Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-904-5
Sci-fi Romance, 2010
Now this is interesting. Rarely does someone from my other interest – science fiction and fantasy – show up in the romance genre, but hey, I’m always happy to see someone dabbling on the side come over to play. JC Hay’s Hearts and Minds is his first dabbling into romantic science-fiction.
Straight off the bat I realize that the poor man has broken an important rule in the genre: the heroine is a genuine mercenary at heart, doing anything – even killing – for the almighty moolah even if it means, you know, doing bad things. Naturally, I’m happy with this realistic depiction of a mercenary, being the shockingly perverse and amoral romance reader that I am, and I can only hope that this story will find a warm reception among like-minded readers and not the kind of readers who will write him outraged emails full of quotes from the Bible.
Captain Syna Davout is out of semi-retirement for a job that will give her enough money to keep her ship Hangman’s Quarry in working condition for a year at the very least. The mission is simple: she will smash into a “Narcissus-class personal yacht” and grab the money onboard. Alas, she realizes too late that she’s been duped. She is meant to be a diversion. Her role is to distract the security personnel on the yacht and allow the squad of the hilariously-named Tse Precepts of Harmonious Living to assassinate the two psions onboard.
She manages to survive the Tse attack and she also manages to bring one other survivor back to her ship – Galen Fash, one of the two psions targeted by the Tse. She plans to drop him off at the next port of call, but Galen wants her to help the rebels of his planet who are trying to overthrow the government and its Tse backers. He offers her ample payment for her help in pulling off a stunt that will give them all ample time to regroup while driving back the Tse. She knows that this run will be a suicide mission, but heck, she’s clearly been tricked and the attack on the yacht is clearly meant to be blamed on her, she may as well do it.
This is a fantastic fast-paced story that has me reading at the edge of my seat. Hearts and Minds may be a short story, but the pacing is such that the whole thing draws me in and lets me go only when I reach the last page and have to draw breath. The heroine may not be to everyone’s taste since she makes no apologies for being a muscle for hire, but she’s capable, she walks the walk, and she has enough depths to become at least two-dimensional here. Galen is quite calm compared to Syna’s more alpha tendencies, but he’s far from weak. In fact, he’s a capable man despite being a psychic type. I also love how the author manages to get the sexual chemistry just right and have me convinced that the relationship can work out well in the long run.
Hearts and Minds is simply a very entertaining futuristic romp. I’m actually sorry to see the party end so soon.