Dear Ms. Granger:
I didn’t have Beyond the Rain as a recommended read this month just becauseit was a science fiction romance but it did play a part. There are few of these types of books published within the genre. You did a great job of creating not just one different culture but two and allowing those two cultures to provide the conflict for the romance.
Captain Cyani is on her final mission for the Union. She is to rescue the Union soldiers and when she returns to her planet, Azra, she can resign and live a life of isolated meditation. Yet even as Cyani longs for peace, she is conflicted about being alone. The portrayal of Cyani as a loner was a bit odd given that she had been part of an elite military team and had devoted troops under her. “She’d done her best to keep them safe in the five years they’d fought together.” Did she not consider her comrades as friends, brothers and sisters in arms?
As Captain Cyani gathers up the soldiers, one other unknown prisoner is found in the compound by her pet and scout, a fox named Vicca. Cyani can’t leave until she gets Vicca because Vicca’s collar holds sensitive information. Upon entering the far part of the compound, Cyani finds a naked man chained to the wall, obviously the subject of great torture. She finds that she cannot leave him there to suffer further torture at the hands of the Garulen. According to her com, the life form is a Byralen. The com has sketchy information for her. Byralen have dark stripes on their shoulders and arms and have hair streaked with different shades. Contact is to be avoided if possible because prolonged contact with a Byralen can lead to “altered states of consciousness.”
Soren was captured years ago, so long that he cannot remember, and held prisoner of the Garulen. He has been drugged with stimulants, almost constantly, so that a hormone that his body produces can be harvested. The hormone is the basis of a drug the Garulen manufacture, a highly addictive drug. The Byralen produce this hormone when in physical contact with their spouse or mate. It makes them fertile and is part of their natural reproduction methods. Because Soren has been drugged and unnaturally producing the hormone, without the drug, Soren’s Byralen body will fail him.
More is learned about the Byralens as we progress into the book. In fact, part of the mystery is who and what they are and how Soren came to be abducted.
World building strongly affected the conflict. Cyani was from a warring nation but a peacekeeper, nonetheless. Her lifestyle was completely different than Soren’s, a people of nurturers, healing, and growth. Cultural differences are great sources of discord and can provide both emotional tension but also comic relief. Her advanced technology tells Cyani a few things about the Byralen people including that their eyes can hypnotize you and that they emit sexual pheromones that contain highly addictive properties. When Cyani begins to have a sexual response to Soren, something she’s never felt before, she believes it is because of his pheromones and when she can’t stop thinking about his body and the way that he feels, she believes that she is becoming addicted to him. It was interesting and amusing to see how the incomplete intelligence her people had on the Byralen kept leading her to wrong assumptions (and convenient excuses). It also showed how incomplete intelligence could create massive misunderstandings between disparate cultures in a much more dangerous way.
There are only a few sex scenes in the book but I really loved how intricately they were intertwined with the storyline. The first sex scene was quite beautiful given that it is a revelatory experience for Cyani who had not experienced the loving touch of another being for so long.
I did think that the book moved a bit slow at times as you carefully detailed the world. I would have liked a bit more action and less introspection. While I appreciated the specificity of the different cultures, I think it was almost too descriptive at times. Further, toward the end, a secondary character was introduced and this tangent was clearly for sequel building.
I was disappointed at the ending. She had been a warrior and I know that she sought peace and tranquility after years of fighting but I felt that she was defanged a bit. This was due, in part, to the fact that her desire for peace and a life away from battle wasn’t emphasized enough in the latter chapters. That goal that seemed prominent in the introduction fell away with part of the suspense and seemed at odds with her instinctive desire to protect and defend, particularly given the revelations that come to light.
This is an accessible science fiction romance and for those who love in depth world building centered around a romance, it’s a good read. I wish it weren’t in trade so that it would be financially more accessible to others. B-
This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook yet.