NYLA, $2.99, ISBN 978-0983954613
Sci-fi Romance, 2011
Silver Shark is set in the same setting as Silent Blade, but this one has so much background information – more than the other story, actually – that it works very well as a standalone story. Oh, and there is romance, and like Silent Blade, this one is a cute example of what you get if you take Harlequin Presents tropes and place them in a cyberpunk setting. Okay, cyberpunk is not an accurate description of the story, as this one violates the strict “high technology, low to zero woo-woo” definition of that genre by incorporating psychic woo-woo stuff to the whole futuristic setting. But you get the idea, I hope.
Claire Shannon is trained to kill people with her mind. Her people had been long at war with another branch of humanity – both factions fighting for dominance on a mineral-rich planet – but when the story opens, her people had lost the war. She narrowly escapes being killed by her superior – the military is petty enough not to want the rare psychic folks like her to fall into enemy hands – by killing that man just before he gets to her. Now, she hides her psychic abilities and tries to lose herself among her people, now refugees being deported to various places where they would find job openings that have been decided for them. Be good, or they would be deported to a terrible place.
Claire ends up on the same place where Silent Blade takes place, and this is a place where psychic-powered people – called Kinsmen – rule the place like legalized organized crime factions, frequently at war with one another. Fortunately, they have “good taste” not to involve ordinary civilians in their feuds, although there is no guarantee that collateral damage would be avoided, of course. She ends up working for Venturo Escana, who hires her mostly because he is a bleeding heart not wanting her to be deported to that terrible place. The thing is, Claire is working in a building full of psychic-powered people – including Venturo himself. Actually, it’s worse. She’s working in the psychic business – everyone she meets is inevitably woo-woo powered the max. How long would it be before she gets unmasked?
Venturo is adorable – he’s the fellow who wouldn’t hesitate to force his enemies to rip out their own hearts and eat them before his very eyes, and then he’d get down on his knees and offer a rose to his sweetheart. Such lovely dichotomy is very appealing and hard to resist, if you ask me. Claire is tough, hardened, and yet, very capable without being made into a caricature of a hard-ass one-liner machine like most authors tended to do. The setting is great, everything is lovely.
And then there are the romance tropes, sigh. One-dimensional psychotic female villain without any subtlety or even a little depth? She’s here! Claire deliberately putting herself at risk of discovery and having inconvenient and impractical morals typical of romance heroines with little common sense? Check. That last one is particularly annoying because Claire is written at first as this hardened soldier who wants a chance to discover a different kind of life, but the moment she meets the hero, she turns into this broad that thinks she’s starring in a romantic comedy flick. Instead of feeling relieved that the boss still sees her as a valuable assistant and friend after she nearly blew her cover (by stupidly insisting on joining him in a war of the woo-woo people), she is like, oh sad face, he doesn’t want to shag her as much as she’d like to shag him.
That’s not to say that Claire is entirely a silly dingbat. Before she meets Venturo, she’s a solid strong heroine. After seeing him, she stops thinking like an ex-soldier and starts seeing and dreaming of him as if he’s Zayn Malik and she’s so convinced that she’s going to marry him one day. When she’s not with Venturo, that smart kick-ass heroine emerges again. Have him walk into her line of sight, and her brain once again melts into goo. When I find myself wishing that the hero would just go away for good so that the heroine won’t be that annoying twit, that’s when I realize that I am having problems with Silver Shark.
It’s a shame. This romance has lots of things I’d love. The hero and the heroine actually being on opposing sides without him realizing it at first. She’s as good as he is when it comes to kinsmen dueling. There is a secondary character who warns Venturo that Claire may feel that she has to accept his overtures because he is her boss, instead of blindly cheering Venturo on because Claire getting porked by the boss is so cute. Under any other circumstances, I’d be jumping with joy. But no, Claire just has to be this… this… romance heroine in Venturo’s physical presence, and I can only wish that, somehow, things had been different with this story. It has everything I’d love, and then it has… that. My heartbreak is excruciating.