Dear Ms. Bast:
If pressed, I would probably say that you are my favorite EC novelist. I am eagerly awaiting your Berkley releases. I bought Water Crystal during my Bast glom and thought, despite the title, that it was a contemporary given the cover. It is not a contemporary, but rather a futuristic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is a sore lack of futuristics in the romance genre and so when I come across a decent one, I am probably more forgiving.
This is a slightly futuristic tale which involves some heavy duty worldbuilding. I am sure that someone more sophisticated than I will find flaws but for me, the world you created seemed full to me. An alien lifeform, known as Kiran, came to Earth when their own world began to die. In order to inhabit Earth, these aliens cultivated freysis bacteria which is toxic to humans. Freysis was loosed into the water system and ecology took over forming a continuous supply of freysis. To humans, enough exposure to water, even in rain form, will be deadly. When a strange virus attacked the Kirans and reduced their number to a quarter, the remaining humans were able to fight back and few enterprising folks got a hold of enough enhydro crystals which can purify the water. Some Kirans remain but many are in hiding as the memory of their attempt at colonization is not forgotten.
Finch runs the Water Company which is responsible for purifying the water for human consumption. He has only so many enhydro crystals to purify the water and the consumption of water is tightly controlled. Bianca Robinson believes that Finch has a water crystal that can easily reverse the freysis and make all the water safe for humans. She believes this because her twin sister, Calina, was forced to serve as Finch’s mistress. Through some twinicity, Bianca knows what Calina once knew. When Calina killed herself by going out into the rain, Bianca takes action. She steals the water crystal and attempts to return to her home sector.
Unfortunately, her theft does not go unnoticed. Guardians of the Order are dispatched to return Bianca and the water crystal. Angelo DiMarco is the head of the convoy sent to hunt Bianca. He is able to track her even though an ordinary person would have struggled. DiMarco is steadfastly a man of the Company having grown up on the fringes of society. Bianca does everything she can to get the Water Crystal away from DiMarco and back to her sector, from challenging his beliefs to using her body as a weapon. DiMarco was an honorable man but Bianca’s constant testing of him made it impossible to resist her.
The sex scenes, of course, were smoking hot. You did a pretty good job of integrating the sex into the action scenes although there were times in which I wondered at the actions of Bianca, in particular. I.e., she does a Jodi Foster type of dance-with-myself from Victim in the middle of being dragged back to the Water Company. Some of the story had heavy overtones of a post nuclear world that I have read before, but not in the romance genre. The villain was an over the top braggart. The story lagged in parts. The ending was pretty easily resolved given some heavy issues that should have provided a greater source of conflict. In all, however, this was a fresh story in the romance genre. Of all the erotic romance writers that I have read, you certainly belong at the top of the genre for your highly charged love scenes, emotional connections, and vivid imaginings. B-.