Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hope's Folly

I first came across Linnea Sinclair when I found Finder’s Keepers while browsing the SF section at Joseph-Beth, my local indie bookstore. As soon as I stated the book I was hooked. Here was Science Fiction Romance that really worked. It wasn’t re-worked Historical Romance with ray-gun and rocket window dressing. It didn’t use a SF setting only as an excuse for odd or contrived sexual situations. The heroine wasn’t the token girl, added only to allow a love story subplot to be tacked on to an action adventure novel as an improbable afterthought. The SF and the Romance elements worked together and moved to a mutually satisfying resolution.

Before I had finished the first book I was already on the lookout for more of Sinclair’s work. I had a full-blown fangirl-crush on her writing style. Since then I have sucked up all her books and enjoyed them all bunches, but nothing had hit my “wow” button as hard as that first book, until I started Hope’s Folly. By the time I finished the book it had become my favorite. I think it is her best work to date

Hope’s Folly is the third book in Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five universe. Don’t let that keep you away if you have not yet read her work. You will want to read Gabriel’s Ghost or Shade’s of Dark after you read Hope’s Folly, but you don’t need to have read them first to get into this book.

Philip Guthrie is a fleet admiral on the run for being on the wrong side of a coup that has just over thrown the Imperial government he has served all his life. He is grieving for good officers lost in the fight against the takeover. He is worried about how this change in government will affect ihis socially prominent, and politically powerful family. He is worried about his ex-wife Chaz Bergren, and her mysterious lover Gabriel Sullivan who have got off to help organize a resistance movement. He is feeling his age and recovering from a serious hip and leg injury. Despite all this he had agreed to help organize as many civilians and ex-fleet officers as possible into a military force for the newly formed Alliance of Independent Republics.

What Philip has not counted on is running into Rya Bennton, the daughter of Cory Bennton his old mentor. Cory Bennton hadbeen killed in the recent fighting, and Philip feels his loss. . Rya, is an ex- Imperial Fleet Security Special Forces agent, she wants revenge for her father’s death. She feels partly to blame for it because she was not abel to take part in the fighting at his side. . Philip remembers her as a precocious and annoying tween and has very conflicted emotions about meeting her again as a mature, dangerous, and to him outright sexy adult.

Rya knows Philip is the man to build the Alliance’s new fleet, but thinks he has a huge blind spot when it comes to his personal safety, especially since he’s not very mobile due to his injuries. She appoints herself his bodyguard. It is her duty to protect her commanding officer the only man who can lead the Alliance to military victory. On a personal level Rya has fond memories of Philip from her childhood because he is the first person who taught her to shoot. Rya and Philip are gun crazy. Really, really gun crazy. They are connoisseurs of fine fire arms and they both love to spend time tossing around gun tech talk. . This is the spark that draws them together on a personal level despite their difference in age and rank.

The Alliance is hard up, so when they get their hands on Hope’s Folly, a retired warship converted into a cargo carriier, they are happy to have her despite the lingering smell of oranges, and the ship’s cat that come as part of the package. For Philip and Rya there is the extra sense of justice in Folly becoming the foundation of the new Alliance fleet, because in her first life Rya’s father had been her commander. It’s not easy to turn a fruit hauler into a top-of-the -ine battleship, especially when your hand picked, but slightly motley crew may contain hidden saboteurs and assassins.

Philip needs to get the Folly from the station where the Alliance bought her to the shipyard that is going to re-convert her to a warship. Rya needs to keep Philip alive. Along the way they realize, that despite it not being convenient, they are head-over-heals in love.

I really hate May-December Romance plot lines. I’m not comfortable around firearms. Both of these things are important to the Plot of Hope’s Folly, but despite that, or maybe because Sinclair is able to use these plot elements in unexpected ways they didn’t bother me. Philip knows he is a little old for Rya, but Rya is not a sweet protected schoolroom miss. She is a mature woman in her late twenties who probably has more personal relationship experience under her belt than he does. Philip has been married to his job, and in many ways he is an emotional late bloomer. His relationship with Chaz didn’t workout because he was not mature enough to be in a stable relationship of equals when they were married, and he knows that.

Rya and Philip are so enamored of firearms that when the gun-spec techo-babble starts flying between the two of them, it is the strongest possible aphrodisiac. Philip loaning Rya part of his personal collection of firearms does more to woo her than flowers, wine, or chocolate ever could. That was a clever plot point that could have fallen flat, but Sinclair turns it into one of the big selling points of the book. These two people are perfect for each other, not just because of some vague bio-chemical sexual attraction, but because they have shared interests and really love the way each other’s minds work.

You will love seeing them realize that while you read Hope’s Folly.


Kimber An said...

Great job, Mary!

Heather Massey said...

Great review of a great book!

I think one reason (among others) that Philip worked for me as a hero is that he comes across as young at heart. I actually think Sinclair's hero Kel-Paten (GAMES OF COMMAND) *seems* older than Philip when in fact I think he's chronologically younger.

And I agree about the firearms "sweet nothings" talk--it worked really well.

I also thought the integration of SF and romance elements blended seamlessly. Lots to love about this story--it has the markings of a breakout novel for SFR ;).

Frances said...

Great review of a terrific book, Kimber An.

Mfitz said...

I think we talked about this before Heather, but I think the SF/Romance balance in Hope's Folly is almost perfect.

It might be SF-lite for folks who really love old school puzzle-nuts & Bolts SF, but I anyone who likes Space Opera style SF will enjoy this book, even if they are not Romance fans. It's big fun that way

Kimber An said...

Thanks, Frances, but I cannot take credit.

Mfitz was the girl genius behind this one.