Title: Enemy Within
Author: Marcella Burnard
Page Count: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Genre: science fiction romance, first in a series
Copy for review was purchased by me
An intergalactic cold war-and some heated passion- from an inventive new voice in futuristic romance.
After a stint in an alien prison, Captain Ari Rose wonders why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father's scientific expedition to finish a Ph.D. she doesn't want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. She wasn't built for it, either. But when pirates commandeer her father's ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.
As far as pirate leader Cullin is concerned, Ari's past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin's sights. If she hasn't been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he's convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can't afford the desire she fires within him and he'll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.
Gracious I love a good science fiction romance. This one was definitely unique, and not for the faint of heart- Ari has overcome a lot of trauma in her past and that trauma is almost a character in and of itself. Trigger warnings should abound so consider them included prior to anything else.
By all accounts, Ari Rose shouldn't be alive. After a stint as a prisoner of war under some ugly, grotesque, tentacled, reptilian horrors who don't typically leave survivors, Ari is trying to overcome a crippling case of PTSD and somehow pull her life back together. People walk on eggshells around her and she absolutely hates it but at the same time she understands that the trauma she's experienced does set her apart from others; people just don't understand what she's been through and how that affects her.
So there she is, working on an advanced science degree under the tutelage of her father, a famous scientist himself, and into her world crashes Cullin Seaghdh, a space pirate and a whole lot else. I can't get into a whole lot about Cullin's true identity because that would be telling, but suffice it to say that he is much, much more than he appears and he has an agenda that has to be seen to be believed.
The fact is, Ari is an unusual person because of her ordeal, and because of many other factors that are revealed throughout the story. The level of detail in this story is perfect- not so much that the plot grinds to a halt but not so few that the pacing is off. The supporting cast, too, is excellent; I especially enjoyed reading about Ari's relationship with her father. Turns out everyone gets things wrong sometimes, and the resolution of that conflict was sweet in many ways.
This book is also interesting because there are definitely parts where it's more of a sci-fi novel and parts where it's more a romance. Cullin and Ari are perfectly matched; they like the same things, have the same values, and Cullin understands the impact that Ari's experiences have had on her and is on her side. I loved the ongoing element of the Art of the Blade and the role that it played in their relationship, as they're two most skilled practitioners. The fact that Cullin is a bit of a fanboy for Ari even before he meets her is very sweet.
Like I said, there were parts of this book that were tough to read, but I understand why they were included. Not everyone would approve, and that's okay, but if you're willing to give it a go then I highly recommend Enemy Within as an example of really engrossing science fiction romance. I can't wait to read book #2 and beyond!
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