Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-507-1
Fantasy Romance, 2007
I don’t want to come off like a depraved person, but what do I have to bribe cover artist Anne Cain with for the original photo from which she adapted the bare torso for the cover of JL Langley’s My Fair Captain? All those whorls of hair are positively hypnotic and those headlights are even more mesmerizing.
At any rate, poor JL Langley has a tough time following the cover art. My Fair Captain is set on the planet of Regelence, a setting best described as a colorful and eccentric place where 19th-century aristocracy and spacecrafts collide. It’s a futuristic setting with some slight cyberpunk elements in the plot, but we also have Lords and Princes running around moping and sighing about freedom and artistic liberty as if they are starring in some kind of emo drama.
Prince Aiden Townsend of Regelence is one such mopey hero. All he wants to do is to paint and be free to do what he wants instead of being stuck with responsibilities like running the country, ugh. Meanwhile, Captain Nathaniel Hawkins has carved a career as a pretty efficient Intergalactic Navy officer. He is also a man running from his past: eighteen years ago when he was a rakish nobleman on Englor, he killed a man in a duel. However, he is now asked by his superior to reclaim his heritage and visit Regelence as the Earl of Deverell. All this is a means for him to infiltrate the society and investigate the source of the weapons that are being distributed to folks wanting to attack the fleet of the IN. When the Earl of Deverell meets the Prince of Regelence, sparks fly. It is probably a good thing that same-sex relationships aren’t just accepted in Relegence but also… well, I’ll just quote from the story:
The admiral laughed. “Did I forget to mention that Regelence is a very patriarchal society? So much so, in fact, that the aristocracy makes certain their offspring, especially their heirs, are male and genetically altered to have a preference for the same sex.”
It’s a little… troubling, to me at least, the concept of genetically altering someone to behave in a certain way without that person having any choice in the matter. I’ll feel the same way if I read about gay characters genetically altered to be straight. It also makes me wonder – how do you get an heir if you are genetically altered to like members of the same sex? I suppose this is one of those stories where these poor gay men approach their wives on the wedding night while quivering inside and trying very hard to get the job done while thinking of England. Or whatever that is the equivalent in this setting.
I do like the idea that on Regelence all men of noble blood are required to be chaste until their wedding nights (these men are inevitably wedded by the time they are twenty-five) because virginity is apparently prized among these men. It’s such a cute twist of sorts to read a story where you can poach on men of common blood all you want but heaven forbid you compromise a gentleman of noble blood. Naturally, these randy virginal debutantes can be dangerous, especially when they end compromising some randy rake in a moonlit garden. I also get a chuckle out of all these gentlemen like Aiden waiting on the dance floors for their dance cards to get filled while being watched over by their chaperones.
As you may have guessed by now, I actually find the setting of the story more interesting than the main characters. Indeed, apart from the fact that Aiden is a man, his relationship with Nate is, often amusingly, very similar to the mating ritual of a typical dingbat Regency historical heroine and the mysterious and dashing nobleman with secrets who approaches her and asks for a waltz in the ballroom. In fact, Aiden’s character right down to the psychology behind his actions is often distressingly similar to that of a Regency historical heroine who doesn’t know what she wants but is determined to go against the grain anyway, often with disastrous results. How often do you come across a story where the hero is nearly raped by a bunch of sailors?
While Aiden can be a petulant and whiny creature whose refusal to accept any reasonable compromises in his life makes him come off like a very young and immature little boy, Nate is fortunately a more interesting character. He’s not particularly original because in any other story he would be that standard dashing hero with secrets to give him some angst to mull over when he’s not thinking of doing the nasty with the heroine, I mean, hero. But Nate is a nicely balanced character when it comes to angsts and nobility. His relationship with the kid he picked up and adopted, Trouble, allows the author to show off some aspects of Nate’s personality to make him a more well-rounded character. Besides, I like it when he talks dirty and threatens to fist the whiny Aiden. It’s most unfortunate, therefore, that Nate is paired with Aiden who doesn’t really do much here other than to whine and to get into trouble.
My Fair Captain is a noteworthy read, especially for the novelty value of a story where the traditional Regency historical heroine role is played by a whiny brat who is looking for a Daddy to love and be pampered by. But once the novelty value wears off – which is at about the midpoint of the story for me – there isn’t really much to be had from this story. It is a Regency historical romance with a spy/traitor kind of subplot and dingbat “heroine”, only with some guns and computers and other fizzy-wizzy high-tech stuff. If Ms Langley returns to Regelence in future books, I hope she will at the very least ensure that her characters and the story are as interesting as the setting. The novelty value can only carry a story so far.