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REVIEW: Mercenary by Trista Ann Michaels

Dear Ms. Michaels:

trista-ann-michaels-entwined-fates-05-mercenary_img_0I think I bought this book because I wanted to read a science fiction space opera fantasy romance thingy or I may have bought it because someone recommended you, as an author, to me. One of the two. I’m thinking it was the latter because as I re-read the blurb at Fictionwise, it didn’t really match how I perceived the book.

Kiley, the daughter of King of Shaba of Delnista, is a very spoiled and headstrong young princess who manages to get herself captured and her chaperone killed by a sex slave trader. Kiley is about to be auctioned off when Lucien, Captain Amanpour, is requested to go and save her as a favor to Kiley’s father. Kiley’s planet is a peaceful one and doesn’t have a military force that could be deployed to save her and Delnista is forced to seek the services of a mercenary. Lucien pretends to buy Kiley but her attitude fires Lucien’s desire. He likes a little resistance to overcome and Kiley looks like an enjoyable battle.

Initially, Kiley bothered me because she showed little remorse for her actions nor did she show much of a significant emotional injury from having her chaperone killed because of Kiley’s own reckless behavior or for what she believes is her sale into sexual slavery. Instead, Kiley is turned on, albeit against her better judgment by this man who treats her as if she exists to pleasure him in all the ways he orders her to.

Lucien is excited by her anger, her resistance and intentionally acts in a manner designed to be provocative and to generate the kind of response he wants from Kiley such as her incensed responsed when he left her a slave collar to wear. Lucien’s enjoyment is heightened by sharing Kiley with his first mate, Syeer. They three of them enjoy a number of dom/sub games on the way to delivering Kiley to Delnista.

The emotional conflict arises because Kiley is a princess and Lucien isn’t currently of a status to marry her. There is an assumption that takes place, without exploration, that Kiley can only marry a royal. This allows Lucien’s abdication of his right to his own throne to be a powerful impediment to Kiley and Lucien being together.

I did feel that the first mate, Syeer, wasn’t well integrated into the love story. He was like an extra, with as much emotional involvement as a sex toy, really, which makes the threesome story seem gratuitous. (As an aside, I wondered why Syeer had such an odd name but not the principals: Lucien and Kiley).

As for the space aspects, so much of the time is spent in the bedroom, that we don’t really get a good sense of the worldbuilding. It wasn’t wallpaper exactly, but it wasn’t a fully integrated space fantasy either.

Kiley did appear to grow over the course of the book, accepting that her actions had consequences which imperiled her planet. She learned what her sexual preferences where and how to exert her power as a submissive over Lucien. Lucien had a sardonic mien which made his dominance less overbearing than the ordinary alpha male. His dom position was less of a necessity and more a role that he enjoyed playing and one that fired him up. The sexual parts of the book was good and the plot, while a bit thin, was serviceable. Overall, it was an enjoyable romp but one that didn’t have much of an emotional impact. C

Best regards,


This book can be purchased in ebook form from Fictionwise.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. K. Z. Snow
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 18:52:47

    I’m curious about an admittedly minor point: What differentiates a sci fi novel from a “space opera,” at least within the confines of romance fiction? Is space opera what a science fiction work becomes when it’s wedded to romance . . . or erotic romance . . . or takes place in outer space . . . or what?

  2. Jane
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 18:54:58

    @K. Z. Snow: I’m such a neophyte in this sub genre that I’m probably getting it all wrong.

  3. Ann Somerville
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 19:16:24

    What differentiates a sci fi novel from a “space opera,”

    Space opera is a *kind* of sci-fi novel. Specifically one set in outer space, with aliens and spaceships etc, with an emphasis on technology. So things like Star Wars (quintessentially space opera) Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica and so on. The Golden Age of science fiction was heavy on space opera, but not exclusively I can’t tell from Jane’s description if space opera is appropriate to this novel or not.

    Lots of sci-fi is not set in space. Paranormals like I write, where people have non-magical telepathy and empathy and so, are science fiction (often called speculative fiction). You can have worlds with male pregnancy, robots, genetic selection for special traits etc. Things that are possible, but don’t exist at the moment, at least in that form. Alien Nation is a movie/TV story which is science fiction, but not space opera.

    Fantasy involves magic, and things which aren’t possible.

    Both fantasy and science fiction can involve alternate worlds, alternate realities. If a time traveller uses a machine, then it’s science fiction. If they use a magical spell, it’s more likely to be fantasy :)

    Hope that helps.

  4. K. Z. Snow
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 21:02:35

    Clearly, you’re much less of a neophyte than I am, Jane!

    Thanks for the explanation, Ann. (I just finished reading Ginn Hale’s “Feral Machines” and was vaguely wondering if it fell into a particular category.) I’m not hip to all the labels; I just write stuff and leave the labeling to others . . . or make something up. Still haven’t had the ‘nads to use “yaoi,” though. ;-)

  5. Irene Chandler
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 11:18:47

    I would also add that space opera implies some form of faster-than-light travel and that it rarely goes into tremendous depth about how its technology works, at least not in a scientific sense. Most (all?) of Robert Forward’s books are set in space, for instance, but no-one calls it space opera; it’s hard science fiction because he usually stays away from faster-than-light and he generally shows his work on the engineering bits. (Not to mention, he’s been accused of being far more in love with his concepts than his characters . . . and whether or not you think that’s an allowable flaw generally depends on how cool *you* think his concept are.)

    Also, not all space opera contains aliens, although it did back in the day. Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction is generally considered space opera and she has no aliens. She has genetically engineered humans with four arms, one seven-foot-tall super-soldier, and some other exotic characters, but they’re all descended from humans.

    Irene Chandler

  6. Estara
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 13:39:41

    I’d really recommend Linnea Sinclair if you want space opera with well written romance, but she has been recommended here before anyway ^^

    Games of Command was the only space opera of hers reviewed here so far, but Finders Keepers and Gabriel’s Ghost as well as Accidental Goddess are all space opera.

    Downhome Zombie Blues is set on Earth, mostly.

  7. Nicole Kimberling
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 17:48:39

    KZ said, “Is space opera what a science fiction work becomes when it's wedded to romance . . . or erotic romance . . .”

    When science fiction is wedded to romance it becomes Futuristic Romance because romance is a style of story whereas Science Fiction is a kind of setting or theme–so it stays in the romance category, rather than traveling over to the Speculative Fiction shelves. My theory is that this happens because romance readers will accept a much wider variety of settings in their fiction than other kinds of genre readers are likely to do, so long as the story arc remains within the parameters of romantic fiction. For example, Speculative Fiction Mysteries like those of Jim Butcher always stay firmly lodged in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section even though the story style is plainly mystery.

  8. Ann Somerville
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 18:08:38

    Science Fiction is a kind of setting or theme

    If that’s all it is, then yes, you categorise by the romance or whatever. I really dislike romance that uses history or space as wallpaper, though.

    The science fiction I read is a lot more than a setting. It’s about ideas. Just because there’s a relationship front and centre, doesn’t make that the most important thing about the book. Tehanu isn’t romance, it’s superb fantasy, for instance. And I would say Ginn Hale’s Feral Machines is most certainly SF first, romance second. Losing a story like that on the romance shelves would be tragic.

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