Title: Ghost in the Machine (Corwint Central Agent Files #1)
Author: CE Kilgore
Genre: Scifi Romance
Publisher: Tracing the Stars
Available: Kobo, B&N, iBooks, Amazon (pages $)
Ghost In The Machine is a mature space opera romance with strong language, some violence, a good heaping of romance, some steamy bits, a few crazy aliens, one very confused android, an empathic girl with emotional issues who tends to trip herself up, and a crew of space agents who seem to enjoy making their Central Director yank out her hair.
“Love is like a wormhole. You stumble on to it blindly, it sucks you in and takes you somewhere completely unexpected. You can’t fight it, because that would tear your ship apart. You can’t control it, either. All you can do is set your thrusters on glide and let it take you where it’s going to take you.”
Going against the rules of her Vesparian Sisterhood, which seeks to keep its entire existence a secret, Orynn is thrown into the open by a request for help that she could not refuse. Seeking to reconcile past mistakes and gain a forgiveness she feels she does not deserve, the control over her empathic abilities is put to the test when the darkness that lives within her spirit threatens to once again destroy any piece of happiness that she allows herself to find.
As a Mechatronic Automaton, Ethan defines his world through a set of logically defined values and understandings. Encountering Orynn throws his system out of balance as he tries to decide if he should trust the feelings he is developing, or if he should follow the logic telling him that she is trying to control him for some unknown purpose. Should he keep her at a distance despite his want to bring her near, or should he follow the heart he swears he does not have? As his understanding of her develops, he begins to question all of his preconceived notions about both himself and the universe around him.
I'll admit it - I was originally going to give this a 4* rating at the beginning, but I'd probably say 4.5* by the end. Why not quite 5? Because of the head-hopping, my personal bug bear. With several key characters being introduced quite quickly at the start, I found it particularly jarring and confusing. However, farther into the story I stopped noticing it so much. I was so in love with the characters, the in-depth and intriguing world-building, the snarky humour, and the two storylines full of romantic tension, I could almost forgive it.
I think I adore Ethan most, despite his frequent moments of being an asshole (I have a definite thing for human mecha). In fact, both male MCs needed a good slapping. Although Orynn's regular slips into self pity might irritate some, I found them understandable and acceptable. Hank irritated me extremely, but I can blame that on his youth. And Merik - ah, Merik! Such a bad boy (and not what I'd normally go for) but I have a soft spot for the warped little masochist.
The sex scenes are detailed but sweet and focus on the emotional and empathic connection as much as bodily descriptions. Some might find the use of expletives offensive, but they fit the settings and characters. The tension, both in the overall arc and the character relationships was good and generally the story zipped along (there were a couple of areas where it dragged a bit, mostly where back story was involved). Very, very few typos or grammatical errors that self published works are often notorious for.
A recommended read for fans of Firefly/Farscape, and those who've enjoyed Jaine Fenn's Hidden Empire series, and Linnea Sinclair's Sass and Kel-Paton stories. And a full length novel for free? Bargain!