I think of this book, the first of a trilogy, like a Stromboli or calzone. On the outside you have a space opera featuring not only a runaway princess but secretly created X-Men. And on the inside, you have a hot, gooey romance, full of spicy, rock-hard throbbing action.
A Royal Consortium made up of three top houses rules the universe, or “Verse” as it is known. The most powerful of the houses is that of Albrecht von Hasenberg, and it is his 23-year-old daughter Ada who is the protagonist of this saga.
Ada is the fifth of sixth children, so she is considered “expendable” and therefore mainly suitable for her use in furthering political alliances. She was assigned to marry Richard Rockhurst of the second most powerful house. Not only did she not love Richard, but he was a Very Bad Person. Thus, using her considerable intelligence and physical prowess, she managed to run away before the wedding and has been a fugitive for two years.
As this book begins, however, she has been captured, because, after all, there is a very high bounty on her. But there is an even higher bounty on a mercenary named Marcus Loch, and she is thrown into a prison cell with him on the very same bounty-hunting ship. Marcus, only a few years older than Ada, is, needless to add, hot hot hot, and turns out to be one of the X-Men we learn about as the story progresses.
Ada doesn’t know much about Marcus at first, except that she wants to escape, and he “was a deserter, a killer, and a traitor to the Consortium. And he was just the man I needed.” Soon enough, however, she discovers “Marcus Loch was dangerous for more reasons than I’d initially thought.” In other words, he was drop-dead sexy and irresistible.
There are other non-romance aspects to the story, such as the rivalry between the houses for a better FTL (Faster Than Light) way to jump around the universe; the secret behind the creation of the X-Men; and Ada’s striving to make her own path in the world. But so far, in the first installment of the series, the focus is on the attraction between Ada and Marcus, and what they do about it.
Evaluation: I would have liked a little more nuance to the romance, and in fact, fewer standard romance tropes with the detailed descriptions of out-of-this-universe sex. But that’s my bias in favor of the sci-fi aspects speaking. Romance readers, on the other hand, may feel there is a little too much about how to travel through space and the spaceships in which it is done. I will probably soldier on, however, and check out the next in the series. Who, after all, can resist the occasional Stromboli
Published by Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2019