Starcrossed Bride

Starcrossed Bride

In Starcrossed Bride by Meg Leader, Connall Storm, a two-named bastard disowned by his father and therefore unable “to trace his ancestry back to the Founding Ship”, is an ambitious man with aspirations of becoming powerful and influential. To that end, he marries the Savant-trained and three-named orphan, Arkana Crystal Song. She agrees to what she expects to be a short and loveless marriage because her own ambitions include discovering what her parents were investigating when they died and continuing their research. Interpersonal compatibility in their relationship takes a back seat to more pragmatic matters. Because of her Savant training, Arkana has information Connall needs; he, on the other hand, has—or will have if their expedition is successful—the financial wherewithal to set her up to achieve her own goals. In short, their merger is nothing more than a business arrangement.

It’s annoyingly clear from the beginning of their relationship—their wedding—that they are ill-suited. Arkana is book smart, but not at all worldly, while Connall is an arrogant but wealthy man who has strong opinions about a woman’s place. When his mistress, Lucina, shows up at the wedding, and takes Connall aside to discuss her expectations of him—that he will use Arkana to get what he wants, refuse to confirm his marriage to Arkana, then marry Lucina—Arkana starts a food fight, which evolves into a brawl, in the process of defending her husband’s honor.

In several places, we encounter one of my least favorite literary constructs, variations of the “long moment.” A moment was a medieval unit of time which, on average, corresponded to ninety seconds. That’s about a minute and a half. So when we have a character doing this, “For long moments while he held his breath, not daring to move or make a sound…” it begs a lot of questions. Most people can’t go without breathing for that long, and the plural, moments, suggests that he didn’t breathe for several minutes. Likewise, in other places where we see the “long moment,” it doesn’t jibe with the actions being described.

The pace here is slow, presumably to approximate and support the length of time it takes Connall, Arkana, and Jotan the Glorious, a cook/ minstrel who was the sole survivor of the tragedy that killed Arkana’s parents, to travel into the mountains on pack beasts. In the field, Jotan is a horrible cook, a singer of bawdy compositions, and is portrayed as comic relief. He is also, however, a gift from Lucina which suggests he is there to spy on the couple for her.

The trip into the mountains is cyclical. Connall, Arkana, and Jotan get to some new place, Arkana uses one of her Savant skills, and chaos ensues—in one instance because Arkana wins a lot of money in a “pok’r” game, something she’s studied but never actually played. Eventually, and not unexpectedly since this is a romance novel, Connall and Arkana become sexually involved with one another, which, of course, becomes love even though they’re no more compatible at that point than they were at the beginning of the story. Also not unexpectedly, Arkana gets pregnant. What is unexpected, and adds a layer of conflict to the romance, is how the pregnancy changes the relationship between Connall and Arkana.

All of these events occur on the dual-mooned world, Last Hope, humanity’s home “for more than a century” after humans destroyed not only Earth, but also Mars and Regulus V. The Founding Ship crash-landed, and humans have not yet redeveloped the technology to be able to leave the planet. So they’re stuck there—something the non-humanoid natives have decided, after observing the humans since their arrival, just won’t work because the humans are unable to join the planetary LifeLink and are therefore dangerous. The natives decide that the humans must be subjected to “Removal” a euphemism for “killed off.” This sets up the science fiction conflict. How can Connall and Arkana—barely able to hold together their own fragile romance—convince these powerful beings not to exterminate humanity?

The omnipotent narrator point of view works well here. That the author is careful to paint the original inhabitants as the natives, and the humans as the aliens, is a refreshing change. The sex scenes are well-described without ever becoming overly graphic. By the end of the tale, all the major plot threads have been resolved. The ending is open enough to leave room for at least one more story about this world. This is an easy read for a day where one wants little more than the warmth of a fire, a refreshing beverage, and a decent book.

This book was published by ImaJinn Books. February, 2014. 296 pp.

A version of this review appears on the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly website.

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