Protector of the Realm by Gun Brooke is the first book in the Supreme Constellations series and I believe is one of the best examples of her work. She has written a number of contemporary romances and a thriller, but this book is the first of many sci-fi books she has written, and is the one many readers refer to as her best. It is also much loved amongst romance readers, who wouldn’t read science fiction as a matter of course. This is because it is primarily a romance between two intriguing women, who each have internal journeys that they need to make to allow them to get together. The background of space and a politically charged atmosphere with some action and adventure is almost secondary, creating the circumstances that throw the two women together.
The story is based around the Gamma VI space station commanded by Commodore Rae Jacelon. The station is an outlier in a sector that is part of the Supreme Constellations. The station is vulnerable. Rae has a difficult job protecting both the station and the homeworlds in the sector from violent and difficult races, in addition to running the station itself.
When an unidentified vessel enters their sector and the frigate that Rae takes to investigate is fired upon, the story really begins. The vessel is commanded by Kellen O’Dal who is very suspicious of Rae and desperately tries to escape. These two women are the central characters and they must learn to trust each other in order to solve a political and diplomatic problem that grows explosively in a short space of time.
Rae is a career officer, immaculate in dress and bearing, who values correctness and order. At the start of the story, Rae obviously has little time for romance. It is easy to see that her character traits result from her upbringing and the difficult relationship she had with her parents. I love that as the story progresses, she is on a personal journey that takes her forward very quickly. We get to see how she slowly learns to love and then romance Kellen, and that she learns about the importance of parental love at the same time as her parents.
Kellen has similarly had a difficult upbringing, including a great deal of tragedy. We only learn this slowly because she is very close-mouthed about her background and is slow to trust. Kellen is a Gantharian and she is both stronger and taller than her human counterparts, with blue coloured blood cells and blue tears, which add to her uniqueness. Brooke has given Kellen a temper to match Rae’s, which gives some extra spice to the story. Her personal journey begins when she finds herself in a situation where, against all her instincts, she becomes reliant on Rae and she starts to learn how to overcome the issues that her background has created within her. That she falters at times gives real depth to her character and is one of the things that make her seem almost human.
There is a cast of minor characters, many of whom are beautifully characterized. I must mention Ewan Jacelon, Rae’s father, who from a somewhat stilted beginning grows into a wonderful support for both women.
The Writing Style
This is first and foremost a romance, and whilst it has action and adventure, it is the romance that drives it.
The book somehow reminds me of an episode of Star Trek fan fiction with much sparer prose. The book moves along at a cracking pace, and there is much happening throughout to make it a good page-turner. The action sequences are very well done, and make for an adrenalin rush here and there.
There are two things I really loved about this story. Firstly, the action sequences are excellent. Secondly, and my main love of the story, is the slow reveal of Kellen and her background. She is the surprise of the story and Brooke handles it so well.
There are none.
The characters are in the future and one is an alien, but if you love romance then you will enjoy this. Live a little outside your usual contemporary romances and try it. You might surprise yourself!
Excerpt from Protector of the Realm by Gun Brooke
“Unidentified vessel, examine your computer readings and look at the identification seal on our transfers. It confirms our identity and our capabilities. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded.”
“We have video, Commodore,” the ops ensign reported.
The large screen on the far wall of the bridge flickered, and a woman’s face came partially into view. “This is the private vessel Kithanya. We have no intention of surrendering. Our shields are fully operational…”
Rae bristled and felt like kicking the wall with her tall black boot. She had suffered through an endless series of boring negotiations for the past two weeks and was in no mood to be diplomatic. If this woman was foolish enough to acquire outlaw status by firing her ship’s full array of weapons after being hailed, she would be sorry.
Impatient, she smoothed down her short red hair and said, “Yes, but you cannot win. Nothing in your arsenal can prevent me from tractoring you in. You are not above the law.”
“We have broken no laws.” The woman’s tone was dismissive, almost disdainful.
Seething at this unexpected insolence, Rae replied brusquely, “As a matter of fact, I can think of several. This is your last chance. Lower your shields.”
“Congratulations. You’ve won a free trip to the Gamma VI Space Station. Enjoy the ride.” Rae bent down, straightened the knife-sharp crease in her blue trousers, and gave the next order to her tactical officer. “Reel them in. Let’s go home.”
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Protector of the Realm
Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781602823822
- Publisher: Bold Stroke Books, Inc.