This review went live prematurely, which meant it hit everyone's RSS feeds. Our apologies! This book is out May 27, and normally we'd review it closer to that date, but since the RSS folks got a sneak peek, we're posting it for everyone to enjoy. Sorry for the confusion! – Sarah
Deep Deception is a f/f science fiction romance from Cathy Pegau, who is rapidly becoming an auto-buy author for me. This story has two delightful leads, a compelling plot, strong sense of place, and a tough but nurturing romance. The only thing that stood in my way of losing myself in the story is that the last book I read by Pegau, Caught in Amber, kept getting in the way.
Deep Deception is about Natalia, who is basically undercover cop, and Gennie, who is on the run from her in-laws who are the heads of the powerful Reyes Corporation. Natalia finds herself with time on her hands when she is placed on leave after being accused of corruption. This turns out to be handy, because Gennie has evidence that the Reyes Corporation is up to no good and she needs Natalia to help her investigate.
Before you can say “Gennie conveyed this information by hitting on Natalia at a bar, drugging her, tying her to a bed, and leaving a data drive on the nightstand”, the two women are off to Grand Miridian, an isolated mining town. Natalia works undercover as a loader, Gennie as an administrative assistant, and they both try to find hard evidence of malfeasance and keep their hands off each other.
There's so much to like about this book. The main characters are exasperating and likeable at the same time. They keep huge secrets from each other and yet they have an underlying straightforwardness that anchors their relationship. Their attraction is immediate, but it's not the kind of insta-lust that drives a lot of other stories. Their relationship contains lust, but it's not driven by lust. It's driven by mutual admiration and a slowly growing sense of trust. By the end of the book there is no doubt that they can totally count on each other regardless of what is going on in their lives or with their relationship.
Plus they are fun together – they seem to enjoy each other's company. They are at ease with each other as much as two people can be who have huge secrets and who are trying to keep from making out.
Another thing I like is the technical excellence of the writing. The book is set in the future, but I don't think the year is ever mentioned. Pegau assumes that the reader is smart enough to keep up without much exposition. At the same time, the world feels totally grounded. There's dust and a gross office with a sticky floor and homemade garlic bread. There's boring regulations and slow office computers. It feels like a real place, which is especially impressive since most of Pegau's last book, Caught in Amber, was set in a glitzy mansion that also seemed like a real place even though it was a different from Grand Miridian as possible.
One thing I admire about Pegau is that she writes both same sex and heterosexual romance, and there's no difference in how she treats the relationships. The relationships are different because the people are different, but I don't get a feeling that she's using f/f as a chance to fantasize unrealistically or explore a kink. There was a great thread on that topic here, with a lot of discussion about whether or not it's OK to use same sex romance to meet those goals. As I've just started reading more m/m and f/f romance, I've been thinking about that thread a lot.
Regardless of which side of that conversation you fall on, I don't think it applies to Deep Deception, and I find that refreshing. Pegau writes romance between people who have interesting relationships to explore, and sometimes they are straight and sometimes they are not. I enjoy that matter-of-fact quality and the realness and honesty of the relationships in both of the books by Pegau that I've read, regardless of the gender of the lovers. Of course the romances are different, because the characters are different. They have different lives and histories and experiences that shape them, and this includes gender but is certainly not limited to gender. It's just love between flawed, strong, complicated people.
The only problem I had with the book is that both characters appeared as supporting characters in Caught in Amber, and they were awfully touchy-feely compared to how they were in Caught. I found it very distracting to think about them in Caught as opposed to Deep. Plus I was pretty confused by Gennie's past. Was she a mom while she was working for the drug dealer in Caught? Was she incognito during that time? She seemed pretty visible to me.
Honestly, I think Deep might work best as a standalone book. It's just too jarring to have two women who have both been described as cold and laconic instantly become chatty. It's not that I'm surprised that they can feel – I'm just surprised that they show their feelings. I suppose a book about two people who are expressionless and don't talk would be a short one. Taken on it's own merits, I thought Deep Deception was great.