Why am I reviewing Sky Riders now, and not the newest release? Because I was intrigued by the series' premise, and I have new policy to start at beginning of series, so my reviews will not consist entirely of phrases like “I don't know how much world-building happened in previous books” or “This might have been explained in an earlier book, but…”
Courtesy of author Fae Sutherland's website, here's the plot synopsis:
Mercenary Captain Torin Covell needs a man who knows his way around a cockpit. Ace pilot Rain needs to get the hell off-planet. Thrown together by chance, the two men form a wary partnership.
Torin has every intention of dumping Rain at the next moon, despite his intense attraction to the hotshot. In his line of work he can’t afford to trust anyone, especially someone as infuriatingly charming and naïve as Rain. But first, he’s got a mission to complete.
What Rain wants, Rain gets. And what he wants is Torin, any way he can get him. The gorgeous captain isn’t making it easy, and the two are quickly embroiled in an erotic battle for supremacy. But when Rain discovers that he’s not the only one in pursuit of Torin, he demands to know exactly what sort of “job” he’s signed on for…
Because of all the action and the dialogue, some of the story would flow more naturally as a web or TV series than as a book. The rhythm of the dialogue felt more natural as the book progressed, but I still wanted to see it as a web series. I was reminded strongly of the TV show Firefly. I didn't feel like this book was a rip-off of Firefly, but it shared similar themes and settings, especially the rag-tag group of ethically ambiguous, heart-of-gold, down-at-heels space travelers hanging out in Western style towns and the sense of a constructed, fiercely loyal family.
I haven't read very much m/m romance, and this one was by far the most explicitly erotic one that I've read. I also hadn't realized until recently that so much m/m is written by women, for a mostly female audience, and I had a hard time just settling into the story without analyzing it in light of those facts. I kept wondering if gay men would like this book. Would they feel that it reflects a realistic set of friendships and romantic relationships? Is it really possible to get into that position without breaking your spine in several places?
Regarding the relationship, I liked it, although the sex scenes were sort of off-putting to me for reasons other than physical improbability. The two leads have a lot of really rough sex that didn't carry the same sense of menace that similar sex would carry in a m/f romance. Of course I realize that rape and other forms of abuse can happen between two men, but the sex scenes didn't have that rapey tone even though there was a lot of “Stop”/”Make me” kind of dialogue happening. Instead of reminding me of sexual assault, the scenes reminded me of two small boys wrestling in the sandbox. I don't have a lot of patience for macho posturing, and this book contains an awful lot of macho posturing, both in and out of the bedroom.
Here's what I did like about the romance – first of all, it wasn't all about sex and insta-lust. There are several great scenes where Torin and Rain are just talking – about their pasts, about their hopes, about the next step their cunning plans, whatever, and they become more at ease with each other with each conversation, building a real relationship. I also very much admired how much the two leads grew to accept each other for who they are. These two people start off trying to control each other and end up laughing at, and embracing, their differences. They are clearly going to have a lot of arguments in their lives and they are clearly going to love it. The science fiction setting made it possible to explore the relationship, which is not only between two men but also inter-racial, without a lot of baggage. Both types of arrangements seem to be commonplace in the book's setting, so the reader can focus on the relationship.
I am running this review in June, LGBT Pride month, along with Deep Deception, a f/f romance (except we accidentally posted it early – oops). Obviously, I don't want to only read books about same sex protagonists during Gay Pride Month any more than I only read books with women in them during Women's History Month or books with male lead characters for Caucasian Male History Month. Still, although it's purely a coincidence that I read two same sex romances for Gay Pride Month, it's a happy coincidence, and I'm excited about broadening my reading horizons in the future. Sky Runners is out as of June 17, and Sky Hunter will be out on July 22.