Valuable Cargo
by Paige Tyler, futuristic (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-577-0

It's 2850, a time in the future when mankind has begun adding those blasted apostrophes into every other freaking name. Captain Tanna Aldrick and her all-female salvage crew of the Andrusis are doing their thing in the An'Ailorous System when they stumble upon an old spaceship. Lo, what do they find... no, not an alien queen wishing to eat everybody but instead a well-preserved and, of course, well-endowed hunk.

Poor Garrick Carlisle left Mars in 2014 and put himself in stasis sleep, expecting to wake up two years later when his spacecraft would arrive at its destination, but clearly, something went wrong because the poor guy is awake now, about 700 years past the expected wake time. Garrick is now pretty lost, but fortunately for him, Tanna doesn't mind showing him around. When he realizes that the men of this time have become either infertile or are capable of siring mostly females due to the Cosmic Law of Futuristic Romance #3 radiation issues encountered during space travel, and that he has become hot commodity wanted by slavers and other jolly people, that's when things become heated up.

I initially thought Valuable Cargo would be a sleazy smutty sex romp, but I'm quite pleasantly surprised to find that this one has actual plot and credible romance. The story does follow many of the formulaic tropes typical of futuristic romances right down to the fundamental premise, but the author takes the effort and time to show me that the main characters are connecting on an emotional as well as physical level. I really appreciate that. Garrick and Tanna are likable, intelligent, and capable characters. When they do have sex, it seems like a natural progression of their relationship instead of some eye-rolling "Look, readers! Sex scenes! Isn't this story hot?" gratuitous titillation moment.

In the meantime, the pacing is good, the secondary characters aren't intrusive, and the author manages to sneak in some exposition without making the whole thing seems too obvious or too much like a dry lecture.

I initially began reading this with one foot at the exit, so to speak, because I was expecting this to be some tawdry orgy-in-space story. How wonderful that this one turns out to be a pretty good read. Imagine my surprise when I did a check and discovered that I couldn't stand the author's previous release from this publisher. Whatever the author had done to gain all this newfound mojo, I hope she keeps doing it for her next few books because this one is actually quite a solid read.

Rating: 83

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