Carrie S. is back with another sci fi/fantasy romance that made her extremely happy. – SB Sarah I don't give A's lightly, but this grade snuck up on me. At first, I had a hard time getting into Moonstruck. It featured some tropes I'm not crazy about, and it was darker than I expected. But after reading it, I found myself thinking about the book a lot, and with great emotion and enjoyment. I realized that even though Moonstruck has some problems, and even though it might not be everyone's favorite due to dark themes, I couldn't possibly withhold an A- from a book that made me think and feel so much and which took on such complex emotional and political issues. This would be a great book to hand anyone who thinks that romance novels are “just about sex” – in this book, all the sex is just a framework for explorations of grief, guilt, love, trust, bigotry, reconciliation, healing, adventure, war, and personal and political peace. In case that sounds too dark, there's also plenty of humor and lovely messages of redemption and healing, and, oh yeah, tattooed space pirates, and the language is fluent and lovely – truly a treat to read. The plot: Admiral Brit Bandar of the Coalition has spent years battling the Drakken Horde in an interstellar war. She is having a hard time accepting that the war is over and she is horrified to be ordered to serve on a new, diplomatic ship, crewed by Coalition members, Earthlings, and Drakken. Bandar's superiors impress upon her that this ship and this crew are vital to establishing that the Peace is genuine and can last. Her first mate is Finn Rorkkenn, a Drakken pirate. He has sort of a Han Solo vibe, but without the immaturity. Needless to say, sparks fly and what Brit thinks will be casual, if somewhat ill advised sex, turns into something much more complicated.
Meanwhile, there is a side romance between Tango, a goofy earthling with a fondness for twenty-first century pop culture, and Hadley, Brit's right-hand woman…OR IS THERE? Will Tango woo Hadley successfully with screenings of “The Devil Wears Prada?”, which Hadley translates as, “The god of the Dark Reaches wears Pra-dah?” And what of the mysterious Bolivarr, a warrior with, wait for it…amnesia! Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, we have amnesia! These characters provide the narrative with much needed comic relief, although the story line is not without its own pathos. WARNING! Brit's back-story is extraordinarily painful and contains the following elements that are certainly huge triggers for me and probably for a lot of other people: violent death of first husband, violent death of two-year old son, stillbirth triggered by violent event, suicide. This is not Bambi and Faline In Space. I had no idea what I was getting into. I will say that the happy ending is satisfying, believable, and thoroughly deserved by all involved. What really won me over was that all the characters act in plausible ways. They do smart things, brave things, stupid things, make huge mistakes and have glorious triumphs, but they do it all in character, not because the author required them to perform some arbitrary action in service to the plot. The sex is explicit, but not gratuitous, because Finn and Brit initially interact almost exclusively in two modes – professional colleagues, and lovers. With each sexual encounter, their relationship as lovers shifts more from the purely physical sense of the term to the more emotional sense. The only thing that persistently bothered me was that Brit, the commanding officer, would sleep with Finn, her subordinate, in the first place. Somehow I never bought that, although the author tried her darndest to sell it, and I suspect it wouldn't bother most readers. I spent many insomniac hours mulling over sexual politics and gender roles, and finally decided that the author was pretty successful in exploring and upending a lot of ideas about gender and leadership and sex. I was also dazzled by how fearlessly the author takes on big issues. This is a shining example of “the personal is political” as the character development of Finn and Brit mirrors the peace process. One of you lovely Smart Bitches recommended this novel when I was bemoaning the lack of romance (other than cross-over and erotica) on spaceships. Unfortunately, I didn't bookmark the thread and I can't figure out who recommended it. Thanks, whoever you are! I can't wait to read Susan Grant's other Borderlands novels, The Warlord's Daughter and Sureblood, as well as her earlier works which supposedly are a little bit lighter. Moonstruck was a tough emotional read but well worth it and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants some gritty space fare.