Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cold Victory by Fiona Jayde

TITLE: Cold Victory
AUTHOR: Fiona Jayde
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 33k)
GENRE: Sci-fi futuristic erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Zoya Scott has specifically been assigned to the battleship Victory, though nobody but her knows why. All her commander Galen Stark knows is that he’s got a convicted thief on board, and that every time he touches her, all he can think about is taking her to bed…

After so many ho-hums lately, I decided to go with an author I’ve had better luck with in the past and opted for this space erotic novella. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a cut above the rest of the stories I’ve read recently.

Galen Stark is the commander in mankind’s latest battleship, preparing to continue the war with an enigmatic species they’ve been fighting for years. Resources are stretched thin. Personnel is short. He’s forced to take on pilots with no battle experience, trained exclusively in holofights. Not all of them are so inexperienced, though. One in particular has flown extensively before, but Zoya Scott is a convicted thief who was caught stealing supplies from the military. He doesn’t want her around. When he confronts her on her first day, however, he’s shocked at the intense physical reaction both of them have to each other. Zoya is equally dismayed at the reaction, though for different reasons. She has ulterior motives being on the ship. One of the few survivors of a planet that was sacrificed in the war, she has been tasked with a suicide mission that will hopefully put an end to the war, once and for all. Nobody onboard knows about it, especially Stark. But she can’t keep her physical response to him under control and quickly discovers, neither can he.

Something about the way this author writes gets to me. Her stories aren’t perfect. She often sacrifices world-building for expediency, and keeping choreography straight – either of action scenes or ensemble dialogue scenes – isn’t her strong suit. But her lush hand in evoking emotion compels me to ignore a lot of my normally critical assessments in favor of getting lost in what she describes. This novella is no exception. In all the more intimate scenes, I was completely and utterly enraptured. For instance, there’s a scene midway, after one of their pilots has died in an attack, where Stark and Zoya come together. For her, it’s meant to obliterate her grief. For him, it’s meant to help him forget. It ends up being so seductively sensual I was breathless by the time it ended. Every time he whispered, “Will you come for me?”, it ratcheted the heat up another twenty degrees. It sold me on Stark as a romantic hero far more than any of his macho posing prior to that (especially since Zoya keeps describing him as too muscled from all his implants, for too much of the book I kept picturing over pumped weight lifters which did not work for me at all). It’s the push/pull of their attraction and mistrust of the other that fuels the first third of the story, but it’s all so much hotter and better once they indulge in it and start letting the other one in. It’s an honest emotional core to an otherwise vague sci-fi story and helps it overcome its other shortcomings.

The action driving these two toward their goals is vaguely formed. Zoya is working with another survivor on this suicide mission, but the details about it and her physical well-being aren’t clearly delineated until far too late into the story. Without that solid basis, it feels very nebulous. I understand it was probably a deliberate choice to create tension, but its ultimate effect was to dilute it since I never really understood the risks that were being undertaken. I can’t appreciate the sacrifice if I don’t see what the potential loss might be. The ending itself, too, is incredibly anticlimactic. There’s a sense of fatality that pervades the last quarter of the story, but then the resolution ends up coming so abruptly and so…cleanly that I didn’t buy it. I felt cheated, in fact. Especially since Zoya and Stark get one more page of post-climax time together, and then poof, the story’s over. It dragged down my overall enjoyment of the story, because even in spite of my other niggles, I was committed emotionally to what was going on and to the characters. After the disappointing climax, that commitment was lessened.

Still, I can’t say it puts me off this author, because in the end, even with its flaws, this was a superior read to much of what I’ve consumed lately. The emotional truths she roots out with her characters call to me. For any romance reader, that’s worth it’s weight in gold.


8/10 – I love this author’s lush prose, though the space battles probably required a bit clearer pacing and verbiage to make them visual and understandable


8/10 – He won me completely over in the scene where they’re grieving together


7/10 – I understood all her reasons for what she was doing, but her tight rein on her emotions distanced me from her as well

Entertainment value

8/10 – This probably would’ve been higher if it weren’t for the very abrupt ending

World building

6/10 – Air battles were confusing, enemies deliberately unclear, and the delineations between political/military divisions too indistinct to really make an impace



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