Lee Shores by Rachel Ford is the second book in the Black Flag series but it can be read as a standalone. It is a wonderful combination of science fiction, romance and mystery with fantastic world building and engaging characters.
The crew of the Black Flag are back after recovering from their last adventure when a communication from helmsman F’er ark inkaya’s (aka Frank) home planet of Kudar interrupts their brief respite. Frank must return to his family immediately. The reason is a mystery, but the summons cannot be ignored. Seeing this as an opportunity to upgrade the ship and for the crew to get some well-deserved down time, Captain Magdalene Landon grants everyone a month’s shore leave.
The crew are quick to pick their destinations of choice and for most, it is not joining Frank on Kudar despite his generous offer of hospitality. However, Chief Engineer Kay Ellis jumps at the chance to accompany her good friend to his home planet. She even manages to convince the Captain (who is also her girlfriend) to join them. But what is supposed to be a quiet and relaxing month turns into a terrible ordeal for the trio when they are implicated in the murder of a Kudarian woman.
Relations between the Kudarians and Humans are tenuous at best and the accusations not only see the trio tossed into a Kudarian prison, but also thrust into the center of a diplomatic struggle between the two races. With little rights and even fewer friends, proving their innocence seems increasingly impossible. Their guilt is a foregone conclusion for most of the Kudarian population and if they don’t get some help soon, they’ll be spending the rest of their lives in prison, or worse.
Michelle: The crew of the Black Flag are back and as animated as ever in this sequel. There are some great interactions and banter amongst the crew members that not only highlight their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies, but also the trials and endearing moments they go through that show just how much like a family they have become. I especially liked watching the evolution of Sydney, the battle-bot turned-chef (amongst many other roles) as well as the evolution of Kay and Maggie’s relationship. We are also given much more insight into my favourite character Frank and introduced to his family which is comprised of many more great characters.
Sheena: Kay and Maggie are celebrating their love for one another while taking some much needed downtime. As chief engineer and captain of the Black Flag privateer space ship they both need it. So they decide to travel to the planet Kudar with their Kudarian friend Frank.
Unfortunately they get pulled into Frank’s deception to his folks when he discovers that he is being set up for an arranged marriage and then later they are also accused of being co-conspirators to a murder that Frank supposedly committed.
I absolutely loved that Ford never made their dedication and love for one another waiver despite the pressure they were under. Kay and Maggie never get jealous or tear apart no matter what they end up going through. If anything their relationship gets even stronger. I LOVE THAT and it made me feel safe as a reader, knowing that their love will last.
The Writing Style
Michelle: This is a great combination of science fiction and mystery elements that, along with the great characterization, keep you thoroughly engrossed throughout the course of the book. Ford’s use of descriptive language really pulls you into the story. The way Kudar is described, the moons, the parks and statues, as well as the music that emanates from the organs not only helps the reader to clearly visualize the landscape, but infuses so much emotion into it that you feel like you are there experiencing it with the characters.
Sheena: This book was vastly different from the first in the series. I absolutely adored that the story was so unique. The first half of the book is about their time on Kudar and we get to live vicariously through their explorations. The latter part of the book is the murder investigation. Even so, the pacing was great, the world was interesting and kept me wanting to listen and I LOVED the way Ford described the food.
The world building was superb and yet the relationships in the book are the cornerstone of the story. It was the perfect balance of emotional investment and intriguing plot.
Sheena: Barbara Rich did a good job narrating. In the first book I found some of Kay’s vocalisations to be on the high pitched side. This one was tempered down a bit while still maintaining the clear differences with the characters.
The cast was large and because there were so many alien names I am suitably impressed that she pulled it all off not just flawlessly but so that I never got lost.
Michelle: Frank’s family. They are wonderfully written characters and I enjoyed watching the family dynamic change as they learned more about one another. I also enjoyed the twists and turns in the plot that kept you guessing as to who was really behind the murder. And, on a more intellectual note, there is the thought-provoking exploration of tradition and how it relates to racism and xenophobia throughout the story that I found compelling.
Sheena: I absolutely loved that Ford tells a story which is utterly unique with a side plot that furthers the love story that started in book 1. The relationships between the characters (even the grumpy ones) are a highlight of this series and Ford has created world that I will return to again and again. I am happily waving my fan flag here.
Michelle: I found the pacing a little slow at times but overall, I never lost interest. There is a little violence in the book as well, but I didn’t find it overly graphic.
Sheena: None at all. What Michelle was finding slow I loved. I enjoyed the explorations and the carefully woven world that we got to explore.
Michelle: If you enjoyed the first book in the series, then you won’t be disappointed with this sequel. If you haven’t read the first book, this is a great combination of science fiction, romance and mystery that will keep you engaged on multiple levels. The characters in the series are wonderful and this book exposes so much more about them which I really loved. I look forward to seeing what the third book in the series has in store for the crew of the Black Flag.
Sheena: If you like joining a motley band of characters on their adventures in space then this is a fantastic series for you. You will get love, kick ass women, a diverse and fun crew and a ton of out of this world fun.
Excerpt from Lee Shores by Rachel Ford
“Well,” Frank said, ‘how much longer is this going to take? I’m starved.”
Dave scoffed at the Kudarian, whose appetite was something of a legend on the Black Flag. “You’re always starved.”
Shrugging his massive shoulders, Frank nodded. “Maybe. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still starving now.”
I laughed. “Hold on. Syd will be done soon.”
“Not soon enough,” he sighed.
This was Sydney’s debut in the kitchen, and I think we were all excited to see how it went. The battle bot-turned-domestic-robot had picked kitchen duty as one of several areas where he could contribute to ship efficiency. In my observations, Katherine, he’d told me, the galley is the source of eighty-three-point-three percent of all crew complaints. Food being a central component of both the cultural and gastronomic needs of most sentient races, I believe addressing this failure would contribute to the well-being and morale of the Black Flag, eliminating as much as seventy-five percent of crew discontent.
I couldn’t argue with either his premise or his conclusion. Still, we’d phrased it somewhat more delicately when we proposed the idea to Dave, the ship’s less than stellar cook. It’d be nice for you to have a break now and then, wouldn’t it?
Now, he was twiddling his thumbs, staring at Frank suspiciously. “I don’t even see why you’re so excited,” he said. “Everyone knows robots can’t cook.”
“This is the most important meal of the day,” the Kudarian contradicted.
Dave frowned. “Lunch?”
Frank’s eyes twinkled. “One you’re not cooking.”
“Frank,” Maggie warned, “be nice…” Magdalene Landon was captain of the Black Flag, and it would be her mess to deal with if Sydney’s foray into the kitchen caused problems between crew members. More importantly, though, she was my girlfriend – and so, dutifully, I wiped the smile off my own face. If she didn’t want us teasing Dave, well, I wouldn’t tease him. However tempted I might be.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781698166674
- Publisher: Indie author
- Narrator: Barbara Rich
- Rachel Ford Online
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