Disclaimer: I am a proud, card-carrying member of the SFR Brigade, however, I did not take part in any stage of the creation of this anthology and am reading each story for the first time. The five-stars were, in my opinion, earned by this anthology and I would have given this anthology 5 stars regardless of its connection to the SFR Brigade group. We are a group of like-genre writers who openly support and critique one another.
Review: - 5 Stars
This is a collection of works by many talented Science Fiction Romance authors. I have created separate, spoiler free reviews for each story in the anthology. Together, the stories came together in an impressive example of the best in the genre and earned five stars.
Story 1 - Imprint by Pippa Jay
Imprint starts the anthology off with a strong, well written story full of fantastic world building, allure and a tension driven plot that pits a human female criminal against a Deluvian male law enforcement Marshal. This story blew me away and set a high expectation for the rest of the stories to follow it. It showed the depth of storytelling that I have come to expect from Pippa Jay, having read both Keir and Terms and Conditions Apply. In Imprint, Jiona is a woman on the run from both the Marshal who has been hot on her heels for months and from the crime syndicates she has been working to bring down in a vigilante style justice that required less than legal actions. Tevik is the Marshal who has been tracking her, almost capturing her time and time again, while fighting to keep his priorities straight and his heart out of the game. In typical Pippa Jay style, Imprint will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the very last page.
Story 2 - Allure by Amy Laurens
Allure shows the variety of the stories within the anthology, moving from the suspenseful and hard-edged Imprint to a sweetly, softly written short story about two lives being separated by a distant planetary war. Sara's fiance, Ash, has been called to war and they spend his last night on Earth together, contemplating what might have been and what possibility there is for a future.
Story 3 - Nobody's Present by Marcella Burnard
In this story, Burnard shows a flexible writing style and voice that includes humor, intelligent science fiction and heart-string pulling moments. Burnard offers a strong and smart female lead who is chasing after her dream of taking part in the private space race, but who ends up getting into space much sooner that she bargained for. Though it does fall into the much used 'Mars needs women' category, I found the way that it was done and explained to be a troupe-bender and unique. This is a lengthy novella that was a treat to find included in this anthology.
Story 4 - The Stranger by Kyndra Hatch
This is a very short but enjoyable story with compact, well done world building that leaves you wanting more of it. It has an appealing military sci-fi feel to it, complete with a strong female character, body armor, a stolen enemy ship and a wounded solider.Though a touch predictable, I still found it very enjoyable and it makes me want to read whatever else Kyndra Hatch has written. I think her writing style is right up my alley.
Story 5 - Mission: Nam Selan by Linnea Sinclair
Sinclair's short story contribution is a continuation of her Alliance Command series. Knowing that Sinclair is one of the most well known names in the SFR genre, I was looking forward to this story, but I was also worried it might require a reading of the Alliance Command series to understand what was going on, a series I have not yet had the chance to sit down and consume. While I do feel that having read the Alliance Command series would have helped with some points of confusion and made the story more enjoyable, the story is able to stand on its own rather nicely. It is a complete story of love and trust being put to the test in a dance of political intrigue and finesse as Sass is forced to deal with her ex-lover, Zanorian, much to the unhappiness of her new love, Kel-Paten, in order to broker a treatassist with a bunch of space pirates. Though ordered not to follow Sass on the mission, Kel-Paten has other ideas when a possible premotion puts his heart at war with his cybernetically enhanced mind. When he shows up at the treatassist, however, not everything is as it seems.
Story 6 - Prime Sensations by Liana Brooks
One of my favorite stories from this anthology, Prime Sensations has excellent world building, a deeply faceted love story of past regrets colliding with an uncertain future and great characters that make me wish it was a longer story or part of a series. It has certainly put Liana on my "must-read authors" list. Prime Sensations begins with Lana, an indentured human slave solo-piloting a trash hauler for the Iloni, the corrupt government force or "evil empire" in this universe. Her ship is boarded by pirates, and the way she handles herself with them made me fall instantly in love with her moxie. The boarding party, however, turns out to be someone she never expected to see, but the surprise goes both ways. Kaleb thought Lana died during a mission three years prior and her sudden reappearance sends his heart and world grasping for gravity.
Story 7 - Envy's Revenge by Berinn Rae
Envy's Revenge is an unexpected mix of gritty, dark storytelling and a beautifully sweet romance that kept me guessing. Envy has been surviving alone in her swamp for years, fighting off the pirates and the scavengers that come in search of the last treasures of a crumbling civilization: women. When a mecha-enhanced hunter comes into her swamp, he fights her carefully laid traps and patently waits for her defenses to drop. When they do, the impact could change her life forever. I absolutely loved how this story played out, and the ending was unexpected and heartwarming.
Story 8 - Whiskey and Starshine by Erica Hayes
Whiskey and Starshine ends the anthology with a romp through a frontier wild-west-esque universe, complete with a saloon, dolled up hussies, gun slinging and, of course, whiskey. Allie is a whore with a past she can't remember after being implanted with a chip by the Syndicate and sold into slavery. Cade is her owner, a Syndicate slave-trader with a bad attitude and cold, heartless eyes. Jericho could be Allie's saving grace when he walks into the bar, even if she can't remember him the way he remembers her. This was a fast-paced, rip-roaring good time read and cemented the five-star rating for the overall anthology.