Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.
Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work—until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.
Comment: After seeing several good opinions of this book in different places, including in some sites in their "best of" lists too, I got quite interested in reading this myself.
This is an m/m story featuring a sci-fi world where there are many planets occupied by humans after Earth stopped being sustainable.
In this story we meet two guys in different places in their lives: Gael is a 30 year old who still mourns the death of his brother and still pays his debts, sadly working for a mob-like family in his planet. He hasn't the stomach for it though, and after a mistake he feels like running away is the only solution. A friend tells him about colonists in distant parts of the galaxy or even other galaxies that are asking for companions (like a mail order spouse or just someone to share time with) and Gael checks some videos and accepts to travel and meet Abraham Bauer, who seems to be a farmer and what convinces Gael is the scenes of that man's farm.
Bram, a man in his late 40s, wants someone to spend time with because he is quite lonely. He asks for Gael because he is gorgeous and his eyes seem sad but he thinks with time he might care about Bram and be a solid companion. If something more happens between them, the better, for he likes how Gael looks.
The problem is that Alkirak, Bram's planet, isn't exactly what Gael envisioned, and a surprise changes Gael's plans a bit. However, there's no denying Bram is as accepting and patient as he seemed in his video and perhaps there is hope for them. Except if Gael's past gets in the way...
This is the first book I read by this author but I think the setting is very well done. Although the descriptions are all products of the author's imagination, the planets and the surroundings seem very vivid. I also really liked how information was given slowly to the reader but not overly explained. The reader has time to think and imagine and what is learned is enough to help create an idea and set up the stage for the character's paths. I think it was really well done how the pace of the story happens and how much information is given without feeling like too much.
The writing is quite good and the pace too but of course it's the characters that make this a vibrant story.
Back to historical stories, usually mail order brides accepted to marry a stranger for security, for financial reasons or for several reasons regarding their reputations. In this book Gael does resemble this scenario because is needs protection from a life and a company that will use him and kill him if not enslaving him first. He knows his future has to be in a place where he doesn't need to look behind all the time and a planet in such a distant location is the solution he needs. I felt for Gael and his past and why he felt like running.
He is extremely easy to empathize with and to wish he succeeds.
Bram is a more mature man, more secure in his own person but he is lonely and a little shy and lives for his crops, which he hopes one day might help influence the atmosphere of the planet and make it from austere and dangerous into a place with life and prosperity. The reader knows he wants someone to be intimate with but his main focus is on someone to be his companion. If intimacy happens, great, but he won't force anyone nor push for the situation to be so. He likes Gael's looks but the situation doesn't start as he imagined and there is some need to adapt to someone new.
The relationship between the two guys is slow but steady and the end is certainly rewarding. I liked how they talked and planned things instead of rushing to something they might not be ready for. The fact any other option if things didn't work out was so distant, made them think about their closed shared space and the need to be a team.
I liked how their personalities started to match, how they were considerate of one another in small things. I liked how their interactions weren't only related to sexual intimacy but also about all aspects of their lives like what kind of work Bram was doing and why and how could Gael be happy as an individual and not as just Bram's partner.
As a negative detail, I must say that despite how sweet and poignant certain situations were I still felt like they were too restricted to their surroundings and what was going on around them to really feel the love developing. Yes, they shared moments together, they talked but we don't see as many scenes with that as I imagined (for the good pace of the book's needs) so although time passing by happens in a believable manner, their relationship is too sweet and calm. I kind of wish they had had reasons to interact even more or to share more of their pasts besides the necessary for the trust issues to be overcame.
The fact they are in such a limited place and that there isn't a lot of external situations to force them to react to sudden or new influences or situations makes the story feel a little stagnated.
Unlike some readers, I also would have preferred for the threat to their happiness to not have existed at all and instead the conflict could have be centered on their personalities and sexual tension. The way the story evolved did feel, at times, as too perfect, too much as a staged production.
Overall, this was a good romance and the setting was amazing. Some parts of the plot worked out well, the pace was great for the situation but there are a few details that I don't think were as engaging as they could have. Still, I really had a great time reading, especially thinking about the world building alone.