After Dr. Kerra Telsier destroyed all her research on synthorg replacements and ran away, her government put a bounty on her head. Aden Locke, a smuggler grounded on the same planet by Gandes, is contacted by Kerra. She wants his help in getting off the planet.
Their escape only serves to anger Gandes further. Once away, Aden agrees to accept Kerra as a partner, but only until the problem of Gandes is resolved. However, after some contriving by his friends, Aden and Kerra end up in bed together.
Aden and Kerra must find work, so they travel to the planet, Kethry. On Kethry, women rule. The males are weak and the women produce such strong pheromones that they are able to bind men of all species to them.
Gandes suffers from an unfulfilled bonding with Vaialora, one of Aden's former partners. Aden is captured and placed into a powerful woman's harem, a place Kerra is not able to leave him. Two of Aden's associates are also on Kethry and they agree to help Kerra rescue Aden, since he had saved their lives in the past.
Once they finally leave Kethry, the search for Gandes begins in earnest. Kerra hopes to develop a cure for his condition. Aden and his friends only want him dead. But when they find him, can Aden and Kerra find a common ground without that threat hanging over their heads?
Kerra is a scientist, though she undergoes a classic identity crisis. Is she a scientist, like she was raised from the age of 14 to be? Is she a smuggler, or someone she does not even know yet? There are times when her scientific background is not at all evident and she lacks the clear thought and logic that should have been ingrained in her after 10 years of work.
Aden and his friends Vaialora, Jannia, Emarr and O'Hare, are all smugglers, seeming to be the best of the best, though there are no others with which to compare them. Every woman Aden meets seems to fall in love with him, though he is never aware of it. Aden is reluctant to call Kerra his partner, but circumstances force him to. His feelings make him want to protect her instead.
This story is well written and very engaging. There are a few moments where the characters have information they gained in the reader's presence, but the reader is left wondering where it came from when it was not obviously stated.
The descriptions of the alien races is vivid and interesting, and Kerra's background in biological research allows for in-depth descriptions of physiology and chemistry. In spite of the inevitability of the novel, Norma McPhee does an excellent job of holding the reader spellbound right until the last page.
--J. Anne Mauck-- Inscriptions Magazine
Inscriptions Magazine (Vol. 4 Issue 48)