Bach, Rachel -- Fortune's Pawn [e-book purchase]

Devi Morris is an ambitious young mercenary; she works for a top-notch armored company. She's resigning, because she's got her sights set on the top armored company -- the private military guard of the Sacred Kings of Paradox. (Her stellar nation is a religious monarchy. The book doesn't really get into why.)

You don't just apply for a job on the Devastators' web site, so Devi decides to sign on with a crazy Terran merchant named Caldswell. That is, he doesn't look crazy... but his cargo hauler gets shot up, shot down, boarded by lizard people, and generally battered five times as often as anybody else. The word is that surviving a tour of duty with Caldswell looks really good on your resume. Devi is a determined young woman -- or, depending on your perspective, she can't resist bone-stupidly dangerous shortcuts -- so it's the merchant's life for her.

We thus have a zippy little space adventure novel, which is fine. The ship is crewed by eccentrics who owe more than a few inspirational drinks to Firefly, with some Star Wars for a chaser. In powered infantry suits. There are monsters, there are lizard people, there are secrets and lies. (No points for guessing that Crazy Captain Caldswell is more than he seems.) It's a fast read but satisfying for what it is.

Unfortunately, I have two problems with the book; or rather one problem twice. This is SF-romance, built around the trope of "he was such a hottie that my brain stopped working". I never had much truck with that cliche, and the book's romance doesn't have a lot more going for it than to follow the numbers. Devi is presented as a smart and pragmatic career woman, but as soon as the ship's cook walks on stage, pow, stupid. Trouble follows.

And then there's the bit at the end. (I must get somewhat spoilery.) Because of Trouble reasons, Devi winds up with her memory partially wiped. And yes, it is "to protect her", although the author sets it up so that all the options are terrible. Still: bad taste left in everybody's mouth.

Leaving aside whether the characters are justified in this mindwipe -- I'm sure there's a big ugly fannish debate about that -- I went completely sour on the story at that point. I just sat through the whole meet-and-fall-in-stupid-love chapter of the series. Now you want me to read book two, where they have to fall in stupid love again, only with unexplained repressed angst? Sorry. There's supposed to be a stage of the romance where they're actually in a relationship. I hear it's a pretty rewarding stage. Buckle down and write it.

I suppose they must manage it in book 3, but I've lost too much momentum to get back on the ride.

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