The Heroine: Alpha, a gorgeous, deadly android
The Hero: General Thomas Wharington, a stalwart military leader
Type of romance: May-December
(Beware of ***SPOILERS***)
In a near-future world of biomech and artificial intelligence, Thomas is a seasoned military hero in charge of the Machine Intelligence Division of the National Information Agency. Nanotechnology-based medical advances belie his true age of seventy-two, but with his wife dead and his children grown, he’s a lonely man who is beginning to question his choice to prolong his life.
Alpha, a sophisticated android, is the former henchwoman and lover of Charon, a powerful villain who traffics in illegal robotics. Having been captured by the military in the previous book, Sunrise Alley, she’s in prison at the beginning of the story.
Despite Alpha’s ruthless nature, Thomas suspects that she is evolving into a type of sentience known as “Evolving Intelligences” (EI). Through discussions and close scrutiny—and the fact that the android will speak only to him—Thomas discovers that beneath Alpha’s hardened exterior, she is extremely vulnerable.
Emotions are new to her, and she needs guidance. References to Charon hint at an abusive relationship. Horrified at the thought that his political adversaries want to tear her apart for research, Thomas is determined to help Alpha adjust to her new state of being and give him the information he needs to save her life.
But even after being informed that Charon is dead (or is he? He’s a criminal mastermind with the ability to create android copies of himself), Alpha is determined to carry out her orders. That means taking General Thomas Wharington as her captive and bringing him to Charon’s base.
What follows is a deadly game of cat and mouse as Alpha breaks out of prison and relentlessly chases Thomas. She takes him at gun point, breaks his leg, and kidnaps his granddaughter.
Convinced that Alpha is neither defined by her former boss nor by her history of villainy, Thomas’s goal is to persuade Alpha to break away from Charon permanently. During the course of their adventure, Thomas falls in love with her. He thinks she has developed feelings for him, but he can’t be sure. Still, that doesn’t stop him from pursuing her, both emotionally and physically.
After an unexpected detour grounds Thomas and Alpha on a remote island, they make passionate love (and if you’re wondering whether Alpha can experience sexual pleasure, she most certainly can). The next morning, Alpha betrays him in the worst way possible: While Thomas slept, she contacted Charon. When Thomas wakes up, Charon is there to greet him, an emotionally numb Alpha by his side.
Why is this moment so heartbreaking? First, of course, is Alpha’s betrayal of Thomas. She kidnapped him, tortured him, and manipulated him beyond reason. But just when I thought she had left her evil ways behind, she betrays him to Charon, Thomas’s sworn enemy. In fact, she leads Charon straight to Thomas—in the bedroom, where he is totally defenseless.
Second, the timing of her betrayal was incredibly intense because they had just made love. Thomas’s love for Alpha shows just how progressive he is since the object of his affection was an artificial being, an “Other.” This occurs during a time period when the civil rights of artificial beings have yet to be defined. Regardless, he didn’t care about the fact that she was an android. He saw her as having value in her own right, worth the love of another, and worthy of redemption.
Third, this scene is a great metaphor for how difficult it can be to extricate oneself from an abusive relationship and trust a new, potential lover. Alpha can’t even trust her own feelings, let alone Thomas. Charon, at least, is a known entity to her. She understands the parameters of her old relationship better than her one with Thomas. In this context, it’s no wonder that she’s having trouble severing the ties of her dysfunctional relationship with Charon.
Alpha’s experience demonstrates the challenges of transitioning from an old, toxic relationship to a new, healthy one. It’s complicated by the fact that she’s dealing with the emergence of strange, new feelings: guilt, compassion, and love. But will Thomas’s love be enough to save them both?
Does Alpha have a happily ever after? Yes, but because of this delicious despair moment, I began doubting it even though I’d already been assured by a trusted source that it had one. That’s how good it is, and it’s one of many aspects that made this book a powerful experience for me. I hope you find the moment as deliciously despairing as I did.
Heather Massey is a lifelong fan of science fiction romance. She searches for sci-fi romance adventures aboard her blog, The Galaxy Express.
She’s also an author: Her latest sci-fi romance is Queenie’s Brigade from Red Sage Publishing. To learn more about her published work, visit www.heathermassey.com.