Lauren Dane and Megan Hart
There All Along
Berkley / December 3, 2013 / $15.00 print / $7.99 digital
“Land’s End” by Lauren Dane…The Land’s End highway is one of the most dangerous places in the universe. The constant peril of brigands keeps Verity Coleman stuck in Silver Cliffs, dreaming of the open road—and of Loyal Alsbaugh, the tall and silent highway patrolman. When her town is attacked, Verity has a chance to win over Loyal’s muted heart. But will his wounded past make him leave her along the road, or can she convince him to take her along?
“By the Sea of Sand” by Megan Hart…Captain Kason Reed was willing to give his life to the Sheirran Defense Forces, but now he can’t remember anything but bits and pieces of the war. When his sexual attraction to his caregiver, Teila, causes him to make advances toward her, she becomes the aggressor, urging him with her body to explore the memories of his past—memories that all seem to draw him back to Teila…
There All Along once again reunites Lauren Dane and Megan Hart in an anthology of unconnected, stand-alone novellas that introduce new worlds and exceptional imagination. Futuristic sci-fi romance can be tricky business, whether getting too bogged down or going too far out there. But the themes are universal, and when that’s at the heart, the creative possibilities are endless. And both stories here really shine.
“Land’s End” is a new alternate world from Dane, where one highway is all that connects lawman Loyal and the only woman in all his travels that he can’t get out of his mind. In a place where society has regressed in some ways, women are expected to remain in certain roles and some ways of life are outdated, which offers some truly interesting social commentary. But Verity is a strong-minded independent widow who finally gets some choice about how her future will play out, and she wants it to be with Loyal. Each time that he stops to drop off communication and supplies for the small village of Silver Cliffs, they form a greater attachment.
Their relationship is playful and light-hearted and though a contrast to the heavy issues that surround them, threats from the brigands grow more pronounced, and Loyal and Verity are faced with what lies ahead. This raises questions about how they can turn occasional visits into a permanent life together. Loyal’s concerns are little match for Verity’s determination, and their love and what it represents, especially in the face of this world off Land’s End highway, is full of hope and promise and the idea that it can exist in any time or place.
Verity was a person he could share his future with and it was long past the point where it scared him the way it did the first time he’d kissed her and left Silver Cliffs.
It was what it was. She meant something in his life. The totality of Verity wasn’t just her. It was the Verity-and-Loyal of it all. The way she fit in his life, the way he fit in hers. The way the two of them made something else entirely.
He’d held on to that when they’d been out dealing with the death and destruction of the last three moons. He was part of something bigger than his job for the first time in his entire adult life.
And it was… good.
Hart also blends some old and new with the intriguing “Sea of Sand,” where lighthouse keeper Teila maintains the landmark lighthouse that guides ships and leads them away from the place that is almost literally the edge of the world. In the lighthouse resides a cast of unstable characters, most recovering soldiers, with Teila as caretaker. When a new arrival comes to her doorstep, the stakes are raised considerably for Teila. Her long-missing husband has come back home, only he doesn’t remember a thing, and Teila can’t drop any hints for fear of activating the technology implanted that could turn him to the enemy for good.
This goes beyond a mere amnesia story. Teila tries to reconnect with her husband Kason—who goes by Jodah—anyway she can while protecting his fragile mind. She tries initially to accomplish this with sex, which forges an intense new bond between them, even when everything else is lost. Other important pieces of their past are told through flashback, and this rounds out their story well. Their love not only comes through, but with such odds against them, we root for them powerfully.
The cold air had begun making him shiver too, though the heat between them rose so fiercely he barely noticed the chill.
“I want to know you want me,” he told her.
“I want you,” she said at once, her longing clear in her voice. “So much.”
He shook his head. Slow, slow circles. A little deeper inside her. “I want to make sure it’s me you want.”
Teila blinked and wet her mouth again. She linked her hands behind his neck and put her forehead to his. Her voice was hoarse. Raw. “I want you… Jodah. You.”
In these stories, the enemies are more frightening as they’re unknown and unfamiliar. But the core conflicts and obstacles on the path to love are the same. And in both cases, because of all of this, the reward is even greater.
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Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.