Miss Anna Key says: In my search for new titles and new authors in the expanding genre of futuristic romance I came across a rather striking cover with a very appetising torso of a blue – judging from the title of that book – alien. I promptly downloaded the preview and I must admit that I’ve got hooked almost immediately after reading the first paragraph: “The day Diana met her first alien dawned like any other — with a dry, cottony mouth and a bad case of bed head. She didn’t even have any warning because, unlike the X-Files and sci-fi movies, she didn’t see any lights in the sky, and her TV image didn’t go all snowy. That kind of pissed her off, because had she known she would be having an up-close -and-personal encounter with life from another planet she might have at least brushed her hair and worn something other than her ragged robe, plaid boxer shorts and loose tank top. This is definitely not my most attractive look”.
The first in the trilogy of novellas follows a story of Diane, a very average, 25+ receptionists with a weight issue. Very quickly we learn that she despises her job, her social and family life is in shambles and her last boyfriend turned out to be a schmuck. In other words – someone who would welcome a fresh start someplace far, far away. The answer to her prayers appears in the form of an alien materialising unexpectedly in the middle of her lounge. A very naked, gorgeous, blue alien who welcomes her in the cheesiest, B-class movie-type entrée: “Greetings, earthling female […] I come in peace. I will be your leader”. At this stage I thought I’m going to choke on the coffee I was just enjoying thinking to myself: “This is going to be fun”. Kor is a highly esteemed warrior on his home planet of Xaanda, a few light years away from Earth. We learn that three generations ago his planet has been afflicted with a deadly virus desecrating the population of women and leaving the remaining ones unable to bear children. As a race of space explorers and traders they started searching for soul-mates outside their home planet guided by the Oracle and the spirits of heir ancestors. As the author explains: “chosen didn’t leave much behind. It’s like their ancestors look for women who have no real close family or friends. Someone, who would welcome a fresh start.”. Thus the most noble and deserving of their society could be rewarded with bliss of a true soul-mate and a family life.
The book is roughly divided into two parts. The first part takes place on Kor’s ship on their way to Xaanda and it’s filled with beautiful description of growing attachment between the two characters their unabashed passion and sexual exploration. We are also introduced to the ship’ computer – an enjoyably sarcastic and cheeky AI unit called Alphie which immediately reminded me of the character of Marvin, the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I could almost hear the bored voice of Alan Rickman in the background.
The second part begins with the arrival of Kor and Diane to Xaanda. The descriptions of the new world are intriguing combining the elements from I, Robot, Star Wars and the technological innovations of Star Trek. Unfortunately as much as my geeky side was devouring all the techie bits, the rest of me was feeling disappointed by the scarcity of sexual descriptions which I’ve so enjoyed in the first part of the book. I’m afraid that a simple: “and they made passionate love” is tad disappointing and feels like I’m being fed a line from the latest Mills&Boon release. Well I suppose in the end it’s good to know that they’ve enjoyed a passionate sex rather than the good-old “Darling, it’s Wednesday…”. But still…
In the bliss of settling down, shopping for furniture and meeting the in-laws we meet Kor’s half-brother, one of the children afflicted with the virus while still in their mothers’ wombs. He’s volatile, brutal and consumed with jealousy over Kor’s successes and now, a mate. What could have been a really dramatic triangle feels a bit rushed and sketchy. I do realise that as a novella there are some length constraints, but I still believe that the conflict between the brothers and the final battle could have been explored a bit further.
The other aspect is the unanswered questions: “what will Diane be actually doing on the planet?” She makes a very compelling argument that she would like to chip in; however almost immediately after arrival she becomes pregnant, so the issue is quite nicely avoided. Now, I have nothing against that scenario. It’s perhaps a sort of annoyance which has been building up for some time now and which cries for a book where the reality of daily life after the “ever after” is actually taken care of. As much as I don’t mind it being avoided here as it is a novella, so quite obviously there’s not enough space to explore all the avenues, such omission in longer publications (e.g. Black Dagger Brotherhood, see a post by Lady Pokingham) is just simply disappointing. My dear authors, just because Mr Right has a lot of dough doesn’t mean that each and every woman would be happy to leave her career and become a housewife.
After all that complaining I feel almost ashamed to point out the positives but here we go. I like the fact that the heroine has a backbone and can stand up to the domineering Kor and even the most powerful being on the Xaanda – the Oracle. She’s an equal to Kor both in life and in bed. No inexperienced wanton virgins here.
The book is a very enjoyable read with humorous descriptions (“Kor’iander Vel Menos stared at the slightly snoring form of his soon-to-be-mate asleep on the floor and shook his head in disbelief”), cheeky dialogues and well-written sexual encounters. It actually made me intrigued about this world and I’m looking forward to reading Book 2.