Kay is the architect of the greatest bank security system ever invented. There’s just one small problem; she built it for the Conglomerate’s bank. A colossal mistake in her past made it impossible to get work with anyone other than the mafia. Plus, the money was great, and it wasn’t like she was hurting anyone.
Unfortunately, the Conglomerate feels her security system has one potential weakness. She knows everything about it. To protect their bank and ensure nobody else can access the information in Kay’s head, the Conglomerate dump her unceremoniously on a remote planet under their control. Stranded on the dusty rock of a planet Trel, Kay must find a way to escape before the Conglomerate decides to get rid of her altogether. But escape is not so easy when no captain in their right mind wants to cross the Conglomerate.
Magdalene Landon agrees she may be nuts, but the payoff is well worth the risk. Captain of the privateer ship Black Flag, she has a plan that will make them all richer than they can possibly imagine. But her plan depends on the knowledge in Kay’s head. She offers Kay a lift back to Union Space and a sizeable cut of the profits if Kay will help them pull off the biggest heist the galaxy has seen.
With few options, Kay decides to place her life in the hands of the diverse crew of the Black Flag as they set out to rob the most powerful mafia in the galaxy. It’s a dangerous game of double crosses and the stakes are high especially when Kay finds herself drawn to the charismatic captain in ways she has never felt towards another woman.
The story is told in the first person from Katherine (Kay) Ellis’ perspective and she is such an engaging protagonist. She is intelligent and strong but in a bad situation when we meet her. I loved her imperfections and reasoning surrounding her relaxation of her morals and consequent employ with the mafia. I also loved getting her perspective as she justifies this decision and other questionable choices she makes throughout the book, and then turns around and examines those justifications. It really adds to the plausibility and relatability of her character.
Magdalene (Maggie) Landon is also not an ethically perfect main character. As the captain of a ‘privateer’ ship, she has made many morally grey choices in her life as well. But she is also brave and loyal and treats her crew like family. I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between Kay and Maggie. Kay’s realization that she was falling for a woman was very poignant and Maggie’s struggle with the ghosts from her past, so she could embrace a future with Kay, tugged at the heartstrings.
The crew of the Black Flag are also fabulous. There is a good mixture of human and various other humanoid beings aboard the ship. Through their sometimes comedic, sometimes tense, and sometimes endearing interactions, Ford gives us a great insight into each of their personalities. Frank, a large Kudarian, is by far my favourite of the crew members. You will see why when you read the story.
The Writing Style
Even though it is by no means a short book, I flew through it in one afternoon. It has the perfect amount of action mixed with great character development. The world building was solid and there weren’t any large info dumps. But enough history and present-day information were provided that you got a good grasp of the setting without being bogged down by it.
I don’t think I could ever resist a book about lesbian and bisexual space pirates. The plot was fun and exciting, the characters were engaging, and the toaster oven romance was charming. Another aspect I really loved about this book was the cook and the humourous descriptions of the meals he produced for the crew. It reminded me of some of the mess hall meals we had to endure when I was in the army.
There are a couple of errors here and there but nothing that pulled me out of the story. There is however, a scene where the main character is cornered and almost abducted by a couple of men threatening to rape her. It does not occur, but the scene could be uncomfortable for some readers.
In case I didn’t mention it before…this book is about lesbian and bisexual pirates in space and they are robbing a mafia stronghold. If that isn’t enough reason to run out and buy this book then how about some great world building, wonderful character development, twisty double crosses and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure?
Excerpt from Safe Passage By Rachel Ford
The newcomer was continuing, “Trust me, Katherine: men like Joe aren’t your ticket out of here.” She leaned back and cocked her head to the side. “Now, me on the other hand? Well, I may be just what you’re looking for.”
I rather doubted it, and let an eyebrow creep up my forehead just far enough to convey my skepticism.
She laughed. “The thing is Kate – you don’t mind if I call you Kate, do you? Anyway, the thing is –“
She hadn’t slowed down long enough for me to say that I did mind, but now another thought crowded that one out. “Hold on. How do you know my name?”
She grinned. “Oh, that’s easy. I came here to find you.”
I felt my heart sink. This was it, then: the assassin I’d been expecting. The Conglomerate had finally decided I was no longer worth keeping around, and they’d sent this irreverent scrap of a woman to do me in. “For the Conglomerate?”
She smirked. “You can’t be naïve enough, Kate, to think that they’re really sending someone to rescue you from the exile they’ve imposed? They want you here, where you’re safely out of the way – where they can reach you if they need and dispose of you when they decide they’re done.
I could feel my hands trembling. I tried to force a steadiness to my tone. If I was going to die, I was going to do it with my boots on. “So you’re here to kill me?”
She laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. I wouldn’t join you for dinner if I was here to kill you.” She shrugged. “Anyway, assassination isn’t my style.”
“Then what do you want?”
“The same thing they’re trying to keep safe.” She leaned across the table and tapped a forefinger against the side of my head. “The secrets buried inside that brain of yours, Katherine Ellis.”
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