(Sci-Fi, Romance, Mystery, Paranormal)
Grade: Γ — (Gamma) A good or even fantastic book within the genre, possibly worth reading regardless of which genre’s you like, but has a setting or style that is likely to be unappealing to individuals who are not fans of a given genre.
Deadly Love by Charlee Allden is a great read for anyone who likes Sci Fi, Mysteries and/or Romance. It is fascinating tale of dangerous relationships with a solid who-done-it at its core that left me guessing until the end of the book. If you’ve ever been interested in dipping your toe into Sci-Fi Romance, this is a great book to do it with. The mystery aspect in particular makes for a great plot and the story line following a culture of refugees inside another land. It is very well thought out and compelling, and for me proved the major pull through the tale. If, however, you dislike either mysteries or romance, particularly one with a cross-humanoid relationship aspect, then you may want to give this book a pass. Personally, however, I think it is well worth a look if you have any interest in crossing over to other genres.
A near future America in which a population of non-human refugees called the Ormney has immigrated to earth via a trans-dimensional shift. This has led to the existence of segregated populations within major cities where the Ormney live according to their own cultural traditions in an uneasy relationship with the surrounding human populations. This makes for a very interesting, and timely commentary on displaced and refugee populations in the world.
The Ormney ability to slip is innate to any member of the species, but most can only perform small scale transitions, enough to effectively jump or teleport a short distance. Some greater masters of the skill, however, can slip over greater distances, and the best are those who used the ability to guide the others from their own alien realm to this one.
The Ormney look almost human, though they have stronger physiques, stripes, eyes that are feral, and most importantly, they have poisonous razor sharp claws. They live among us, and by live by our laws, but maintain their own cultural practices, and have their own legal system of Law Keepers that co-exists with our own. The Law Keeper’s primary function is to keep their people and traditions alive, though they work with closely with local law enforcement.
As with any forced migrant populations living apart but within a society, there are bigotries within both human and Ormney populations. This is exasperated by the fact the Ormney are large, physically powerful, and have deadly poisonous claws.
This Sci-Fi Mystery Romance is a gripping forbidden love story wrapped around a classic murder-conspiracy tale. At its core is a cross-species romance between the tough, human investigator Lily Rowan and the Ormney Law Keeper Jolaj – a mostly human looking alien with deadly poisonous claws (as well as a strong, handsome almost human build – see below) and the ability to slip from one world to another and back in a different location (effectively teleporting). The three genres of the story (Sci Fi, Mystery and Romance) blend extremely well in the book, and the flow of language and strong characterizations merge to make an exciting mystery with erotic scenes that build the central relationship of the story. What grabbed me the most about this book, however, were the central concepts of the relationship between the two protagonists, Lily and Jolaj, and how those reflect upon refugees and modern society… but more about that later.
The central plot of the tale revolves around a series of brutal attacks by Ormney men on their human lovers. Such cross species affairs are forbidden in Ormney society, and sneered at by humans. Even so, the physical similarities between the two groups leads to such attraction, social taboos or not. At least until some Ormney men start going berserk and shredding their human lovers with their razor sharp, poisonous claws. The question of why these attacks suddenly start happening is the focus of the tale and what brings our two protagonists together.
Lily, central point of view character of the book, is the human side of the equation. Coming from a long line of police, she took a different route and became a hard-as-nails agent-investigator for a megacorporation. While engaged in testing tactics intended to let the two species work better together, she was partnered with an Ormney partner who became her close friend. This made things all the worse when one day, her partner went berserk and turned an uncontrollable fury on her. Only her skills and her experience working with him saved her life, but she was forced to kill him just to survive. The attack, however, left her horribly scarred inside and out.
The story opens while Lily is still trying overcome the natural fear and sorrow that resulted from the event. Yet before she has even gained healing, she runs across a similar attack in process. An Ormney man is attacking his forbidden human lover when Lily arrives in time to stop the vicious onslaught. Sadly, the woman has already been attacked, and claw toxin introduced to her system. This attack, gives fuel to those who look for another to hate the Ormney, but Lily knows better and begins to investigate, forcing herself all the time to fight the PTSD that is triggered by the presence of the other race.
Due in part to her Police family connections, she is introduced to the other point-of-view character, Jolaj. He is an Ormney Law Keeper with whom she soon finds herself investigating the crime. Through him, we slowly learn about Ormney culture, and gain a wonderful window of the life of an alien population forced to live among humans. Indeed, my only real complaint about the book is I would have liked to have spent less time examining the dynamics of Lily’s family and more looking into the Ormney. Of course, I’m an anthropologist by inclination and training, so no big surprise there.
To tell more would be a spoiler, but leave it to say that the story follows the twists and turns of the mystery while delving into the meaning behind a cross-species relationship. Soon the pair find themselves investigating leads into connections between the crimes and uncovering an ever growing number of reasonable suspects. There are a myriad of personal relations in the story that tie together neatly in both the romance and mystery side of the tale, and that make for a very satisfying ending.
Yet more than the mystery element, this book does a very good job of examining the appeal, repulsion and consequences of breaking the cultural taboos against who we love. This is perhaps best symbolized in the story by the actual physical dangers posed by the Ormney lovers in the tale, where the nature of fire being played with has threats that go beyond the fears of social ostracizing.
Allden does a brilliant job of making the socio-psychological appeal into a physically erotic one. In this Allden greatly exceeds my expectations of the genre, and weaves a tale that combines intellectual intrigue with emotional interplay. By creating sympathetic and realistic characters with complex family and social backgrounds, Allden really does make there be more at stake than romance or an abstract mystery.
To this end, I would highly recommend this story to anyone who likes romance or mysteries. As for the sci-fi element, it is definitely there and central to the tale, but if you’re looking for hard-science fiction, I suspect this is not the tale for you. It’s not a story or technology or biology, it is a story of people and cultures in conflict.
To that end, it might be the perfect tale to dip your toe into if you’re at all intrigued to the appeal of sci-fi romance or mystery genre. It certainly kept me guessing who did it and why, and pulled me into the complex world of how others live among us. This last point in particular has a great deal of timeliness. Headlines are frequently dominated by fears of migrants and refugees and the dangers they may, or may not pose. This story of murder and love examines how people face such threats, both real and imagined. It examines how one can find respect, friendship and even love with those of who represent the other, and how both cultures might find ways to keep their identities while still building a future together.