In Heart Scarab, set more than a year and a half after Gyrfalcon, Shield Captain Bennet’s company is on a planet in imminent danger of being overrun by the Maess. Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can. The enemy arrives before the evacuation is complete. Caught in a vicious fire fight, Bennet is left behind, presumed dead.
His family is grieving. Joss, his long-term partner, grieves with them; lost, unhappy, remorseful. First Lieutenant Flynn has no official ‘rights’ here. He isn’t family. He isn’t partner or lover.
All he is, is broken.
Great science fiction, shaky at best romance.
To be fair, I did not read the first story in this series. I suspect that if I had my allegiances would have been different coming into the story, but I’m not sure I would have been satisfied as a reader in terms of the romance.
Bennet is a military man. The rebellious son who paves his own way ignoring his father’s wishes. He’s stubborn, determined, and duty-bound, the epitome of noblesse oblige.
Joss, twice Bennet’s age and the dilettante academic who loves him. They’ve been together since Bennet was eighteen and pursuing him. He’s sophisticated and torn while Bennet is way on missions. He wants Bennet to give up the military and stay home–he’s already been egregiously injured once.
Joss was right. This mission takes Bennet’s life as far as his loved one know. Planetside he meets a scrabble of people not evacuated before the Maess invasion. There are some great characters introduced: Ifan, local miner/ex-infantry man who finds Bennet and Luke, orphaned child Ifan and he find while surveying the local holdings for survivors of the Maess attack. True to Bennet form, they are important characters in his life until he moves on and then they’re discarded.
The beginning is heavily militaristic, but when the botched mission turns more domestic as Bennet navigates his injuries, and subsisting with the other refugees while plotting an escape plan. And leave they do, but not without consequences.
During the formal grieving observances Flynn reenters the storyline. Flynn, the talented pilot who once saved Bennet and stole his heart. The first book in the series from my understanding has a much greater emphasis on this relationship. And thus, a love triangle emerges.
Bennet is an unmitigated ass to Joss during his recovery. Definitely his father’s son there. Cruel in his dismissal of Joss’s care seeing it as a slight against his weakness. They have been together for years, and there have been changes or rather Bennet has changed and Joss expects things to be the same.
The line between open relationship and infidelity is very thin, both Joss and Bennet teeter on it as their actions wobble their quasi-marriage, they made vows that are not legal in Albion. Then they take off the gloves and hurt each other in ways that only someone who loves you can. The status quo is no longer working for Bennet and Joss is angry that his wishes in their relationship are ignored.
Basically, Bennet is the sort of man who expects to the be sun and have all others orbit him, in this he is like his father. He doesn’t do compromise, and frankly, he deserves to be alone. But, he keeps finding people who are willing to bend over backwards for him. So as far as leading heroes goes he does not engender positive feelings. And, the set up for the third story hints heavily not to expect better from him.
I loved the expeditions, but honestly would have loved to see the romance dropped. I hated the dynamics, the backstabbing and disregard founded on poor communication.
Overall, the science fiction military exploits is the win while the romance leaves a bitter taste.
“Having it all.”
“Yes. Isn’t that the way you like it?”
Sure it was. Only once you’d got it all, you sometimes wondered what it was you’d got and why the hell you’d wanted it in the first place.