Expected Release Date: February 2, 2012 (Available Now!)
Publisher: Self-Published
Imprint: N/A
My Source for This Book: Smashwords (Gift from the author)

All That Glitters by Erin Kellison

Author’s Website: http://erinkellison.com/
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Cheated out of a fortune by the Sol royal family, lowborn Simon Miner will do anything to get his revenge, no matter how ruthless. When Princess Mica Sol, a terraforming expert, is shot out of the sky on the way to her sister’s lavish wedding, she fears the worst—scavengers—and flees into an alien jungle to avoid capture. But the man who pursues and captures her is none other than Simon, her former lover. Passions reignite as violence rocks Sol City, and Simon and Mica must fight for love, family, and their world… or lose everything.

What Worked For Me:

  • While I’m not usually a fan of estranged lovers in romance, I definitely prefer them in novellas because it helps the pacing along. In this particular case, I loved all of the emotional baggage between Simon and Mica.
  • Mica was a wonderful heroine.  Resourceful and intelligent without being superhero unrealistic, she’s also got quite a few emotional vulnerabilities to help round out her character.
  • I enjoyed that the action in this story wasn’t limited to Mica’s sojourn into the jungle.  The fast pacing and high level of danger continued throughout the story without getting in the way of the romance, which I definitely appreciated.
  • I loved the many shades of gray to Simon’s character. While he was certainly cast into a bad light by events outside of his control, he wasn’t perfect, and that just made him even more appealing to me.
  • I also greatly enjoyed the ideas surrounding terraforming, and the different approach to it that Mica suggested.
  • The conflict that originally resulted in Mica and Simon’s estrangement appealed to me as well — there was no single Big Misunderstanding, which I found refreshing. Instead,  there was an issue of Mia and Simon being from different societal classes, but unjust governmental regulations, family pressure, and even the characters’ personal beliefs that they weren’t quite “good enough” for the other, all added together to create the rift between them.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I admit that I was a little disappointed that the original conflict — that of Mica fleeing into the alien jungle — was resolved so quickly.  Perhaps it was my own fault for slightly misreading the blurb, but I still wasn’t expecting a “return to civilization” so early on in the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. Having never read anything by Erin Kellison, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but the fast pacing, captivating world-building, and delicious chemistry between the protagonists quickly had me hooked.  As of right now, this story is a standalone, but I for one am sincerely hoping that it is expanded on in the future.
4.5/5 Stars

 To Buy a Wife by KC Klein

Author’s Website: kckleinbooks.com
Part of a Series: Set in the same world as Dark Future
Series Best Read In Order: Probably, but worked well as a standalone.
Steam Level: Hot

Official Blurb:

In a harsh land where corruption rules and women are few, cold realist Hudson Land must purchase a wife to save his farm. Instead of an auction, he witnesses the start of an execution. With his first look at a beautiful woman in years, Hudson knows he has to have her—no matter the cost. Lake, a chemist and a rebel fighter, is resigned to her death, but when some back-hill farmer rescues her from the chopping block she has no intention of simply becoming his wife. She’s pledged her life to the Rebellion and being bought for some stranger’s bed doesn’t change a thing, though his soft caresses have her longing for more. As lies and secrets build between them, are the quiet moments during the nights they’ve shared enough to stand against two warring factions in a world where only the strong survive?

What Worked For Me:

  • I’m desperately in love with the universe Ms. Klein created in Dark Future, and was thrilled to see it expanded on in this story. Chock full of corruption, abuse, and despair, this dystopian world is unapologetically harsh and oppressive. And I love it.
  • I really enjoyed the angst caused by the whole “purchasing a wife” part of their society. Not only is this similar enough to arranged marriages of old, but it also adds the added emotion of being literally bought and sold as a commodity, which is quite difficult for a heroine as strongly opinionated as Lake.
  • Two words: Virgin. Hero.
  • I also liked the fact that even though there wasn’t much time covered in this novella, I could actually find the Happily Ever After to be believable between Hudson and Lake. Even though they started off as enemies, they not only had good sexual chemistry but also complemented each other in their personalities enough that it was believable when they started having deeper feelings for each other so rapidly.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I was a little iffy about a scene that involved ritualistic forced nudity, and the subsequent exhibitionism.  My readers know that this is so not my thing, so it was definitely a bit uncomfortable to read. However, one of my criteria for this sort of thing, as far as my ratings go anyway, is how comfortable the characters themselves are with it.  In this case, while Lake wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect, she soon found quite a bit of enjoyment, and as such, it was only a minor negative point in the story.
  • Holy crap could Hudson have had a longer name when it came to a tattoo?! *faints*  Ok, so not actually a “negative” point for the story, but definitely one that made me sympathetic as all get out for Lake.
I’m a huge fan of Ms. Klein’s universe from Dark Future, so I actually picked up this anthology for this story alone.  One thing I love about her writing is that she’s not afraid to push the limits of what might be “comfortable” to read, and instead explores the very dark side to what is turning out to be a very intriguing dystopian world.
While it was a bit painful for me to read the love scene due to the exhibitionism and forced nudity, I know that this was intentional — this world is not supposed to be comfortable, and it’s absolutely not.  Women are treated as commodities and possessions, corrupt leaders (called Elders) control absolutely everything, and the individual people  in society are left quite powerless.  It’s a world that is absolutely ripe for revolution, and I’m highly anticipating future installments to the series.
 A very solid 4/5 Stars.

Enslaved by Starlight by Jessa Slade

Author’s Website: http://jessaslade.wordpress.com/
Part of a Series: No
Series Best Read In Order: N/A
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

Transformed by empathic crystals into the perfect paramour, Benedetta Galil is the last treasure of her fading world. When raiders attack—seeking to corrupt the crystals and conquer all of charted space—she gives herself as a prize to the one man in the universe who values freedom over power. Mercenary sheership Captain Corso Deynah left oppression behind him on a burning planet and has no use for a sex slave, even one as seductive as Benedetta. But while he stubbornly resists her body, her fierce spirit tempts him, and he will risk everything—his ship, his seclusion, the very stars—to win not just her passion but her love.

What Worked For Me:

  • Corso is delicious.  Seriously, yummo. A mercenary, he’s still got little patience for people who try to manipulate him, even when there’s profit in it for him, and he has even less patience and respect for what he sees as the sexual slavery of those who are trained up as Benedetta has been.
  • The world-building in this novella was fantastic. The entire concept of not only the l’auraly but of the qva’avaq itself was quite fascinating, especially with the resulting social dynamic.  I loved the original concept and the implications of having other groups in control of the qva’avaq mines.
  • I really enjoyed the amount of action in this book as well. From enemy attacks to personal betrayals, there was enough physical danger to keep things interesting without getting to the point where both the characters and the reader became exhausted.
  • I loved Benedetta’s actions towards the end in regards to her l’auralya status.  I can’t say more because it is a spoiler, but that was the point where I truly began to love her as a character.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

  • I admit, I was very hesitant to read this story because the idea of a heroine who has been trained by birth to some day be what is essentially a sexual slave to someone bothered me.  This is a minor point, because what sounded so awful in the beginning actually turned into something far more meaningful over the course of the story. I only mention it because it was probably about halfway through before I began to change my mind about Benedetta to the point that I enjoyed that aspect of her character.
I have never had the pleasure of reading any of Jessa Slade’s books before, but I can promise you, this novella will not be my last.  I wasn’t quite sure, going into this story, whether or not it would be something I would enjoy — after all, “trained” lovers simply aren’t my thing in romances.  However, I’m very glad I gave it a chance, because I soon fell not only for Corso and Benedetta, but for the entire world Ms. Slade had created.
Full of subtle nuances and a horrifying betrayal, Enslaved By Starlight was easily one of my favorites in this anthology.
4/5 Stars

All three of these stories were well-edited, and none of them had a stereotypical “indie” feel to them, even though they were technically self-published.  I know that a lot of readers tend to shy away from self-published titles for this reason, and wanted to reassure my readers that all three of these stories were high quality, not just in their storylines, but also in the technical aspects as well.

I highly recommend this anthology to any fan of sci-fi romance — all three stories were fast-paced, full of beautiful world-building, and highly romantic.

A wonderfully solid 4/5 Stars