by Susan Kearney
Cover Artist: Kara Kearney
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Paranormal Romance Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765358448
Date: 05 February 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Azsla is accompanied by four "fugitive" slaves, who assume she is like them and are unaware of her undercover espionage mission to learn what weapons the escaped slaves from her home planet of Rama had on Zor. The assumption her leaders have made is that the 200,000 rebellious slaves on Zor will return to free those left behind on Rama. She suppresses her Quaint skills to dominate like all Firsts can and masquerades as a lowly underfirst slave. However, her vessel fails and it appears she and her team are facing death. Jadlan, Micoo and Rak are in ejected pods, but hers fails. Kali dies getting Azsla freed in her pod; she knows he was an expendable underfirst so why the tears?
Intersolar mining asteroid miner Derrek Archer sees the drifting emergency pod and rescues Azsla. He is stunned by how attracted he is to her. His desire frightens him, as that just does not happen in real life; in deep space no one gets this lucky. When she revives from the suspended animation state he found her in, Azsla is shocked also, as a First should not want a miner and her Quaint ability seems ready to ignite, but she knows her undercover espionage mission comes before her desires.
As Derrek and Azsla travel in space on his ship, they fall in love. However, they remain wary of their feelings as they defend opposing sides. When a real danger means many innocent people dying, this couple agrees they must prevent it from happening, but can they overcome their distrust of each other to unite in love in order to avert a catastrophe?
Although there is plenty of outer space action, Solar Heat is an exciting science fiction romance with the emphasis on the romantic elements. The story line stars two fascinating lead characters who are natural enemies in spite of their immediate attraction. Azsla is an interesting character as she comes from a culture in which slaves are the norm; her innate Quaint ability to dominate others adds to the readers' fascination in her and her society. Derrek is more typical of outer space traders as he is part loner, rogue, and hero in spite of hundreds of people working for him.
The Rama class structure is indirectly told via interwoven, clever tidbits brought to the audience by Azsla thinking back to her home planet, as she does when the ship fails and when the courageous underslave dies to save her life. Less is learned about Derrek's heritage, although his reaction to slavery implies he comes from a free culture.
The "save the planet" mission makes for strange bedfellows, but allows the lead pair's relationship to evolve into a loving one. Although Americans' strong anti-slavery beliefs make the ending somewhat obvious, readers, especially science fiction romance fans with an emphasis on the romance, will appreciate Mata Hari in outer space.