There I was, reading along on a pretty straightforward sci-fi tale of a badass commander, assigned to clean up a ragamuffin department on a spaceship while dealing with some serious trauma after her last ship exploded, when BLAMMO! All of a sudden I’m reading a romance? The hell?
I’m not always anti-romance, and I love me some Georgette Heyer, but I am a little more anti-romance than usual right now (the divorce was final October 12, woooo!) and this was just so unexpected! It’s clumsily shoe-horned in and felt like it threw off all the rest of the story.
Jodenny Scott is the aforementioned badass commander. She’s got medals and commendations for heroism during the disaster that happened on board her last ship, which may have been terrorists but may have been something completely unexpected. Her latest assignment is on the ship the Aral Sea, in a department that has a history of fighting, corruption, shoddy report-keeping, and even disappearing officers. She’s prickly, she’s exacting, she takes people’s stuff away when she finds them playing games during their shifts, and she (gasp!) demands that people show up on time and have clean uniforms. Nobody likes her, and she doesn’t like anybody. Except for Terry, an engineer on her new team. Her first impression is that his boots are dirty and that he was previously arrested for rape. He didn’t do it, naturally, but THAT is your first impression and all of a sudden you’re head over heels and thinking about giving up your career for him? What? Terry is surly and untrustworthy after being framed for the rape and regularly having his butt kicked by a gang from another department. He doesn’t really speak to anyone and mostly works on his robots, but he sees cranky, closed-off Jodenny and all of a sudden he’s also madly in love.
So then the story jumps back and forth between regular plot – smuggling, corruption in the ranks, a universe-changing discovery that they decide not to tell anybody about, figuring out a possible culprit for the previous ship’s disaster – and Jodenny and Terry pining for each other silently. It’s nonsense! They hardly speak to each other, and spend most of their time trying to out-surly everyone around them. It would be one thing if the crush had grown organically throughout the book as they worked together to figure out all the other stuff going on, but it just felt like an editor went back through after the book was written and said “Hey, why don’t you add some romance?” and poor McDonald just had to add in some extra paragraphs to make it work.
But there’s a sequel with the continuing adventures of Jodenny and Terry, so I’m probably totally wrong about that.