed to be real. Betrayed by men he trusted, he was left to die. Instead, he finds himself living with the beings once meant to be his prey. Randall struggles to find his place amongst the kraken and to find a purpose to the new course his life has taken. Hope comes in two unexpected forms: an injured, amphibious sea creature in need of care, and Rhea, a strong-willed kraken who’s made no secret of her interest in him. Can he reconcile the tensions between humans and kraken and look beyond their differences so that he can claim Rhea as his own, or will old prejudices and hostilities tear them apart forever?

STARWAY
By Alexis Glynn Latner

Starway is an interstellar hotel that offers guests something to satisfy almost any wish—even wishes they didn’t know they had.

Nikka Steel is a lonely interstellar pilot. Danyel Parry is a wealthy passenger’s mistreated consort. When they find each other in Starway, they discover how much they have in common, including remorseless enemies and resourceful friends—one of which has four paws—and mutual attraction as perilous as it is powerful.

Danyel and Nikka soon realize that they have a hopeful new destination. The interstellar crossroads at Starway can take travelers to many places, some of which are strange and secret. To get there, though, they will have to find their way through anger, danger and—even more frightening—change.

THE BAJO CATS OF ANTEROS XII
By E D Walker

Zandro alienated the love of his life years ago with one giant mistake. Consumed by his animal rescue work, he didn’t realize what he had given up until she was gone. Now, his work to save two alien kittens with dangerous pheromones will reunite him with his old flame – and hopefully give him a second chance.

Aliette’s work as a space captain keeps her mind off of what she lost – Zandro – or it did until she receives his desperate plea for help. She reluctantly agrees to assist him for old time’s sake. But the simple transport mission quickly escalates into a fight for survival. The local drug cartel has discovered the unusual kittens and will do anything to obtain them.

With dangerous events and concern for the vulnerable kittens drawing them close again, Aliette will have to decide if being with Zandro is worth sacrificing everything for – even her life.

SHADOW OF THE PAST
By JC Hay

Loss casts a shadow you can’t outrun…

Commander Rafe Penzak is tired of jockeying a desk. With only months left before his forced retirement from the rangers, he decides to bend a few rules for one last mission: follow up on intelligence that vicious criminals have found the ranch that supplies the rangers’ umbra wolves. He’s ready to confront the reminder of his wolf’s death, but nothing in the Three Systems could prepare him for the spitfire who runs the farm.

Veterinarian Nafisi Sultana has run her wolf breeding program her way since the death of her husband. The last thing she wants is another ranger taking up space, correcting her methods, or being underfoot. But she can’t miss the pain and sorrow that haunts the greying commander, and her need to heal others pulls her into his orbit despite the agonizing memories he wakes in her.

With storms, raiders, and a renegade wolf pup driving them together, Nafisi and Rafe have to set aside their damaged past, or they’ll never be able to save something they both want more—a future.

AFTER THE FALL
By Kyndra Hatch

A’ryk Chiste of Korth marooned himself on an uninhabited world for a reason. He doesn’t want to be reminded of a galaxy where his people lost the war, taken over by the merciless Invaders who changed his life forever. A galaxy where he failed at the one thing he was born for, to protect worlds. He wants no part of the shaky forced ‘peace.’ So when an Invader crashes onto his planet, the simple solution is to let her die. But his furry companions have other ideas.

Lyra Merrick is a surveyor for the Earth Council of Habitable Worlds. She searches for and reports planets that can be terraformed for human survival, comfort and stability. It is business as usual when she finds another planet in a little-known section of the galaxy. A routine mission turns into a fight for survival when her ship has a malfunction and she crashes to the icy, unrelenting world. When she comes to, she hears a voice in her head. Confused, she wonders if the lonely existence of a surveyor finally made her crazy. Not only is she hearing things, her eyes are deceiving her too, because she’s in the domicile of the sexiest man she’s ever seen.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m very happy to say that I am giving away a signed paperback copy of one of my personal favorite books in Anna Hackett’s Galactic Gladiators series, Hero to one lucky commenter on this post! Anna lives in Australia – so this giveaway is open to ALL!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2

Review: Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 by S.E. Smith, Carol Van Natta, Jessica E. Subject, Alexis Glynn Latner, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley
Format: eARC
Source: publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Pages: 826
on October 10th 2017
Publisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!

10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.

My Review:

I loved the first Pets in Space collection, as well as all the pets collected therein, so I was happy to sign up for Pets in Space 2. And I’m glad I did.

This is a collection to savor, and possibly also one to plan on reading over a long trip. This book is huge. Why? Because this is not a collection of short stories, it’s a collection of novellas. Novellas are longer, meatier and just have room for more story all the way around. So if you like SFR in general or stories where animals help the humans get their romantic act together, this one is a winner from beginning to end.

I have to confess that I haven’t read them all, yet. I want to have time to get into each story, and possibly see how many books in each author’s series I need to add to my towering TBR pile.

That being said, I really enjoyed the stories I did read. But because this is my “best beloved” genre, SFR, I have a few quibbles.

I read the first two stories, Pearl’s Dragon by SE Smith and A Grim Pet by MK Eidem straight out of the gate, before I realized I had to pace myself a bit. I liked both of them, but Pearl’s Dragon spoke to me a bit more. It was fantastic to see a “woman of a certain age” as the romantic lead. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough, even though in science fiction it is easy to posit more than enough medical advances to make it not merely plausible, but very, very possible. And it’s fun to see someone I can really identify with as the heroine!

But both of these stories are in worlds that I am not familiar with, and that are several stories into their worldbuilding. As much as I enjoyed them, I always had the feeling that there was a whole bunch that I was missing because I hadn’t read the previous stories. Which look like a treat. As soon as I get a round tuit, I’ll be back to visit these worlds again.

I went hunting for a cat story, because, cats. I love cat stories, and cat’s stories, and that’s why I have two of my own. And I loved Rescued by the Cyborg by Cara Bristol, even though I have not read the series that it comes from, either. Little Mittzi added just the right touch of comfort and whimsy to a story that definitely had its dark and gritty moments. And Mittzi even saved the day!

Then I went looking for the stories in universes that was already familiar with, and explored two of those, Veronica Scott’s Star Cruise: Songbird and Pauline Baird Jones’ Time Trap.

Time Trap was a bit shorter than the rest, and just didn’t have quite enough time to deal with what feels like some very complex worldbuilding under the surface. And that’s ironic considering that this is a time travel story. I liked Briggs and Madison, but because I didn’t have a lot of background for them I found myself short-cutting what I did have and grafting it into universes I’m more familiar with. Something kept saying Stargate to me, but I’m not sure if that mental leap was remotely correct. Still, great characters, but the worldbuilding had clearly happened elsewhere. Sir Rupert, on my third hand, was an absolute hoot. Pun completely intended.

Of the stories that I read, I think that Star Cruise: Songbird was the best of the marvelous bunch. It probably helped that I have read several books in the Star Cruise series, and was relatively familiar with the worldbuilding. This story felt the most complete, in the sense that we had a chance to really see the relationship develop from its shaky start to its life-altering conclusion. The bond between Grant and his raptor was nicely done, and Karissa’s problems, while they were difficult, showed that she was dealing with her life and just needed a bit of help – not that Grant needed to rescue her at every turn. I also loved that they found a way to be together that melded both their worlds. A great story with a well deserved and interesting HEA.

Escape Rating A-: There are mostly hits in this collection, and plenty of temptation not just to immerse yourself in this book, but to go back and do a deep dive into every one of these authors’ worlds. I loved the first book, and this is a fitting continuation. I hope that there will be a Pets in Space 3 to look forward to next year, because this collection has become an annual treat.

Review: The Captive Shifter by Veronica Scott

Review: The Captive Shifter by Veronica ScottThe Captive Shifter (Magic of Claddare #1) by Veronica Scott
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: fantasy romance
Series: Magic of Claddare #1
Pages: 250
Published by Veronica Scott on March 24th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.

In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?

The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?

My Review:

There is something very, very rotten in the state of Azrimar, but that isn’t what Caitlyn has come to the capital to deal with. Not that all roads and all missions don’t eventually lead that way – but that isn’t how they start.

Instead, Caitlyn has arrived at court just in the nick of time for the annual testing of potential sorceresses, only to discover that her preparation missed the key points of the ritual. It is crucial to her mission that she find a place at court – even if that mission is not what it appears to be.

She succeeds, just barely, but only by earning the enmity of the Crown Princess Bradana, and the intense curiosity of the Witch-Queen’s pet shifter, Kyler. Caitlyn knows she’s going to spend the rest of her time at court dealing with those two very opposite interests, just not in the way that she originally expected.

Because both Bradana and Kyler are much more than they appear. But then, so is Caitlyn.

That Caitlyn is some kind of spy on some type of secret mission is obvious from the beginning, but we don’t learn who, how, or why until we get a bit into the story.

This is a fantasy romance, so Caitlyn’s world is not our own, and not even in our past or future. As this world is set up, Caitlyn is from a kingdom to the south, and is a priestess of the nature goddess on a special mission. Because something is rotten in the central kingdom of Azrimar and apparently has been for quite some time.

Long ago, a relic was stolen from the goddess, and she needs it back. Caitlyn has one year to infiltrate the palace and find the missing article. And that’s more than long enough to figure out just how much has gone wrong, and for Caitlyn to fall in love.

Unfortunately for both of them, Caitlyn falls for Kyler, a leopard shifter who has been oath-bound to the Witch Queen for 10 years. He knows that the Queen has been gravitating towards the dark side of the force, but he also knows that he’s dying. Whatever is going wrong, it isn’t going to be his problem fairly soon.

Until Caitlyn comes along and shakes him out of the depths of his depression. Kyler can help Caitlyn find the relic. Caitlyn can beseech the gods on his behalf. And it will take both of them to even take a stab at all that has gone wrong.

Caitlyn, Kyler, the Witch Queen and her kingdom have all come to a crossroad. The choices they make will have dire consequences, not just for themselves, or even for the kingdom, but for their entire world.

They must choose wisely – or all will be lost in the conflagration to come.

Escape Rating C+: This is a mixed feelings review. There were some things about this story I liked a lot, and some that drove me a bit batty.

I liked both Caitlyn and Kyler quite a bit. Caitlyn is very focused. She has a mission to carry out with a very strict time limit, but she still finds time to make friends and to care for and about people. She’s involved with her world, even for the short time she will be in the kingdom, and her actions always trend towards good. At the same time, Caitlyn is in service to a nature goddess, attempting to conceal herself, her power and her mission in a place that seems to be the antithesis of anything natural. It’s no surprise that she befriends Kyler, as he is the only nature-oriented being in the palace.

Kyler’s situation is tragic from the outset, and only becomes more so as we learn more about it. His captivity began honorably, but as time has gone on the Witch Queen has broken all of her oaths and agreements about it. And he is not free to leave – she has bound him with her magic. He has freedom of thought and some free will, but he literally cannot leave the palace, nor can he refuse the Queen’s use of his magic. Caitlyn’s friendship is his one light in a very dark place, and yet he is afraid to spend too much time with her or show her too much favor. While the Queen needs him alive for his magical power, punishing anyone close to him has become a sport for her and especially for her sister Bradana.

The palace intrigue is nasty and the methods of it feel a bit too predictable. And the characters of evil are a bit too much of evil for evil’s sake, which doesn’t work well as motivation. Or rather, that’s Bradana’s character, the Witch Queen’s motives are entirely too clear. She’s her sister’s pawn, and has let herself be manipulated into the darkness. In spite of her being queen, there just doesn’t turn out to be a lot of there, there. She’s an empty shell. To say that Brandana is evil because she was made that way (and she quite literally was) doesn’t give us much insight into the evil that made her. Hopefully we’ll get more of that in later books in the series.

I don’t expect to like the villains, although occasionally one does, but I need to understand them. And I didn’t here. On my other hand, there’s a tendency in fantasy for the West to represent good and the East to represent evil. The Lord of the Rings isn’t the only story where this happens, and it plays to some very old stereotypes, right along with white hats and black hats. In this series it looks like the West is where evil has its kingdoms, and the center and East are where the good, or at least neutral, kingdoms are. It’s always nice to see stereotypes turned on their heads a bit.

I end where I began, with mixed feelings. I liked the heroine and hero a lot, but found the plot to be on the predictable side and the villains a bit cookie-cutter. And while there were hints at interesting worldbuilding, it felt like too many of the details were left on the cutting-room floor. Hopefully things will be become clearer in later books in the series.

Review: Pets in Space by S.E. Smith and more

Review: Pets in Space by S.E. Smith and morePets in Space by S.E. Smith, Susan Grant, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Alexis Glynn Latner, Lea Kirk, Carysa Locke
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Pages: 500
on October 11th 2016
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Even an alien needs a pet…Join the adventure as nine pet loving sci-fi romance authors take you out of this world and pull you into their action-packed stories filled with suspense, laughter, and romance. The alien pets have an agenda that will capture the hearts of those they touch. Follow along as they work side by side to help stop a genetically-engineered creature from destroying the Earth to finding a lost dragon; life is never the same after their pets decide to get involved. Can the animals win the day or will the stars shine just a little less brightly?New York Times, USA TODAY, Award Winning, and Bestselling authors have nine original, never-released stories that will capture your imagination and help a worthy charity. Come join us as we take you on nine amazing adventures that will change the way you look at your pet!
10% of profits from the first month go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.

My Review:

If you enjoy science fiction romance, with or without the addition of adorable animals (and other creatures), Pets in Space is a marvelous collection.

It’s also a marvelously big collection. With one notable exception, the stories here are all novellas and novelettes. They are as big and as expansive as science fiction and science fiction romance themselves. And the stories run the gamut from alien invasions to spaceship stowaways, and everything in between.

I’ll confess right now that I didn’t manage to read the entire collection. I’m saving a few for nights when I need a little pick-me-up of a story to take me away from life, the real universe and the 2016 Presidential Election. But the ones I did read I absolutely loved. And while I also confess that I went looking for the cat stories first, everything I read was wonderful.

My two favorite stories in the collection are A Mate for Matrix by S.E. Smith and Spike by Alexis Glynn Latner.

A Mate for Matrix had me laughing out loud at lots of points. It begins as a story of partnership. Matrix Roma and his partner K-Nine are members of the Zion military’s elite Cyborg Protection Unit. While the mostly human Matrix has been enhanced a bit, his partner K-Nine has been enhanced a lot from his biological origin as a Wolf/Canine hybrid. K-Nine has lots of enhanced sensors, a reinforced frame, and enough intelligence to speak and use all kinds of tools. Which doesn’t stop K-Nine from chasing a squirrel on their mission to hunt down the genetically engineered Crawler – an intelligent hybrid that plans to colonize and consume Earth.

K-Nine’s squirrel chase ends the way all too many such chases do, bouncing off the grill of a speeding truck. But unlike most terrestrial canines, the cyborg K-Nine survives and finds himself in the care of a vet tech with a lot of love to give to three tiny kittens, the great big K-Nine, and maybe even K-Nine’s reluctant human partner.

But when Matrix first finds his missing companion, he makes all sorts of mistaken assumptions about K-Nine’s current situation. The point where Matrix identified the three tiny kittens as explosive charges had me rolling on the floor. Because kittens ARE explosive charges – at least until they get hit by a nap attack!

The love story is fast but sweet, especially since Matrix falls for Jana, and K-Nine falls for the little furballs that Jana has adopted. In the end K-Nine gets everything he wanted. This is a terrific story and I’m looking forward to finding more by this author.

My other favorite story in the book is Spike by Alexis Glynn Latner, the only true short story in the collection. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to fit this one in, but I’m so glad I did.

This one is just plain adorkable. I think it would also be a terrific story to introduce lovers of young adult and new adult romance to SFR. This is a spaceship based story, set on a ship that escaped a dying earth and is now looking for a home. The hero is a young engineer with a bent for miniaturized robotics. His pets in this story are the cluster of tiny robots that he has lovingly built with his own hands. His “kaleidoscope of flutterbys” can do scanning, sampling, analysis and exploration independently. They are adorable but also very effective. When the ship’s captain discovers that sabotage is wrecking the new ships that are being built, she puts Ten Jaxdown and his tiny robots to work to find the saboteurs, with the help of Stasia Steed and her even more unusual pet – a telfer – a collection of intelligent sparks. In the process of getting her telfer to work with his flutterbys, Ten and Stasia save the mission and find each other.

And it’s lovely.

There is one other cat story in this collection, Star Cruise: Stowaway, set in the universe that Veronica Scott has created aboard the Nebula Dream and her crew of military veterans turned cruise ship operators. It was lovely to revisit that world in the company of Monty and Midorri. There are several other dog stories, and even one with a Komodo Dragon! While the animals in each story do provide more than a bit of comic belief, they also adore their humans and help get whatever job needs doing done.

Escape Rating A-: If you enjoy romances that include an animal companion, or if you just love SFR, this collection is a sweet and spaceworthy treat!

Review: Hostage to the Stars by Veronica Scott

Review: Hostage to the Stars by Veronica ScottHostage to the Stars by Veronica Scott
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Sectors SF #7
Pages: 164
Published by Jean D Walker on June 20th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
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He rescued her from space pirates ... but can he keep them both safe from the far greater evil stalking a deserted planet? Space travel without Kidnap & Ransom insurance? Not a good idea. University instructor and researcher Sara Bridges can't afford it, so when pirates board her cruise liner, she's taken captive along with the mistress of a wealthy man, and brought to a deserted planet. When a military extraction team sent to rescue the mistress refuses to take Sara too, she's left to the mercies of a retired Special Forces soldier, along as consultant. Reluctantly reactivated and coerced into signing up for the rescue operation to the planet Farduccir where he once was deployed, Sgt. Johnny Danver just wants to get the job done. But when the team leader leaves one captured woman behind, he breaks away to rescue her himself. As Johnny and Sara traverse the barren landscape, heading for an abandoned base where they hope to call Sectors Command for help, they find villages destroyed by battle and stripped of all inhabitants. A lone survivor tells a horrific tale of the Sectors' alien enemy, the Mawreg, returning after being pushed out ... Searching for evidence to give the military, Johnny is captured. He regains consciousness in a Mawreg cage-with Sara next to him. Death is preferable to what the aliens will do to them... And even if they do escape their captors, can they alert the military in time to prevent another invasion of the Sectors?

My Review:

star cruise outbreak by veronica scottI picked up Hostage to the Stars because I just finished book 5 in the Sectors SF series, Star Cruise: Outbreak and I liked it so much I wanted to continue with this world. I had a bit of a book hangover and wasn’t quite ready to leave this place yet. And since I was admittedly looking for a short book, I skipped over book 6 in the series, Lady of the Star Wind, although I’m enjoying the series enough that I’ll probably go back to it at some point. But the books in this series don’t seem to directly follow one another. It’s the same universe, but different places, different crises and different people.

Just as Star Cruise: Outbreak is closest in spirit to the first book in the series, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, Hostage to the Stars echoes back to the third book, Mission to Mahjundar, reviewed previously over at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly.

But I’ll confess that I haven’t read Mission to Mahjundar, and that lack did not influence my enjoyment of Hostage to the Stars. While the hero of Hostage to the Stars was a secondary character in Mission, it’s been quite a few years and it wasn’t his story. The story in Mission belongs to Johnny’s cousin Mike. And that’s where this story begins.

Special Forces needs to reactivate somebody with knowledge of the planet Farduccir, and they aren’t very picky about who, or what condition they reactivate them in. It’s been 15 years since either Mike or Johnny was on the hellhole called Farduccir, and neither of them wants to go back. More importantly, after the events in Mission, Mike is now married and is wife is pregnant. It’s his cousin Johnny’s professional assessment that Mike has lost the edge necessary to survive in Special Ops, and that while Mike has commitments keeping him home, Johnny is expendable. He volunteers to take his cousin’s place, knowing full well that the mission has more chances of going FUBAR than not.

Especially when he finds out that the whole purpose of the mission is to rescue an up and coming planetary governor’s mistress from space pirates. And no, she is not our heroine, just someone caught in a lot of messy crossfire.

That Farduccir is now infested with space pirates is bad enough. That space piracy has become such a common business model, completely with pirates accepting insurance certificates for ransom to be collected later, shows there’s something rotten somewhere. This whole situation is a clusterf**k of epic proportions.

But while the extraction team gets the mistress away with no problem, on her way out the lady reveals that she was not the only human female in the compound. The guards have been torturing the young woman who was kidnapped with her. Said young woman, Sara Bridges, did not have any K&R (Kidnap and Rescue) insurance, so the pirates decided to get their money’s worth out of her by other means.

The extraction team doesn’t care about Sara, but Johnny can’t stand to leave anyone behind – even someone he hasn’t met yet. Until he either rescues Sara or determines that she’s beyond reach, he’ll stay and find her.

Sara is not only still alive, but still has enough spirit to be Johnny’s partner in a race to find out what really happened on Farduccir, and what is still happening. All the while heading towards a barely possible escape.

It’s a race against time and deadly hunters, gathering vital intelligence that must be transmitted to Johnny’s old bosses at any cost. It is not the place to fall in love. But only love can save them.

Escape Rating B+: Hostage to the Stars is wonderfully improbable, and it’s a wild ride from beginning to end. Also from the first page to the last. I couldn’t put it down.

Johnny is every Sergeant in any military that has ever been. He knows the job he is supposed to do, and he goes in and does it. In Special Forces, he’s not used to following strict orders or a chain of command. He’s there to get the job done.

Lucky for Sera.

One of the fun things in the story is the way that the Service can reactivate both Johnny and Mike pretty much on a whim. And they do. One of the phrases that gets used in the story is the concept of “gravity” as applied to political power. The provincial governor has a lot of it, and can use it to put pressure on anyone, even Special Forces. At the same time, Special Forces is only willing to send a retired operative, not a currently serving soldier. And they do everything in a big hurry, because Mike has “gravity” on their home planet, and if he has a chance to bring it to bear he can get himself and Johnny out of this fix.

He needs it when he has to ride to Johnny’s rescue.

But before that we have Johnny and Sara, running across a desolate planet, trying to figure out what happened to all the people that were there 15 years ago, and trying to stay a half-step ahead of their pursuers.

It’s fascinating that the Special Forces have standing orders not to remain in contact with anyone they rescue. In the highly charged scenario of a hostage rescue, it’s not surprising that the hostage would bond with her rescuer, or even vice versa.

In this case, even though things proceed at a fairly rapid pace, it feels right. And it does take them several days, as well as a brief stop in relative safety, to finally act on their feelings. These are two people who both have a bunch of scars and a whole lot of PTSD, and who discover that they make each other strong in the broken places.

In addition to being terrific SFR, Hostage to the Stars would be a good story to introduce military romance/romantic suspense readers to the genre. While the interplanetary war and space service do add to the story, it’s also a well-done take on the hostage-falls-for-her-rescuer brand of romantic suspense.

I’m looking forward to going back and picking up the stories I’ve missed, and exploring this universe further.

SFRQ-button-vsmallOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

Review: Star Cruise: Outbreak by Veronica Scott

Review: Star Cruise: Outbreak by Veronica ScottStar Cruise: Outbreak: (A Sectors SF Romance) by Veronica Scott
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Sectors SF #5
Pages: 240
Published by Jean D Walker on May 2nd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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She saved countless soldiers in the wars ... but does she have the weapons to fight an outbreak? Dr. Emily Shane, veteran of the Sector Wars, is known as "The Angel of Fantalar" for her bravery under fire as a medic. However, the doctor has her own war wounds-severe PTSD and guilt over those she failed to save. Persuaded to fill a seemingly frivolous berth as ship's doctor on the huge and luxurious interstellar cruise liner Nebula Zephyr, she finds the job brings unexpected perks-a luxe beach deck with water imported from Tahumaroa II, and Security Officer Jake Dilon, a fellow veteran who heats her up like a tropical sun. However, Emily soon learns she and Jake didn't leave all peril behind in the war. A mysterious ailment aboard the Zephyr begins to claim victim after victim ... and they must race against time and space to find the cause and a cure! Trapped on a ship no spaceport will allow to dock, their efforts are complicated by a temperamental princess and a terrorist-one who won't hesitate to take down any being in the way of his target. If anyone's left when the disease is through with them...

My Review:

wreckofthenebuladream_coverFour years ago, I reviewed Wreck of the Nebula Dream here at Reading Reality. And I loved it. The story is an action-adventure/science fiction romance re-telling of the wreck of the Titanic, released for the 100th anniversary of that real-life disaster.

The disaster on the Nebula Dream was every bit as crazed as the sinking of the Titanic – but only fictional lives were lost in the making of this story.

The author Veronica Scott has continued her exploration into the universe she created for Nebula Dream in her Sectors SF series. Book 3 in the series, Mission to Mahjundar was reviewed by Jo Jones over at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly back a bit closer to when it first came out.

I haven’t read any of the books between Nebula Dream and Star Cruise: Outbreak I don’t think it matters. I enjoyed Star Cruise: Outbreak so much that I immediately purchased the previous and the next books in the series. It did help that I had read Wreck of the Nebula Dream before Outbreak. It’s not that the characters continue, but as both Nebula Dream and Outbreak are set on cruise ships, the disaster and the resulting changes in regulations after Wreck, have some effect on Outbreak. But not, I think, enough to keep people from jumping right into the series at this point.

On the other hand, Wreck of the Nebula Dream was just plain good. So if you love SFR, why wouldn’t you read it?

Back to Star Cruise: Outbreak…the title does give a bit away. There’s obviously going to be an outbreak of something or something on this cruise. And it’s something all right.

Our heroine is Dr. Emily Shane, decorated war veteran, PTSD sufferer, and reluctant temporary Chief Medical Officer on the Nebula Zephyr. Her dad, also a doctor, pretty much diagnoses that the cure for Emily’s PTSD is to take what should be a paid vacation as ship’s doctor on a luxury starliner. And then he strategically makes sure she can’t refuse the posting.

Dad was right, even if a bit high-handed about it, but not quite in the way he planned. Serving on this cruise is the best thing that the “Angel of Fantalar” can do to find a way to occupy her time and energy – and the ship desperately needs a well-trained medic who won’t fold under extreme pressure to figure out how to treat the epidemic that breaks out among the 3,000 passengers on board.

At first, she thinks it’s a norovirus – and yes, that they are still around feels right. But when the disease mutates into more and deadlier strains, it is up to Emily and her makeshift crew to figure out the problem before it is too late. If the Nebula Zephyr becomes a plague ship, the captain will have to fly it into a sun to eradicate the disease.

Along with everyone on board, including Emily and the man she has come to love.

stardoc by sl viehlEscape Rating B+: If you’ve ever read Stardoc by S.L. Viehl, there’s a resemblance if you squint a bit. In both cases, it’s the doctor who saves the day, not any of the more traditional warrior-type heroes (or even heroines). This is a story where smart wins out over brawn. And also over a few cases of idiocy.

Let’s just say that a few of the secondary/tertiary characters are not just eligible for Darwin Awards, they actually manage to receive them!

But Star Cruise: Outbreak is Emily’s story from beginning to end. She’s a marvelous character to follow. While we don’t see the military action that resulted in her unwanted moniker, the Angel of Fantalar, we do see what she did to earn it – through the eyes of Security Chief Jake Dilon, one of the Special Forces veterans who is still alive because of her heroism on that deadly beach.

Jake has had plenty of fantasies about the woman who kept him alive, but none of them live up to the reality of meeting his “angel”. She saved his life, and now he returns the favor. Among the crew of mostly military veterans, he introduces Emily to people who understand what she went through and just how difficult the recovery is. He gives her space in which to find herself again, and to eventually, slowly, carefully, fall in love.

When the outbreak occurs, it becomes instantly clear that not only does Emily need the Nebula Zephyr but it needs her. The previous (and missing) CMO just didn’t have the skill or the discipline to handle what hits them.

One of the unanswered questions in the entire story is the fate of that missing doctor. It was necessary for the story that he BE missing, but not ever learning his fate is a gaping hole. Chekhov’s gun was on the mantlepiece, but no one picked it up and fired it. Which niggles at this reader more than a bit.

The process of dealing with the outbreak is gripping from beginning to end. Because this series uses different characters and scenarios in each book, it wasn’t necessary that everyone survive – and that wouldn’t have been realistic. So the tension is always high.

There are a lot of little stories within the big story that stand out – people who do their utmost to help solve the outbreak, people who fall victim, and people who survive. It’s their stories that make the tale so fascinating, even though the eventual solution was just a bit deus ex machina.

If you like SFR, if you loved the Stardoc series, or if the episodes of Star Trek Next Gen where Dr. Beverly Crusher saved the day are your favorites, you’ll love Star Cruise: Outbreak.

SFRQ-button-vsmallOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly