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Pirate Bound by Carysa Locke

Pirate BoundSource: Copy from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Talented Pirates have suffered loss. Some years ago a deadly virus swept through the female Pirates, decimating them. Now the Pirates face extinction since they have few viable females to bear talented children. Then the Pirates come across two female Talented, Sanah and Nayla, exhausted and wary, who have escaped from a Talented organisation known as Veritas. Nayla is a biokineticist, able to heal on a cellular level, who’s Talent is required by their brother Niall – working for Veritas – for it’s killing abilities.

What a fantastic story. Each of the main characters, and a few of the secondary characters, are well developed with differing personalities, goals and desires. Dem’s qualities as a protective hero make him very endearing, and I enjoyed his internal battle with his Talents. That really made me chuckle. Cannon was an extremely insightful Pirate King who really keeps his finger on the pulse. It would be nice to one day read more about him, and also about Treon, Dem’s enigmatic brother.

Inventive and well-written, I hope to read many more books about the Telepathic Space Pirates. This definitely checks all my boxes in space opera, psychic talents and romance. This is excellent stuff right here, reminiscent of the best of Anne McCaffrey.

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Terms & Conditions Apply by Pippa Jay

Terms & Conditions ApplySource: ARC from author
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

“Welcome to Venus Ascendant, a Public Grade space station in the Andromedan Galaxy. With our open-to-all policy, any being in the universe can find their perfect R & R, romantic getaway or dangerous liaison at our purpose built resort. The on-board empathic AI Ganesa ensures that anyone coming to Venus Ascendant will find their heart’s desire, with suites that transform from luxurious boudoirs to sunset-lit beaches to dark BDSM dungeons. So come to Venus Ascendant and find exactly what you’re looking for!”

It was meant to be a romantic getaway for Marie and the love of her life Jaisen; a chance for him to get to know her better after months of her denying him more than a few stolen kisses. Instead, Marie finds herself dumped and alone on Venus Ascendant with no credit for a transmat and the next starship home not due for another hour.

But the all-seeing AI isn’t going to leave anyone aboard the space station with their dreams unfulfilled. Marie’s boyfriend might not have made it to the station, but there are others willing and able to take on the role – even if they aren’t entirely human.

A space station, a woman who’s been dumped, and an avatar… ingredients for a romantic cocktail delicately crafted by Pippa Jay. There were several surprises along the way, and some fabulous characters one can really sympathise with.

Having read Pippa Jay’s previous works, and thoroughly enjoyed them both, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Pippa has once again created a setting that my imagination is immediately at home in. The writing is vivid, and drew me into the story with ease. This is a quick, easy read, and a fabulous scifi romance.

Pax Imperia by Mike Smith

Pax ImperiaSource: Own collection
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Commander Jonathan Radec has finally obtained everything he ever wanted in life. However, in a cruel twist of fate, just as he reaches out for his most heartfelt desire, it is torn from his grasp forever.

“For only he who has experienced ultimate happiness, can completely understand the deepest depths of absolute despair.”

Jon has always trusted those closest to him implicitly. It has long been his greatest strength, but one that his enemies have come to realise is also his ultimate weakness. For it is always those closest to you whose betrayal cuts the deepest.

In a horrific, pre-emptive strike at the very heart of the Imperium, the Senate is completely wiped out. In the aftermath of the attack, surrounded by the cries of the dead and dying, destiny once again reaches out its long arm, forcing Jon down a path he has long resisted. For, ever since the day he first set eyes upon Sofia, Jon has been destined to stand above all others.

As the last Emperor of the Imperium.

Jon has already fought through the very depths of hell itself and out the other side to save the ones he loves. Now, to save his family, he will gladly lay siege to the heavens themselves, for they tremble at his approach. As Jon not only commands the living, but also the dead, and they all want revenge against those who have taken everything from them.

Even if the rest of the Imperium must burn first.

This was the most difficult book in the trilogy for me to read. I started to read it, and then I spent the next month or so reading a bit more and then putting off reading any farther for days at a time because I couldn’t bear to find out “what happens next”; and yet at the same time, I was compelled to read further in order to find out “what happens next”. In summation, I had a very definite love-hate relationship with this book. What an awful dilemma!

I really commend Smith for the way he created characters one really invests in, as it was for only that reason that my heart was shattered at the beginning of the story, and purely for that reason that I kept on reading to find out how the story resolved. And the climax of this story was worth every moment of heartache that had come before. Fantastic stuff, and totally worthy of The Last Praetorian.

I won’t say any more, because to do so would be to reveal plot points that are best kept under wraps. I will say this, though: the epilogue made me cry, dammit. The first book I’ve had tears in my eyes over since as long as I can remember.

The Sunfire by Mike Smith

The SunfireSource: Own collection
Format: Kindle ebook
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Commander Jonathan Radec is dead. However, the Commander has already died once before, and for some death is but a doorway…

“For whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartarus.” – Plato

After making a shocking discovery that reveals the truth about a long-held misconception, the crew launch a desperate rescue mission to Tartarus. The only way to reach there, aboard The Sunfire, which was once the Confederation Navy’s newest, most powerful heavy cruiser, but is now nothing more than a ghost ship, adrift amongst the stars.

Meanwhile the last Imperial Princess, Sofia Aurelius, is questioning her own decision to focus on the Senate and turn her back on her family–and Jon. Embarking on a quest to discover the truth about the present–she instead finds the past has finally caught up with her.

Failure will mean certainly death for them both, but the price of success could be far worse, almost certainly plunging the galaxy into civil war, the last of which, five-hundred years ago, cost tens of millions of lives.

Smith has an inventive imagination, and this story is no exception. One may think that because Jon Radec appears near-invincible, that one has to completely suspend belief in order to swallow this story. But the beauty of writing the story mostly from his POV shows just how and where he is vulnerable. This sets the reader up for tension as events head Radec’s way.

But not only that. Smith is audacious, and comes up with plot lines and devices that stagger the readers’ imagination – and that totally suit the characters of Jon Radec and his contemporaries. What Smith does in The Sunfire is not far short of brilliant, and a joy (advisedly) to read. A page-turner that keeps one in the grip of events, hastening to discover the outcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second instalment of the Redemption trilogy, and look forward to reading Pax Imperia.

 

Hidden in Ashes by Rachel Leigh Smith

Hidden in AshesSource: ARC from author
Format: ebook
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.

Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane man trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.

When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.

Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.

An up-front warning – this book is not for the faint of heart, or those unable to deal with abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual. There are some graphic descriptions of abuse: while most action is off-page, it is discussed on-page.

This is, I think one of Smith’s gentler novels, but at the same time, she still takes her time taking your heart apart piece by piece – and at one point, she certainly ripped mine to shreds – and then patches it all back together again ready for the end.

My goodness. Nothing in the universe Smith has created ever comes easy – especially for the Lokmane. In this novel we get to know Lorin – a Lokmane daro we met briefly in Freedom’s Embrace – and Sunny, who some of us may have met as a babe in a short story Smith shared a while back. And as usual, Smith’s characters are broken people – usually through abuse of one form or another – who are trying to learn how to stand on their own two feet again.

Smith made me cry. Now, I am NOT a person who cries easily when reading books. The fact that this was the second book within a month that got to me says more of my fragile health at the time than anything else, but even then I think I would have had tears in my eyes at a particular revelation in the book. In all, I have huge respect for an author who can engage my emotions in a story that far.

I loved learning more about the Marcasian society, and it was special getting to know Lorin and Sunny. I look forward to meeting them again one day, as surely their story is incomplete.