Sun
Jun 25 2017 10:00am

5 Science Fiction Romance Best Bets for June 2017

Mars Ho by Jennifer Willis

Time to talk about some scifi romance Best Bets from new releases in late May and June.

It was probably inevitable that someone would mix reality shows and the idea of sending people to Mars. Jennifer Willis does a pretty good job with the concept in her new book Mars Ho! (Amazon)  As the book’s blurb says, What would you do for a one-way trip to Mars? The idea is that the reality show exists alongside the world’s space programs and the production team allegedly works with the scientists to assemble a team of eight individuals to establish a new colony on Mars. The actual fact of the situation is that all the tropes of shows like The Bachelor, Survivor, and Big Brother come into play—the scheming, strategizing, alliances, producer shenanigans, real and contrived emergencies…and in the middle of it are Lori Ridgway and Mark Lauren, two decent people with high level skills, who really want to go to Mars. But can they trust each other? Can anyone trust anyone?

The meet-cute as the show begins, with contestants giving up all their personal possessions to don the corporate logo-branded uniforms. (Corporate branding of literally everything the contestants touch, wear or consume is a hilarious and all-too-true running joke in the book.) Lori is lingering over her Victoria’s Secret lingerie and Mark enters the wrong dressing room by mistake. The producers are salivating over the encounter, as you can imagine, especially since he’s naked, so they let the scene go on. Mark says, “How are you supposed to say goodbye to the Earth if you can’t even let go of your underwear?” Yes, but doesn’t he understand it’s high end purple lace underwear?!

Either way, the awkward encounter gives both of them an early thumbs up from the avidly watching global audience but there’s a lot of drama left to come.

Once the 32 final candidates enter the simulated Mars habitat, events move rapidly. As Mark thinks to himself, it was a given that the producers would manipulate candidates and scenarios to heighten drama. Oh boy, do they!  The contestants naively think they’re prepared but the showrunners are pretty nefarious. The habitat itself was a nice mix of how actual Mars simulations already on Earth are run and the various civilian attempts at communal biodomes, crossed with the ambiance of the group house on “America’s Next Top Model.” There are confession booths, cameras everywhere except the bathrooms, questions about safety, people trying to win their spot on the Mars trip with calculated hijinks…and Lori and Mark in the middle of it all, cautiously attempting to find out if they might have a real chance at romance. Hey, it happens, even on reality programs!

Things take a very serious turn. The best case scenario, as Lori sums it up, involved “being uncomfortable and isolated, and then dying far from home.” I try not to ever do spoilers but I devoured this book. I’ve never been on a reality show but I’ve sure watched my share, and Mars Ho captured the genre pretty well, with the additional element of high stakes here for the eight people selected (and voted on by the worldwide public). There’s a second book in the series coming soon and I can’t wait.

Greyson's Doom by Tracy Cooper-Posey

For a more science fiction-centric look at how humans might leave Earth andsearch for a new home in the stars, you can’t beat Tracey Cooper-Posey’s Endurance Series. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo)  The ship is on a 1000 year voyage to the designated colony world and the author has done a simply masterful job of developing the details of how the huge crew will live, adapt and evolve on board a vessel where many generations will be born and die without ever setting foot on humanity’s new home.  It’s a fascinating series and the author picks a different time frame on the voyage for each story. The current entry is Evangeliya, (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) a short but ultimately heartwarming read about what happens when the all-knowing ship’s Artificial Intelligence decrees that two people will be given a baby. The catch? Those two people aren’t a couple and in fact are in loving relationships with others. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and it’s a terrific glimpse into the shipboard world. The romance content is mild but real.

Of course in a lot of scifi romance books these days, humans—women—get into space by being kidnapped off Earth, and then the adventures happen. Along those plot lines, there’s a new Ice Planet Barbarians book out from Ruby DixonBarbarian’s Rescue— (Amazon) and while telling the story of the individual couple Summer and Warrek, the author has also thrown serious new curves at life on the Ice Planet. The developments hold a lot of promise for future plots so I’m guessing the adventures are good to go on for quite a while. Barbarian’s Rescue is book 15 in the highly addictive series, but you can dive in at any point—he stories work nicely as standalone reads.

Summer can’t stop talking. When she’s nervous, which is often, she babbles her entire stream of consciousness and since she’s very smart, she always has a lot to say. The book would undoubtedly be one long monologue by her, in fact, excerpt that people are fairly ruthless about cutting her off in mid word. Warrek is probably the most silent member of the tribe (Ms. Dixon excels at matching up couples who appear at first to be totally unsuited but opposites attract like super magnets on this planet). Summer assumes his near silence means she annoys him, which of course makes her talk all the more because she’s nervous.

Barbarian’s Rescue by Ruby Dixon

Warrek enjoys the sound of her voice though. He says “It’s as if her mind cannot stop on one subject, so she must discuss all of them.” He likes to see where her mind is going. He’s a trained hunter, who of course has learned to be quiet in order to effectively stalk prey, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking deep thoughts.

“My habit is not to talk about myself,” he says.

To which Summer replies, “And I have the opposite problem. But we can meet somewhere in the middle…”

Oh boy, can they!

When a ship of rogue slavers arrives close to where a small party is gathering fruit from a cave with its own heat source, only Summer and Warrek remain free.  The two of them work together effectively to outwit the slavers, with Summer drawing on her expertise at the game of chess to strategize how to rescue their friends, and Warrek using his skills as a hunter to put her plan into motion. Summer’s impressed and has to tell herself she can’t indulge in a crush while they’re in mortal danger.

Again, not to give spoilers, dealing with the rogue slavers is only the beginning of the plot in this book. The storyline was a bit episodic but highly enjoyable. I really had the feeling Ms. Dixon is setting up the structure for some big stories yet to come.  I loved Summer and Warrek, and their romance was satisfactory, with the tension over when they’d get some privacy and whether they’d resonate or not drawn out just long enough to keep the reader happily turning those pages.

The entire tribe becomes a bit distracted over the “she spot” as Warrek refers to an intimate secret Summer shares with him from her vast store of academic knowledge. (Warrek apparently hears the letter ‘g’ as ‘she’.) That got a bit amusing at certain moments, as previously mated warriors in thee tribe want to either know the secret or be reassured by their mates that they already um hit the spot, in addition to everything else the well-endowed blue barbarians accomplish while curled up with a mate in those furs by the fire.

Twice Tethered by Sabine Priestley

Sabine Priestley kicks off a new series with Twice Tethered. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) She calls it “sexy scifi urban fantasy with a twist,” to which I add “and romance with steamy scenes.” The world created by the author features humans and Sensari, who are a uniformly gorgeous winged race. Not angels. All too human in so many ways, with a lot of real world political problems going on in each society.  But I am so there. The human heroine Priya Desai has just gotten her advanced degrees and is on her first day at work for Genetic Realms, a company owned and operated by two Sensari friends. Priya and Morgan Steele, the incredibly attractive Sensari CEO, feel an immediate attraction over the usually boring new employee lunch, which they both fight for their own reasons. Since it’s a key, early plot point (not a spoiler), I’ll proceed to tell you that Morgan is a widower as his wife died in an accident five years ago. He and his people believe it’s impossible to “tether” or achieve that fated mate kind of bond more than once in a lifetime. Yet he and Priya demonstrate many of the aspects of being “tethered”. And furthermore, after a night of incredibly steamy sex, Priya undergoes a spontaneous mutation and grows her own wings. This has happened a few times before, but only with Sensari/human couples who have actually fallen in love.

Much chaos ensues, both between Priya and Morgan, and in the wider society.

I enjoyed the emotional storms for Priya and Morgan as each comes to grips with their ‘tethering’, and find their way to the happy ever after ending. I very much appreciated that Morgan felt so much loyalty to his late wife, even after five years, and the decision to move forward with Priya was given the emotional weight it deserved.  I found the set up for the future books interesting. Ms. Priestley has a very smooth style and has obviously thought out her worldbuilding carefully.  To some extent this was very much a “first book in the series,” meeting many people, being shown quite a few loose threads (I’m highly suspicious of how that first wife died myself—I’m guessing she was murdered and not by Morgan) and I expect each new book will build on the foundation given here. As good series do!

But how can you go wrong with people who can fly? And there were these mysterious throwaway references to dragons so maybe we’ll be seeing them in future books. One can only hope. I’ll be there.

Hemi by Anna Hackett

Quickly before I go, I wanted to mention that Anna Hackett has released Hemi, (Amazon | B&N) book 13 in her Hell Squad post-apocalyptic alien invasion scifi romance series.  Big buff bearded and tattooed former biker Hemi and tough street fighter Camryn are made for each other but they have to figure that out while battling the dinosaurlike aliens invading Earth since they’re full-fledged members of the Hell Squad. I thought the book delivered another solid episode in this gritty, steamy series and I can’t wait for the next installment.

What terrific new scifi romances have you been reading?


H&H Editor Picks:

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Amazon best-seller Veronica Scott is a three-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award, and has written a number of science-fiction and fantasy romances. Her latest release is Trapped On Talonque. You can find out more about her and her books at veronicascott.wordpress.com

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2 comments
Kareni
1. Kareni
Thanks for another fun post. And I see that Mars Ho! is currently free to Kindle readers.
laurasf
2. laurasf
I highly recommend "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller. I wasn't expecting a romance and was wonderfully surprised. Here's the cover description:

Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial,
gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.

But when a randomtransmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voiceignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past hispoint of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to findsomething that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.
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