Book Review

Moonstruck by Susan Grant, a Guest Review by Carrie S.

A-

Title: Moonstruck
Author: Susan Grant
Publication Info: Harlequin 2008
ISBN: 978-0-373-77259
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Book CoverCarrie 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.


This book is available from Amazon | Kindle | BN & nook | WORD Brooklyn | AllRomance | eHarlequin.com

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Chelsea says:

    I too have been on a mad search for GOOD sci-fi romance. I’ve found a few possibilities that are now in my TBR pile, but I’ll have to add this one too. Thanks for the review!

  2. 2
    Tracy says:

    SWEET!  More for my own TBR pile!  I am LOVING this summer’s surge of reviews!

  3. 3
    Wendy says:

    Mmmmm. Gritty space fare.  In.

  4. 4
    H. Vert says:

    The whole sleeping with persons under her command bugs me.  I’m still intrigued though, and will look to see if there’s an electronic copy.

  5. 5
    CarrieS says:

    @H. Vert – totally bugs, and it’s weird, because the hero makes such a big deal out of not sleeping with anyone under his command (he had his own ship previously)  whereas the heroine has tons of problems with the hero but doesn’t bat an eyelash at the whole “sleeping with a subordinate” thing.  On the other hand it’s a nice gender twist that the woman is the one who is more interested in casual sex while the guy wants relationships.

  6. 6
    paige says:

    I would think that sleeping with subordinates would always be a bad idea, especially as the Captain of the ship but if she doesn’t, then who can she sleep with? The other captains are on their own ships, sleeping with kidnapped enemies’ sisters and girls-disguised-as-boys.

    only69- whoah.

  7. 7

    If y’all aren’t reading Linnea Sinclair, you’re missing out on some of the best SF with spaceships romance available.  Her books are an autobuy for me.

  8. 8
    Tara Gelsomino says:

    Hmm, my favorite romantic couple of all time is Starbuck and Apollo from the new BSG. Even though I’m not a sci-fi fan in general, I may have to check this out! Esp with all you say about the gender politics being upended! Thanks for the review!

  9. 9
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Reasonably priced as an ebook, too. Yay!

  10. 10
    Naomi Libicki says:

    Wait, what, Bambi is a hero with a NON-traumatic past, now?

  11. 11
    paige says:

    Sorry, that was Admiral Booty Call, not captain.

    read53- yeah, read 53 times

  12. 12
    AmyW says:

    I really like this book as well. For some reason I’m stuck halfway through the sequel, THE WARLORD’S DAUGHTER, even though it’s good. I guess other books just keep popping up that I can’t wait to read.

  13. 13
    Erika says:

    I was at a convention recently where one of the panels was on romance in science fiction. This should be an interesting read after that little romp. Not a bad price for an ebook, either.

    The ‘sleeping with subordinates’ thing was handled fairly well in the first Mass Effect game, at least between the female hero and her subordinate male love interest. It was one of the things I actually enjoyed about it—the progression was natural, and the hesitance to take it beyond mutual attraction and light flirting was because of the fraternization regs. When it got to a point where that didn’t seem as if it was going to matter anymore, the characters had their night together. The important thing there is that the story supported their actions, so it didn’t break immersion or come across as skeevy. Still probably not the best idea, but completely believable.

    Either way, I’m certainly looking forward to reading Moonstruck now. Dark sci-fi and space sex? Count me in!

  14. 14
    cleo says:

    Thanks for the review CarrieS.  I’m going to try it (although not now – busy preparing for summer term right now, not reading blogs or books or anything remotely frivolous).  I liked Collusion Course and Stormy Gale (and I’ve loved War for the Roses for decades), so your recs have worked for me so far.

    @ Darlene Marshall – can you recommend a good Linnea Sinclair to start with?  Others have recommended her, and I’m interested, since I like SF and romance, but couldn’t figure out where to begin.

  15. 15
    delphia2000 says:

    I read most of her backlist but haven’t been reading her more recent books. I think her ‘Star Prince’ is one of the best SF romances I ever read.

    I have a huge collection of older SF/Fantasy romances packed away due to space limits, but among my favorites are: Justine Davis/Dare’s “Lord of the Storm,’ Dara Joy’s “Knight of a Trillion Stars,”  Jayne Ann Krentz’s “Shield’s Lady,” and Johanna Lindsey’s “Warrior’s Woman.” Some of Kathleen Morgan’s books were also good, but darned if I can remember titles. Topaz did a line of entertaining SF romances too, but all long out of print.

  16. 16

    @Cleo—I really enjoyed Games of Command and An Accidental Goddess, and I seem to recall those as being stand-alone novels.  That would be a good place to start.  Down Home Zombie Blues was strange, but fun.

  17. 17
    Tamara Hogan says:

    This book was a 2009 Rita nom, yo. And Grant’s CONTACT won the Rita in 2003, I believe.  Grant has long been an auto-buy for me. If you’re not reading her, you’re missing some fabulous romantic SF. Highly recommended.

  18. 18
    Heather Greye says:

    This is my favorite of her spacebooks. I devoured it and it made me cry. The other linked books didn’t live up to Moonstruck for me, although I enjoyed them. Her newest—Last Warrior—I enjoyed as well.

    I first read her space/futuristic books in the Banzai Macguire series by Dorchester. In the 5 book series, she wrote the first and last. The 2176 series was fun, but my favorite was a middle book that Grant didn’t write.

    I agree with the recommendation of Linnea Grant. She has several stand-alone books and a linked series. Her most recent books—Hope’s Folly and Rebels and Lovers—are my favorites. They’re part of her Dock 5 series, so I don’t know if you’ll be lost starting there. I read them long after the first two, so things were vaguely familiar and I didn’t really feel lost.

  19. 19
    Janet says:

    This sounds like a must read. Hit the link to buy immediately. I am so ready for smart sci-fi romance.

  20. 20
    Olivia says:

    This sounds grand! The very first romance I ever read was a sci-fi romance: Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey. And then it just disappeared off my radar and I found Regencies and time-travel romances and, well, time flew by …

    Good to see the SFR coming back into fashion, and now I know at least one author to start with! :)

  21. 21
    JaniceG says:

    For another great SF romance novel, I highly recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor. Also, although it’s part of a larger series, Rules of Engagement by Elizabeth Moon has a very believable romance in it, complete with misunderstandings about The Other Woman.

  22. 22
    Tae says:

    I love scifi romance and I’m unfamiliar with Grant, I will definitely look into it

    Oh yeah, second Linnea Sinclair.  I discovered her through SBTB or DearAuthor and after Gabriel’s Ghost, I went out and bought everything she wrote.  I keep checking her website looking for a new Dock 5 book.

  23. 23
    Kaye says:

    Hmmm…this makes me want to try some sci-fi.  I’m in kind of a reading slump and sounds like it would jostle me out.  I have read her before, loved Contact, and also enjoyed the Banzai Macguire series.  Better yet – my library has it!  Thanks for the great review.

  24. 24
    Barbara Elness says:

    I love Susan Grant’s books, and I really enjoyed Moonstruck.  I’ll certainly add my recommendation to this one as well as her other books.

  25. 25
    DS says:

    None of Linnea Sinclair’s novels appealed to me as much as Games of Command—and Games of Command was a much improved rewrite of a book she originally published with a small press called Command Performance.  The last part of Command Performance was painfully cliched.

    I read somewhere that Ms Sinclair has lost her publisher.  Anyone know if the situation has improved?

    I think I’ll try Moonstruck given the Kindle book is reasonably priced.  Considering the horrible things that tend to happen to female characters in military sf, I didn’t think the back story was all that tortured.

  26. 26
    Alpha Lyra says:

    DS, I too was a huge fan of

    Games of Command

    but didn’t enjoy her other books as much. However, I have a friend who thought Games was meh, but loved

    Gabriel’s Ghost

    and pretty much everything else. It’s interesting to me that

    Games of Command

    seems to appeal to a somewhat different audience than her other work. I have unfortunately stopped buying her stuff because nothing she’s published recently has been remotely like Games.

  27. 27
    Linkmeister says:

    Bujold’s Shards of Honor is a good romance, but for romantic comedy at its best try her A Civil Campaign. ‘Course, to get the full effect of the latter you’ll have to read Komarr first, so . . .;)

    almost66—Dammit, I am not. I’ll admit to 60.

  28. 28
    Diva says:

    Great review. I’m probably gonna avoid this title. In addition to the dark backstory which sounds a little rough for me, it squicks me out that Brit would get involved with her professional subordinate. Ew. (No i’m not a big fan of those books where the secretary and boss hook up either…not my scene, feels exploitive of authority)

  29. 29
    Andra says:

    I fell in love with Moonstruck’s gorgeous cover and had to own it after reading the (excellent) excerpt on Grant’s website. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loved it!

  30. 30
    Susan says:

    Off topic:  MMMM…I want me a tattoed space pirate.  Er, that is, a male one.  Preferably looking like Peter Wingfield.

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