Title: Beloved Captor
Author: Jez Morrow
Cover Art: Alessia Brio
Publisher: Torquere Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Science Fiction / Romance
Length: 35,000 words
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Over blown romantic space opera which gave me both entertainment and irritation.
Blurb: Desdaine has fallen hard for space fighter ace, Jess Laren. The trouble is, Laren is a hero on the wrong side of the interplanetary war.
As a senior intelligence officer in the Ilzec Empire, Desdaine thinks his attraction to other men is his own secret. But when Laren is shot down in Ilzec airspace and found guilty of spying, Desdaine receives orders to carry out the execution. Desdaine didn’t think his outlawed desire was obvious, but apparently someone sees through him, and wants to know where Desdaine’s loyalty truly lies. Shamed and furious, Desdaine makes the only choice he can…
I have previously very much enjoyed work by Jez Morrow; Force of Law, which I love for it’s unashamed romanticism, always makes me think of an overblown 1980’s film in the style of Officer and a Gentleman. Touch of a Wolf and Shadow of a Wolf are two of my favourite fun werewolf rereads. This writer does have a very distinctive escapist and full blown romantic style, which I suspect is either hated or loved. However even after getting into that mind set, unfortunately I wasn’t quite convinced by this science fiction space opera, which felt inconsistent and over emotional.
I think Jez Morrow did a good job in developing at least one of her imaginary worlds, in particular the Ilzec’s political and military stance had some power behind it. Jess Laren’s home-world in lieu of detail did seem to default to planet USA. I liked her visual of the two planets,
The two worlds circled each other like rivals in a knife fight as they orbited the same yellow sun together.
However in the main this work appeared stuffed over full of dramatic material, with rather too much happening in too short a form. So while emotions were heightened they appeared almost superficial. In terms of the plot, too many familiar elements energetically collided rather than meshing together- the warring planets felt like extensions of a corrupt old school Soviet Union and USA scenario, there were evocations of WW1 or 2 Air Force culture, GFY – ish, prisoner and captor tensions along side the enemies as lovers theme, war crimes, rehabilitation, a touch of racism, homophobia………and a cat.
I thought the story began well- the original meeting was very visual and the sharp dialogue built up an interesting impression of two very different men. However the misunderstanding about the slang phrase was a little clumsy and the exaggerated emotional intensity of Desdaine’s reaction felt unbelievable. It had no foundation but that of a crush on a famous war – on the wrong side of the war – hero.
It also took a while for me to rebuild my sympathy for Desdaines after he decided, in spite of all he felt and how painful it was, to just follow orders. Before that I’d really liked him as the enigmatic figure, standing outside not only of society but also the human race. Jess’ fly boy over confident do or die heroism was very appealing, and he had some ace lines, not least his unashamed avowal on debriefing, that he was a Ilzec sex slave.
However for all of the things I rather enjoyed something else quickly came along to irritate. The heavy handed psychology of the final sex scene felt like something from Barbara Cartland on a bad day and was not endearing- as I suspect it was meant to be. So overall I found this one an uneven mixture of enjoyment, vague disappointment and irritation.