Sunday, September 21, 2008

DARK LIGHT by Jayne Castle

Jayne Castle, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, has a unique approach to world building here. Her futuristic world, Harmony, started as an Earth colony. An energy Curtain opened in the vicinity of Earth, making interstellar travel practical. At first, the colony flourished; but suddenly the Curtain closed, leaving Harmony without a steady stream of supplies from back home. They were thrown back into a more primitive existence, but the Harmony colonists survived. Two hundred years after the Curtain closed, Harmony has a civilization pretty much the same as early 21st century Earth.

There were others there long before the Earthers. These aliens left behind vast catacombs that still throb with energy- and sometimes that energy will manifest as a green cloud, which Harmony’s residents call ghosts. Ghosts are dangerous here, and can only be destroyed by another ghost. Luckily, two centuries on Harmony have led the humans to develop certain paranormal powers. Among them, people who can call up and manipulate ghost energy; they are known as Ghost Hunters.

I like the setting. It’s both familiar and alien- all the mutant powers without the unpronounceable names. This is the fifth book in Harmony, and once again Castle is as caught up in the political intrigue as the action adventure.

John Montana is the new chief of Crystal City’s Ghost Hunter Guild. The Guilds are chock full of Alpha male hunters- mostly clad in khaki and leather, who swagger into seedy bars to the sighs of hopeful women. Many consider the Guilds to be a secret organization, mysterious and ethically limber. Some would call them a paler shade of mafia, but only if they’re feeling brave.

Enter Sierra McIntyre, who writes for a tabloid that routinely pushes stories like “Woman Pregnant with Alien Baby!” But they are the only paper that publishes pieces that are unfavorable to the Guilds, and Sierra has built her reputation on that. While interviewing Montana, she expects smooth-tongued evasion, if not outright threats. What she doesn’t expect is for the new chief to propose marriage.

It seems Sierra has hit a nerve with her stories about the city’s down-and-out hunters disappearing, and their connection to a drug ring. Montana wants to find those men, for the Guild takes care of its own. He also wants to protect Sierra. He needs her contacts to find out what’s going on, and the kingpins of the drug ring won’t wait long before silencing her. He proposes a Marriage of Convenience to Sierra. She’ll have the protection of being a Guild boss’ wife, and have access to some Guild secrets for her exclusive story.

Sierra is no fool. If people are after her, she’ll take all the protection she can get. And exclusive rights to the story of the decade, too.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that the MOC is my favorite romance novel plot. Any book with a forced marriage will come away with an automatic star. But Harmony is a little different- MOC’s can be made or broken pretty much at will; a Covenant Marriage is for life. Any MOC that results in a child being born automatically becomes a Covenant Marriage. All kinds of good possibilities there!

Jayne is really good here, with her trademark action and usual-suspects reveal. She can do sensual tension better than anyone, and her sense of humor is intact. I think you’ll like her unusual critters as much as I do. The heroines of Harmony all have companion animals that have six legs, bright blue eyes, and look like a big ball of dryer lint. They’re called dust bunnies. They have a second pair of red eyes and fangs, too; but by the time you see them it’s too late.

Check out Jayne’s site for a complete list of all the Harmony novels. They’re highly sensual, and action filled but not graphically gory. Thank you, Jayne!


Kimber Li said...

Awesome review, Robyn!

Too often, Futuristics and Science Fiction Romance are marketed in such a way that they all feel the same, an Endless Parade of Sameness. This puzzles me because most people love Science Fiction flavored stories to explore the fantastic unknown. The cover and the title of DARK LIGHT appears to me to be more of the same. Yawn. Normally, I wouldn't even pick it up to read the back blurb. However, your review has proved my initial assumption wrong. It sounds wonderfully multi-dimensional!

We should tell Heather over at the Galaxy Express about this one. I can't be the only one who has passed up novels like DARK LIGHT because it was SFR which appeared to be more of the same.

Robyn said...

Oh, I understand. The covers of these have been simply awful. The term 'light' actually refers to the ghosts in the book- and there are different colors in the spectrum. Green is usual, blue is freaky, and dark is...just that. Montana can manipulate dark light.

Mfitz said...

Kimber an, you are so right about the covers on the Jayne Castle books. Her books are SFR-lite really more Paranormal-Fantasy Romance than SF, but they are fun romps. The covers for the series have been simply wretched. Vague floaty spun sugar and waxed pecs sort of thing that don't really catch the Indian Jones/Tomb Raider feel of the storylines.