Wednesday, June 11, 2014
In His Command by Rie Warren
Author: Rie Warren
Published by Grand Central/Hachette
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Claire Brown
Length: 97k words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, print
In the dystopian future, two men discover attraction isn't just dangerous, it's deadly.
Two generations ago, the world was annihilated by a series of catastrophic environmental events. The remaining survivors were driven closer and closer to big city centers-damaged but not destroyed-divvied into sixteen identical international territories ruled by the Company.
Oppressive to the core, the Company has one rule in order to recoup the world's devastated population: homosexuality and deviant sexual behaviors are hanging offenses. First time offenders are last-time offenders.
It is the year 2070. Commander Caspar Cannon has a stellar military reputation-and a life-threatening secret. When a revolution rips through the territories, Cannon is ordered to escort Company Executive Nathaniel Rice to a secure location. Leaving the besieged city behind, their journey becomes a minefield of sabotage, betrayal, secrets . . . and intense desire for one another.
Cannon's militant self-repression takes a direct hit, his suspicions warring with passion for a man who can never be his, not while the Company remains in power. True to his mission, he delivers Nathaniel to the safe bunker where a fate he never expected awaits him.
I seem to be reading this series out of order: this is the first, and I started with In His Sights (review here) which I enjoyed enough to come back for a second helping.
Here we have a couple of alpha males, on opposing sides of a very wide gap. Nathaniel is a Company man with a more convoluted path than his military lover and escort Caspar can imagine. In this world, the population has been depleted by war and by plague, creating a very stratified society where the major goal is to repopulate the world. If you can stomach the nonsensical worldbuilding of Divergent, you can probably buy into the Company, their complete intolerance for homosexuality, for people who don’t toe their lines, and the carnage that follows on from it. For a society that wishes to expand their numbers, they do kill off more than they breed.
Resistance is inevitable, and Nathaniel, a Company mucky-muck in IT, needs to be evacuated to a safe compound nearly 500 miles distant from the city, through what seems to be mostly wilderness, as 90% of the urbanization has disappeared between now and 2070. Tying down the date so tightly introduces reality, which doesn’t promote the suspension of disbelief this story requires. One has to take Nathaniel’s attraction to and feelings for Caspar as a given as well, because some sideways glances and a blowjob do not a relationship make.
Swallow the set-up as a bitter pill though, and get to the adventure, as they make their way to the compound in the north, which is punctuated by multiple sex scenes, most of which can be skimmed without losing anything, although I did almost blow by one that mattered to the plot and had to go back and read in detail.
The author does do a fine job of keeping her characters off balance, introducing twists and turns that distort the fragile trust they have in one another. Some of this is brutal reading, but it makes sense, and is one of the finest aspects of the book. Simple goals become complex goals, and then become as simple as “stay alive” again. In the course of this I did believe in the relationship, as Caspar had to go from bare physical attraction to love, via distrust and sometimes despair. Nathaniel’s path to Caspar is simpler, though he has to navigate all the reasons for distrust and overcome them.
The style is simple and gritty, we’re inside the head of a career soldier on the battlefield, which makes the frequent endearments Nathaniel uses kind of ludicrous, and only when he spoke them ironically did I not flinch. YMMV.
I would have been perfectly content with a brief epilog after Chapter 18, but the ending abandoned the alpha male adventure and descended into flowery romantic territory where I came close to throwing my Kindle. I was moderately prepared for it after having read the novella, but didn’t like it any better the second time. The book seems to be trying to be all things to all people, which comes across as serious breaks in characterization. Really, it’s okay to have alpha men be alpha men and express the more tender side while staying in character. And seriously, men, particularly in situations of danger or while wounded, can think with their big heads.
I am embarrassed to admit how much of this book I had to skim: I *never* skim, but the incessant sex scenes strung together with a few pages of plot, and then the smooptastic ending required some “reader editing” or the book would have been a DNF. There is some very good stuff in here, particularly after they arrive at the compound, but it has to be picked out.
Don’t show me the peen unless it advances the plot. 3 marbles