When you Capture the Sun, yes, the sex turns to steam!
In this Review of Capture The Sun
Hitting All The Right Pulse Points
In Capture the Sun, the final volume of her Starlight’s Shadow sci-fi romance trilogy, author Jessie Mihalik again hits all the right pulse points.
In the first book of the series, Hunt the Stars, we meet Captain Octavia “Tavi” Zarola of the spaceship Starlight’s Shadow, former Lieutenant in the FHP (Federated Human Planets) army and now leader of a group of bounty hunters made up of what is left of her brutalized squadron, decommissioned prior to a fragile peace brokered between the FHP and the hated Valovian Empire.
When Tavi and her crew are approached by a former Valovian war hero—a handsome and dangerous telepath—it doesn’t take the reader long to figure out where the story is going to end up. But Mihalik manages to take a plot full of political intrigue and achingly believable cultural tensions and enhance the romantic dance between Tavi and General Torren Fletcher, drawing in a blended crew of humans and Valovians who must work through their differences in order to overcome a shared threat.
In the second book of the series, Eclipse the Moon, the players are the same, but the focus moves from Tavi and Torren to irrepressible tech wiz Kee Ildez and the taciturn Valovian weapons specialist Varro Runkow. Again, it’s not hard to see where the romance is leading, but the political landscape that was sketched out in Hunt the Stars becomes more dire and far-reaching (while still incorporating a wonderfully engaging intergalactic fashion show with some very imaginative garnishes), keeping the reader avidly involved.
Romance and Politics Make Great Bedfellows
In the trilogy’s final book, Capture the Sun, we move again, now to Lexi Bowen—who has been a member of the crew but who struck out on her own as a “recovery specialist” (think, accomplished thief)—and suave Nilo Shoren, a Valovian teleporter; they initially mix like oil and water despite an obvious attraction. Again, the romance unfolds just as we expect. But like the first two books, the political intrigue keeps the romantic element and the overall plot moving forward—especially since the stakes are higher and heading for a catastrophic endgame.
The romance of the books is spot on. Even as it falls back on the typical romance tenants of crossed signals, erroneous assumptions borne from a lack of communication, and personal insecurities sabotaging what we know will culminate in passionate couplings, the characters—even sometimes frustratingly so—remain true to the quirks in their personalities (and the effects of the traumas endured) to make the dance entertaining despite its familiarity. And yes, the sex, when it happens is steamy.
Black and White and Very Little Gray
The action/adventure aspect of the books is meaty and complex enough to serve the story well without it becoming too hardcore. Although there is gray mixed in, the characters are pretty much black and white, which allows us to root for our team throughout. Lexi in Capture the Sun is perhaps the most morally complex character in the entire series (which, to be honest, is a welcome change), yet even here we are given a generous glimpse into what makes her so.
But the most entertaining facet of the books for me, and what kept me engaged, was how the plucky, impulsive humans interact with the regimented and staunchly honor-bound Valovians, and how their relationships grow. There is plenty of tension at first, where we as readers are clearly ensconced on the human side of the playing field. After all, the Valovians are not only the enemy, but they also possess frightening abilities, such being able to communicate telepathically, and to invade the minds of their opponents.
Some Valovians completely immobilize others, or instantly teleport objects and people from one place to another. There are healers, and amplifiers and nullifiers. Some of the Valovians are so strong that they can trick their opponents’ senses into simply believing they are not there, despite being in plain sight. Valovians can raise “shields” in their own minds that keep them impervious to influence, and bore into the pitiful shields that others races—such as humans—attempt to learn in order to keep from being overwhelmed.
When Tavi accepts a contract to work with the Valovians, which includes bringing a contingent of them onto the ship, there is suspicion and anger—and fear—evident on the part of the human crew. But they also trust Tavi, and each other, and they know how to watch each other’s backs.
A United Front
The Valovians, with all their power, are highly disciplined, following Torren’s orders to be respectful of the concerns of humans. The humans for their part are highly distrustful—they have been betrayed by authority in the past—but slowly the two sides see glimpses of the people behind the learned expectations. The humans are confounded and even frustrated by the honor-driven actions of the Valovians, and the Valovians are thrown off balance by the humans who wear their hearts on their sleeves—and are not afraid to voice opinions. It is watching this tension slowly erode in small ways that drew me in and had me rooting for both sides—who eventually become a united front.
By the time we reach Lexi and Nilo’s story in Capture the Sun, there is now only one crew, joined together through friendship as well as shared experience. It has become evident that some unknown faction (or factions—there are plenty to choose from) is plotting to undermine the fragile peace treaty and reignite the war between the two races.
Some of the players are apparent, such as the despised general who compromised Tavi’s squad during the war, but the driving force behind them is not. Tavi, Torren and the crew of Starlight’s Shadow are somewhat hampered by their active involvement in thwarting these factions up to now, so having Lexi—who had left the crew earlier to pursue more, um, lucrative projects—reenter the effort as an unknown player is a huge advantage in the effort to gather intel on the potential instigators.
But almost immediately her cover is blown, and it is only through the intervention of Nilo (who has likewise been out on his own scouting intelligence for Torren) and his teleporting ability that she is kept from being captured, if not worse.
This, of course, infuriates Lexi, and the tensions that started the series are rekindled in a very personal setting, despite the pair being drawn to each other through shared lusty appetites. The almost Beatrice and Benedict sparring between the two is delightful, and a low key comic relief that helps to balance against the gravity of the situation around them. This intimate reflection of the tensions that beset the main crew in the earlier books and their resultant resolution is a wonderful way to close the circle on the entire series.
Despite it being lighter fare than the grittier, more intense action/adventure science fiction works out there, Capture the Sun (and the entire Starlight’s Shadow series) is imaginative, well realized and well written, giving us new and exciting elements to dwell on—and some sultry experiences, to boot. There are characters here that will stick with you, as will the sense of hope that the future of humanity, while still stumbling, will triumph through camaraderie, integrity, and yes, even love. Perhaps especially love.
~ Sharon Browning
About Jessie Mihalik
Jessie Mihalik has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves.
Other Books by Jessie Mihalik
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