HQN, $5.99, ISBN 0-373-77106-1
Sci-fi Romance, 2006
The cover of Susan Grant’s debut effort with HQN is so darned cute. Unfortunately, the adorable scene has nothing to do with anything in this book. Don’t be led by the adorable cover to expect a romantic comedy from Your Planet Or Mine? because this story is more akin to some The Terminator mishmash.
I feel a little worried while reading this book. You see, this book is set on Earth when it is about to be invaded by aliens (not the tentacled slimy kinds, but humans that happen to just hail from a different planet). The heroine is part of a US political family that will no doubt play an important part in the upcoming interplanetary diplomatic missions. The hero is a human from the other side. You may recall that the author has done something like this for her LoveSpell books. I don’t know if the author wants to start anew on a clean slate with HQN but I do wish that the author will come up with something different instead of presenting a variation of a theme again and again. I think she’s much better an author to resort to something like that.
Anyway, this story has a prologue where nine-year old Jana Jasper is an oddity among her charismatic family members – it’s not that she cannot speak, she nonetheless has difficulty speaking. Maybe it’s because she has some motor issues, I don’t know, but Jana often lets her excitement overwhelms her ability to speak when she tries to do so. Jana is also a very imaginative young girl with all kinds of daydreams. It’s to be expected that she one day sees a young boy in a strange outfit stuck up on the tree outside her bedroom window. This boy, who she calls Peter after Peter Pan, is cute and he even takes her flying in the short few days they have. When he kisses her, she realizes that she can finally speak with ease. She never sees Peter again, but she has been speaking ever since.
Today, 29-year old Jana is the youngest state senator in the history of California. However, things are not well on the Jasper homefront: her father has been accused of shady finance practices and her inability to settle down (she has three broken engagements already to her name) does not reflect well on her in some people’s opinion. However, the biggest shocker arrives in the form of our hero Cavin of Far Star, Jana’s own Peter, who has come to warn her that the army of the Coalition (he is a soldier of the Coalition) is planning to invade Earth. Jana has to do something! But before that, they have to start running because REEF, an assassin who loves to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lines in The Terminator 2, is hot on their heels.
Now, let’s start with the good things about Your Planet Or Mine?. I like that Jana is a senator who actually does something. There are many romance novels that have First Ladies or President’s daughters who behave like they are the reincarnations of Princess Diana, dirtying their fingers only to attend charity functions before moaning or weeping about what a gilded cage they are trapped in. Jana, however, actively goes around campaigning or doing things related to her office. While her grandfather encourages her to be become the first female President of United States and Jana dotes on him, it seems that Jana’s accomplishments are achieved on her own without having some daddy or father figure bend some corners to help her out. I like that. Like many romance novels with a political main character, the heroine’s party affiliation is not made clear here but she supports environmental issues and her father’s problems can more or less be said to be similar to a recent President’s problems of a similar nature.
And, er, that’s it about the good thing, I’m afraid.
I don’t mind the fact that the science-fiction elements of this story borrow heavily from popular and even classic movies of the genre – there are enough moments where it’s clear that Ms Grant is paying homage to these movies with her tongue firmly against her cheek. But the atmosphere and the premise of this story are too familiar for their own good, as Ms Grant has done stories of this nature several times before, and it isn’t long before the pacing, the story developments, and the twists all feel like the Ghosts of Christmases Past and Present (looking just like LoveSpell editors) knocking on my window pane and moaning at my ears, “How you seen Susan Grant? I think we’ve lost her somewhere along the way.” It’s not that the story or the characters are exactly the same as the author’s previous books, let me make this clear, it’s just that there are too many things about this book that make it feel very familiar compared to those books.
I’m also a little iffy about the fact that right after they meet again after twenty years, Jana and Cavin are telling each other how much they have always loved the other person and starting to think of how their babies will look like. Hello? They were kids when they last met! What will happen to true love now if she learns that he belches heavily after a meal? These two really don’t know each other and a little more development in their romance would have made it more credible. While on one hand a man willingly turn traitor just to come warn the woman he loves of the danger her planet is in can be quite romantic (if very, very foolish), the fact that Cavin is doing this for a girl he known for a few hours each night for three nights twenty years ago makes him come off as somewhat addled in the head.
There are some minor complains that actually don’t really compare to the two big flaws I’ve mentioned above (such as, for example, Jana’s lack of curiosity about Cavin’s planet or the reason why the assassin is after them – instead she is more busy wondering about whether or not she should snog her alien hunk). The main thing here is that I’d like to see a more credible romance, or, if Ms Grant would just prefer to concentrate on the excitement of the chase in her story, at least an adventurous romance then that doesn’t remind me way too much of the books she has written before. Some variations to the theme that the author wishes to carve as a niche for herself in the her upcoming books will be most welcome