Friday, November 21, 2008

The Englor Affair by J.L. Langley

TITLE: The Englor Affair
AUTHOR: J.L. Langley
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 95k)
GENRE: Gay sci-fi erotic romance
COST: $5.50

In the patriarchal society of his home planet Regelence, Payton is a prince. On Englor, where there is public disdain for same-sex relationships, he’s merely the aide to Admiral Nate Hawkins, a masquerade they concoct in an attempt to discover who is behind the recent kidnapping of Nate’s consort, Payton’s brother Aiden. It’s the first time Payton has ever been able to move about freely, without chaperone, without someone watching his every move. But in his hunt to help Nate discover the truth, Payton encounters the most gorgeous man he has ever seen. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that his Simon isn’t just a Colonel in the Englor Marines. He’s also the planet’s future king. And he has his own problems to deal with…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

The long-awaited (in e-book terms) sequel to My Fair Captain is out for all those who fell in love with Langley’s sci-fi/Regency gay romance the first time around. It surprised me when I checked after finishing this that it had been almost a year and a half since I’d read the first book. It’s often touted as one of the favorites among m/m bloggers, so I guess the constant exposure to it has warped my sense of time a little bit.

Though I enjoyed the first book, I can’t say that I’m as enamored with it as some other readers I’ve seen. Still, I must admit to a certain excitement when I saw the sequel was out. I really liked Nate, and the sex scenes were off the scale. I looked forward to more of that, with the addition of – hopefully – finally getting some answers to the intrigue that was set up in the first book. What I actually got in The Englor Affair isn’t really anything that I expected, much to my delighted surprise.

First of all, though the society is meant to mirror Regency England, I never get the feeling of Payton as a damsel in distress. He is smart and competent, a valuable resource for Nate as they search for the secrets behind Aiden’s kidnapping. Though he’s slight and shorter than most of the other soldiers, he never lets that hold him back from pushing his boundaries, taking the advantage wherever and whenever he can. This makes him more than an equal match for the far more forceful Simon, so when they first meet, the sparks that fly feel ready to combust at the slightest touch. Neither man knows who the other is at that first meeting – though the reader does – but because of our foreknowledge, it’s pathetically easy to root for them to see the truth about how good they are for each other. Payton has led a very regimented and protected life, but with the freedom Simon offers – even briefly – he comes into his own sexually.

Though Simon is presented as the dom in the relationship, he’s not the kind of dom that rolls over his partner. He takes charge, yes, but only because Payton is at first too shy and inexperienced to take the first step, and then later because it turns Payton on. He’s thoughtful and generous, with a moral core that loathes the narrow-minded perspective of many of his fellow Englorians. That doesn’t make him perfect. He has a tendency to focus too much on the big picture and miss some of the smaller details, which end up contributing to most of the romantic blocks in the last third of the book. But that just endears him more, because the big picture he is looking at is the welfare of his planet. It’s hard to begrudge a man who has the lives of millions in the palm of his hand.

The book’s greatest improvement over its predecessor is in plotting. The political intrigue of My Fair Captain was never truly deftly handled, probably because the author was trying to introduce too much. But the problems that plagued the first book aren’t here. The focus of the intrigue is very narrowly focused, unlike MFC, in Nate and Payton’s attempts to figure out what exactly is going on with the spy Englor sent to Regelence. Because Simon is trying to find out what happened to his emissary, the two paths end up converging into one shared goal – find out why the IN is interfering in Englorian and Regelence politics. Information is doled out as needed, without the dumping that held MFC back, and the action is crisp, intricately interwoven with the budding romance. Combined with the story’s easy readability, the book flies by. I was shocked to find out after I’d finished that it’s nearly 100k. With how quickly and smoothly it flowed, it felt much shorter.

What quibbles I have are few. First, the sex – while hot – never reaches the same sort of scorching levels that the first book created for me. I think I suffered from too high expectations, considering just how much I loved the sex scenes in MFC. Then, there’s the issue that this is clearly a book in a series. It’s not a standalone in the slightest. Anyone coming into this book without reading the previous will likely be lost for much of the beginning, sorting out the societies and all the events that shape the intrigue in this one. I’ve read and enjoyed the first, but it still took me time to reacquaint myself with some of the characters and details. Because it’s part of a series, too, the intrigue isn’t wholly resolved. In fact, the resolution felt kind of like a copout considering the magnitude of the events leading up to it. There are still a lot of prevailing questions and dangers to be explored – too many, I thought, to keep the ending as satisfying as the rest of the book.

On the whole, though, The Englor Affair does what sequels should – propel the series forward while improving on the last. It’s a strong entry for Langley, and my favorite of her work to date. Sexy, romantic, and fun…but what else would you expect from gay Regency romance in space?


9/10 – Nearly impeccable editing and tight plotting made this breeze by

Hero #1

8/10 – Well-rounded and honorable, with just enough of a naughty streak to appeal to the bad boy lover in all of us

Hero #2

8/10 – Smart and resourceful

Entertainment value

8/10 – Far more well-balanced than its predecessor, though I still wish there weren’t so many questions left unanswered in the end

World building

9/10 – As someone who hasn’t read the previous book in over a year, I would have liked just a tad more explanation earlier about Regelence to refresh my memory



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