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REVIEW: Wars of the Heart by Inari Gray

Dear Ms. Gray,

When I read the blurb for Wars of the Heart, I was utterly confused. Let me explain; or better yet let me sum up the blurb, which goes something like this:

Katherine Morgan is a diplomat from Earth, she thinks that someone is out to destroy Earth’s Ozone Shield, and goes to the Peace Keeping Intergalactic Council (PKIC) for both assistance and an investigation. But the PKIC can only offer up someone else’s muscle. Of course, the muscle is King Ja-el Lamar, the guy whose heart Katherine broke a long, long time ago. So she’s told by the PKIC that she has to “force” an alliance with Ja-el or else he will lose his kingdom. Oh, and Ja-el has his own scheme.

Wars of the Heart by Inari GrayYep. There’s a powerless council that will force a king to do something, a diplomat that is apparently in charge of Earth’s environmental well-being, and a king that is described as impetuous and at the mercy of said diplomat. You may ask why I would bother to read this after such a strange and WTF-laden blurb. Well…it’s space + romance. Let’s face it, I just can’t get enough of space and romance combined, and I’ll try anything that’s billed as SciFi Romance once. And after reading the first five pages of the book I was in serious hope that things would get better.

They didn’t.

But before I delve into my issues with the book, let me sum up for realz:

Katherine Morgan is a diplomat for Earth, working hard at a job she’s always wanted. She’s discovered that there have been strategic attacks on Earth’s Ozone Shield, targeted at the most important loci to do the maximum amount of damage. Fearing that Earth is in danger of attack and will become a scarred wasteland, Katherine appeals to the elders of the PKIC for help. During a video conference with numerous representatives, they admit that they can offer technological assistance but the only planet that can offer true military backing is Salatiel, but it’s representative, King Ja-el Lamar, doesn’t bother to dial in to the meeting. In a twist (ok, not really), Tobias Laivir, the head of the Elder Council and Katherine’s ex-boyfriend, moves to send Katherine to Salatiel to tell Ja-el to “yield” or the PKIC will be forced to take action.

Katherine goes to Salatiel and Ja-el refuses to see her immediately. Katherine has conversations with her ex-mentor Laramie, who happens to be Ja-el’s political advisor, Ja-el’s military master and member of the PKIC Elder council, Neelam Reybak and her father who is an Elder member of the PKIC. Katherine delves into memories of her time on Salatiel for diplomat training, goes for long walks on the beach, and pretty much accomplishes nothing. There’s a lot of what is supposed to pass for political maneuvering; Ja-el makes Katherine wait to see him and Katherine makes noise to the PKIC, but it just reads as two kids sniping at each other. Ja-el is also…er…enjoying the benefits of a princess of a neighboring planet. She’s none to thrilled that Ja-el is unable to give her his heart, or any sort of emotion whatsoever. But apparently they are having some hawt sex.

The plot…er, I should say, the Ozone Shield plot, becomes more confusing with different twists added. There seems to be some weird things going on, but no one shares information with each other. As I read the book I realized that a lot of clues were thrown out, but nothing was tied together in a way that made complete sense. In addition, everyone on Salatiel is operating in their own little bubble, existing on bitter feelings and reliving glory days, none of which move the plot or the romance forward. The lack of communication between the characters means you have one giant clusterfuck of a who-did-what-to-whom-and-why storyline. On the romance side, the heat between Katherine and Ja-el is nonexistent. There seems to be more going on below the belt and mentally with Ja-el’s princess paramour. The Katherine/Ja-el romance is flat and uninspiring and there are times when it feels like I’m reading about to bratty teenagers rather than a king and a diplomat.

But my real issues with the book are Katherine and Ja-el. She met Ja-el and they fell in…something when she was sixteen. Oy. I couldn’t wrap my head around that, or the fact that yep…Ja-el “did” something to her to tie them together forever back when they were in “training”. Two: the writing was so…out there with descriptions that I had a hard time imagining what people were really thinking or feeling. Take a gander:

In the center of the screen, eyes brighter than glowing amethysts stared at her intently. Exasperation showed in the constricted brows that towered above them. Katherine looked at the man they belonged to, a vision of fairytale-like beauty with striking features and wispy sandy brown hair. Behind the mask of his attractiveness, his violet stare was cold as stone.

Is she looking at his constricted brows? What the hell is a constricted brow? But the weird descriptions go on:

Her tongue felt thick, too heavy to form coherent words. “I was just about to go find you.” He didn’t respond. He simply stared, deathly silent, unnerving. She fought the urge to recoil. His eyes pierced hers as though they saw a web of lies beneath the surface of her skin. Honesty, she reminded herself, though the urge to lie came more naturally. “There’s something I really wanted to discuss with you,” she said, when the silence stretched to an uncomfortable level.

I would have thought the piercing of her eyes was more uncomfortable than the silence.

Finally, Katherine neither acts nor thinks like a diplomat, a grown woman, or someone who is in a position of authority. Ja-el neither acts nor thinks like a king, a mature man (ok, that might be an oxymoron, but nonetheless…), or again, someone in a position of power. There’s zero strategy from Katherine and a bit more than a thimbleful from Ja-el. I plowed through this one, but unless you’ve got a hard on for space-based romance like I do, I wouldn’t bother. C-

~ Shuzluva

Since anything else might veer into spoiler territory, I’ll refrain from saying more about the plot.

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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.

13 Comments

  1. cbackson
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 15:40:04

    See, she totally misheard them. Everyone knows that if you want the earth saved, you ask KAL-el.

    *ducks*

  2. shuzluva
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 15:47:03

    @cbackson: I just couldn’t go there. But you are so right.

  3. DS
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:00:04

    I have to ask– what’s an ozone shield? Or is that something that wasn’t explained?

  4. Sunita
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:50:52

    Yay! A Shuzluva review!

    I kept reading the hero’s name as Jor-El. I know it was wrong of me but I couldn’t help it. Also? My fairytale visions of men do not include wispy hair. I don’t need Fabio tresses, but somehow wispy doesn’t do it for me.

  5. Janine
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 19:08:57

    Count me as another one thrilled to see you reviewing, Sydney. Oh, and I keep having the same Jor-El problem as Shuzluva. I’m even visualizing Marlon Brando, who played Jor-El in the 1978 movie of Superman.

  6. Diane
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 19:26:29

    I can’t say I’ve been impressed by the sounds of the book and the comments by others.

  7. Maria
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 21:38:56

    Ditto on immediately thinking superman reference. I love scifi romance too, but have a hard time finding any good ones. Do you have any authors you can recommend?

  8. Lorenda Christensen
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 03:17:52

    Maria – I’m a huge fan of most Linnea Sinclair books, my favorite being Gabriel’s Ghost. Susan Grant is another I enjoy, and My Favorite Earthling comes to mind. Both authors have been around for a while though, so if you have any newer rec’s, send them my way!

  9. Heather Massey
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 06:44:26

    @Maria: Here’s a short list of sci-fi romances you might enjoy:

    Enemy Within (Marcella Burnard) (space opera)
    Touched By An Alien (Gini Koch) (comedic SF; think “Men in Black,” but w/ romance)
    Mechman (LJ Garland) (space opera; android hero; if you like Linnea Sinclair you might enjoy this)
    Metal Reign (Nathalie Gray) (space opera; friends to lovers)
    The Spiral Path (Lisa Paitz Spindler) (space opera; reunited lovers)
    Hunting Kat (PJ Schnyder) (mercenary heroine; soldier hero; shifters)
    Darkship Thieves (Sarah A. Hoyt) (romantic sf space opera; alien hero)
    Ghost in the Machine (Barbara J. Hancock) (cyberpunk)
    The Antaren Affair (Erica Anderson) (erotic space opera; soldier hero)
    In Enemy Hands (KS Augustin) (hard space opera sf w/ erotic elements)
    Pheonix Rising (Corrina Lawson) (superhero/X-Men style romance)

    If you’d like something more tailored to your specific tastes, feel free to email me at sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com and I’ll do my best to connect you with titles (I run The Galaxy Express, a blog devoted to sci-fi romance).

  10. Shuzluva
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 07:59:12

    @DS: Sorry, that’s my fault. I *think* the Ozone Sheild is protecting the Earth’s atmosphere, but it’s never explained in detail. It is held together by various stations/sattelites/what have you.

  11. Shuzluva
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 08:01:26

    @Sunita: Thanks Sunita! I have to admit, the eyebrows towering above the eyes got me thinking that his forehead is about the same height as the Empire State Building. And the description of wispy hair makes me think of comb-overs.

  12. Shuzluva
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 08:18:27

    @Maria: I like Linnea Sinclair as well. You should check out Jess Granger’s Beyond the Rain and Beyond the Shadows. If you’re looking for [alternative-] Earth-bound sci-fi, Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionists is excellent.

  13. maria
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:38:14

    Wow this is great, thanks everyone. I’m pretty wide open in my tastes, so I’m sure this is an excellent place to start.

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