Title: Liar’s Waltz
Author: Becky Black
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M science fiction
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A tense romance which relied heavily on good characterization but lacked a little in the setting.
Firmly-closeted Lieutenant Greg Matthews takes a transfer to space station Saira to make a fresh start. But a rogue military intelligence officer has discovered Greg’s secret and forces him to spy on Karl Webster, the owner of the last gay bar on Saira. The disapproving military authorities want Karl’s bar closed, too, and he’s feeling the heat. He thinks his gorgeous new lover is an ally in his fight, but Greg is reporting back all of Karl’s plans to save the bar. As the campaign against Karl escalates Greg becomes ever more reluctant to deceive the man he’s falling in love with.
Despite his fear Greg is too jittery and unstable to bother with, Karl wants him too much to give him up. He can’t guess the real reason behind Greg’s anxiety — constant fear of what will happen when Karl discovers his deception. The inevitable revelation shatters their relationship and their lives as the blackmailer takes drastic action to silence Karl. Greg must sacrifice everything he’s been trying to protect to undo the damage and save Karl.
Greg is newly posted to the space station Saira after requesting a transfer. He’s had enough of the small confines of a space-ship where he seems to constantly develop forbidden feelings for his superior officers, and is looking forward to proving that he’s more than just a prominent family name in his new job as a military computer programmer. When he’s called in to the office of military intelligence and blackmailed into spying on a local owner of a gay bar, Greg never dreamed that he would be faced with the difficult decision of choosing between honour, duty or love.
Whilst I enjoyed this book, it did hit some of the things that I normally find difficult to read. For a start Greg, who is an honourable man hoping for a fresh start, is put in an almost impossible situation. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in the military, and this is used against Greg to force him to do what he feels is morally wrong. I find storylines such as this rather stressful and frustrating in general and this was no exception. However, given the limitations of Greg’s situation, I though the author did a good job in showing how conflicted Greg is, how the situation is almost intolerable for him. I liked Greg a great deal. I particularly liked that he has accepted his sexual orientation and only seeks to try have a successful military career. There’s no self-hatred, just resignation that if he is to reach the heights of his father and brothers he must hide who he is, which I suppose is a little sad, but understandable non-the-less. The way that Greg changes through the story was sensitively done, as he goes from being edgy around Karl and always looking over his shoulder, to more accepting and, towards the end, unapologetic in his feelings for Karl.
Karl too is a character who is forced to make difficult decisions. His club is constantly being targeted in an effort to close it down and he could take the easy option. His determination to stand his ground could be read as stupidity, or could be seen as noble and heroic. I chose to see it as the latter and respected him for not wanting to be bullied out of his career. So it is that both characters are manipulated and used by a higher power for its own gain, something I thought was quite cleverly done.
The relationship between the couple progresses quite quickly and I thought at times that the commitment they make was a little rushed. Having said that, they work well as a couple and the obvious attraction between them leant itself well to a speedy emotional bond. Because we see both men’s point of view it was easy to sympathise with both of them, even as you know that there will be an eventual reckoning regarding Greg’s true purpose in initially seducing Karl.
Whilst the characters and the initial situation worked for me, as did the romance, I was a little let down by the setting. One reason I like Science Fiction stories is for the settings, gadgets and gizmos that are usually contained within the story. In the case of Liar’s Waltz I was a little disappointed at how pedestrian the setting was. In fact, the whole story could have easily been transferred to a contemporary setting. Substitute the space station for a military base set in a small town, the comm link devices for iphones and the setting could be modern day. Even Greg’s initial job as a programmer could be done today. Perhaps this was the author’s intent, to show that the future isn’t so different to the world we know today, but I would have liked to see something a little more special about the setting than sliding doors and vid screens.
Despite my general disgruntlement with the setting, this was still a well written story of two men placed in a difficult situation. Those of you who love stories where the heroes are made to squirm under impossible circumstances, or love to see a hero facing a no-win situation will like this book. As for me, I liked Liar’s Waltz and think it’s a very commendable first novel for Becky Black. I shall look forward to reading more of her books in the future.