The Black Rose
by Jan Zimlich, futuristic (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-52384-1

Isn't the cover lovely? No, I'm not talking about the man on the cover, which is a bit too beefy for my liking, but about the color and the whole set-up. The aurora background, the dark sheet covering our Steroidal Dude's privates, the rose - all point to the inside story as some sort of Gothic futuristic rock opera adventure. It brings to mind the excesses of Wagnerian bombastics and grandiose epic ballads of Jim Steinman. And maybe we can also have some dancing hippos in leather tutus as well.

Of course, what's inside is a straightfoward space road trip romance. This is a futuristic, but it's a historical in language and tone. Think of The Black Rose as a Scarlet Pimpernel-like adventure with a really petulant I think with me emotions heroine and a hero who has so many identities he can't keep count himself.

Lucien Charbonneau is arranged to marry Alexandra Fallon. Both are wards of important people who need the marriage to happen to protect their interests in politics and power. But these two don't exactly set it off. She thinks he's a silly pansy, and besides, she has some important business to do. She wants to prove her late father's integrity and intelligence by finding evidence of his theory that mankind has traveled to the ends of the Milky Way or something in that effect. So she runs away, denying hubby his conjugal pumpies.

She runs right into the arms of Damion Flynn whom she doesn't recognize as hubby in one of his alter egos. They fly off together into danger, intrigue, and sex in gravity-free fantasia. Also, since another alter-ego of Lucien is The Black Rose, Rebel Leader, there is lots of political bang-bangs as well.

TBR is just that - bang-bangs. Lots of scenes of our heroine running headlong into danger and intrigue, shrieking petulantly when she is rescued, screaming when she isn't. But I don't mind, I just switch off to Campy Space Adventure mode and go along for the ride.

Therefore, TBR, as a space adventure, is a great read. There's no shortage of near-death experiences to set my jollies on fire, and besides, there's always Meatloaf screaming his lungs out about he doing anything for love in my CD player for the atmosphere.

I would have closed this book happy if not for one major flaw, however. The ending lines of the story has the following exchange:

"Have I finally met the real you? Or am I going to wake up tomorrow with a total stranger in bed beside me?"

(Here we have some love games)

"You still haven't answered my question."

"Does it matter?"

"Not in the least."

I sincerely hope she's joking.

One more quibble: why the heck is the language so archaic for a futuristic romance set on a planet called New France? A homosexual, for one, is called man-lover. Don't tell me - the term homosexual and all its fifty slangs are all wiped out in the future? Me, I'm just grateful none of the wet dewy petals of womanly blossoms and heavy throbbing spear of male power make their way into the love scenes here. Thank God for small blessings.

Either way, the simplistic characters and the heroine's easy acceptance of the hero's duplicity, coupled with the weird language and medieval-like setting, make TBR, while enjoyable, more akin to the type of B-grade Adventures of Flash Gordon: Ming's Revenge! than the grandeur of The Empire Strikes Back or the dark noir of Blade Runner. In short, it's campy fun that doesn't try too hard to be anything more.

Rating: 76

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