Author: Chris Quinton
Publisher: Kouros Books
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: One obnoxious and abusive teenage brat and a bond between our lovers nearly spoiled my enjoyment of this otherwise fun and exciting sci-fi adventure.
Ash is looking for his sister, Tria. He’s come halfway across the galaxy in search of her and the vital information she had obtained on those who wiped out half their family and a Vyan colony. He refuses to accept she is dead, but he has only partial coordinates for her possible landfall site — a lake somewhere in America’s northeast. He has had to hunt and stay undiscovered in an alien, potentially hostile environment, as well as keep his differences hidden from the native inhabitants. After a year of searching, he has reached Amassol, Vermont.
Conn and his partner, Faye, are PIs with an uneasy working relationship. Conn is gay but deep in the closet. He is restless, unsettled in his life, a situation not helped by the tension and animosity between him and Faye. They have been assigned to track down Angi, an underage runaway whose parents want her back before she reaches her eighteenth birthday. But Angi is a wild child with a mile-wide streak of stubborn independence and she has no intention of going back to Florida with them. She is involved with the leader of a street gang in Amassol, and though she has discovered Ash’s secret, she has become good friends with him.
They all meet up in Amassol, and when Ash and Conn encounter each other, the attraction is immediate and almost overwhelming. And impossible. Ash’s mission and Conn’s assignment, as well as rival street gangs, make sure of that.
You have had a chance to read the blurb. One day I will figure out why the publisher would want to reveal so very much in the blurb, but for now I just do not think I need to summarize anything else in the plot.
This is the first book by this writer I have read and though I have seen great reviews of her books published by Manifold Press on this site, I have not read them yet. Overall I found her writing to be very enjoyable — the chemistry was smoking hot, I enjoyed how well-developed the family structure in Ash’s world was and I felt the world-building overall was very good — and will definitely now look for her other works. However, there were a few issues that prevented me from liking this one as much as I wanted to (more on this later). Related to this, I found myself needing to separate out especially one highly negative aspect for me to look at the book objectively, thus you may find that the rating is higher than it might seem to deserve.
Basically this is a twist on the X-Files, or I should say it has several X-Files allusions — and very funny ones, too. Conn and Faye reminded me of Mulder and Scully — they even refer to themselves as such at some point — and we have an alien “like in the X-Files” in the storyline. Of course, it is an original story and does not duplicate the plot of that television show, but the allusions were fun nonetheless. I really liked Conn and Faye, who are both tough, smart, interesting characters and who have plenty of sexual chemistry between them that even resulted in action once (do not worry, this was before the story started and neither of them wants to repeat it). They come to Amasol, a place where rival gangs slide dangerously close to starting an open war between themselves, because their agency needs them to track down runaway Angi, a seventeen-year-old who skipped town with her boyfriend Zach, and who is apparently living in this city.
My biggest problem with the story was with the character of Angi, for whom I felt visceral hatred. She irritated me from the beginning because of what she did to Zach and it never got better for me. I kept reminding myself that she is a dumped teen who does not know any better, and thought surely somebody, anybody, would tell her that you do NOT use people the way she has, especially with such drastic consequences, no matter what the reason is. Unfortunately that time never came. Everybody she encounters falls under this girl’s spell, and the most hilarious thing is Conn and Faye — strong, tough Faye, who seems to have Angi’s number right away — also fall very fast, only wanting to help and admire her, and this love-fest continued on for a long time. I did not understand it. Do not get me wrong, the action was very well-written and fun, but I could not get past for whom all this action was happening. I shook my head the more I read and wanted to scream at the characters, “Hey remember Zach?” I think ultimately what I could not get past was the calculated nature of her actions, that she only felt regret for the wrong reasons for the long time, and when she felt regret for the right reasons it was way too little too late for me. To me, Angie was irredeemable. I wanted to slap her when the book started, by the last page I wanted to wring her neck, and in the end I did not feel that her apologies were nearly enough.
I also had an issue with part of Ash and Conn’s relationship, which was unfortunate because I thought they were hot together. The moment Ash and Conn meet, Ash feels strong attraction to him. I was happy at first because he tries to fight it, but apparently this is only because he knows he will ultimately have to leave Conn. Otherwise he knows that he and Conn share a very strong bond. My first thought? “Oh dear, a bond.” I used to like this plot device, and I know many readers still do, but to me it was unnecessary. In my mind, it actually somewhat diminished the two strong, powerful leads, two men who I thought would have been perfectly capable of falling in love without the help of the bond. Related to this, I really would have preferred for them to have gotten to know each other before they fell in love via this bond. Even Insta!Lust would have been better than the bond for me. Yes, I know that there was an indication that the bond could have been one sided, however I think Ash also thinks that bond influences Conn anyway, one sided or not, so it was not clear to me whether Conn fell in love on his own, or fell into the bond magic.
Recommended with some reservation.