Friday, July 15, 2022

Lydia Hope - Homebound

Earth is in decline, and the wealthy have fled it leaving only the destitute citizens behind. And aliens.
Gemma McKinley works at a prison cleaning goop off the floors and serving food to inmates. When she is reassigned to the alien ward, Gemma is nervous. Aliens are dangerous and ruthless. They bite. But there is one that isn’t like them. Simon is damaged, starved, and wasting away in complete isolation. Touched by his loneliness, Gemma starts nursing him back to health, dismissing rumors that he’s high-risk, ignoring the advice to let him croak.
Simon despises humans. His only goal is to get off this miserable planet fast, for he is hunted by a scientist obsessed with perfecting the human race. Simon’s rare alien genes are just the ingredient that’s missing for breakthrough research. Thanks to Gemma, for the first time in years he can escape.
And he will. He will…
As the hunt for Simon heats up, Gemma becomes an unintended target. Is she a fool to help him get away? And will he risk another captivity to protect her?

Comment: I saw this book being positively recommended somewhere as being a good sci fi romance. The blurb felt intriguing enough and I added it to my TBR. Now it was finally time to read it.

In this novel, we learn Earth is in a severe decline and the rich have gone to a better world, in a different planet. Those who can't afford it remain in the planet, with all the problems and poverty and the aliens. Gemma, our heroine, has been waiting for her boyfriend to send her enough so she can join him in the new planet, and in the meantime she works in the prison. Her life has a twist when she starts working on the alien level at the same time she learns her boyfriend had a different interpretation of their goals and he is now married and eager to help her, his "friend". 

As the days go by and Gemma's prospects become worse, including her life at her aunt's house, whose board she pays anyway, the only positive is her need to help Simon, a prisoner whom she believes to be deaf and unable to walk. However, he isn't as defenseless as she assumed, and the longer she is with him, the closer their bond, even if she believes it to be one sided. But what will happen when he regains his full strength and decides to leave the planet?

I was quite happy with this novel and the slow pace which seems to be the norm for most of the story. We have time to appreciate meeting the characters and learning about their personalities and lives. Gemma is a very likable heroine because she is a genuine and friendly person and I was rooting for her to find happiness and a better life.

Most of the story is, indeed, focused on Gemma's hardships and the poor life she has and how much she works and saves so she can afford to meet the man she believes is her boyfriend. When this turns out to be a misunderstanding, along with the fact Gemma has a physical problem on a leg, it becomes obvious her relationship with Simon, the reserved and apparently weak alien, will be something for her to feel she is needed and worthy to someone. I liked this part of the novel because the pace was slow but the positive of that is how we can "see" emotions and feelings change.

Well, at least on Gemma's part, this is third person narrator but clearly focused on her and we only understand Simon's side when he is interacting with her or, later on in the novel, when he starts speaking to her. I suppose this can be seen as an element which could have been improved because a lot of what happens can feel emotionally one sided. I understand the author wanted to convey Simon's alien nature in a particular way and his species, the "Rix" was one to be reserved and aloof and not expressive as a human would be, but... at times I wish the author would have increased the sexual and physical tension between them, so make it even more special when they got together.

This to say, the romance was quite subtle and although there are sex scenes, they are close to the end of the story and not as spectacular as one would imagine, considering how long it took them to get to that point. I think it also didn't help that Simon is hard to read and his attitude to certain issues never changes just because he is now in Gemma's life and vice versa. I mean, it's good his characters was well planned by the author and she stuck to her idea but there is always the expectation characters change for the better because they are together and falling in love...

In general, I liked reading this story and I think most elements were well accomplished for what it is, despite the little details I'd change. However, I have to say the end was severely disappointing. Things end well for our mismatched couple and I actually could buy into their HEA but as soon as they reach a certain situation, bam! The story ends! It was very abrupt and I was thinking perhaps I didn't have the complete book, but checking reviews by other readers in some sites, I can see this is actually how the story ended but what a lost opportunity!

Apparently, the author isn't planning on writing a sequel anytime soon, so the story ends with a very unfinished sense... even a quick epilogue would have helped but what a pity there's no real closure on what their lives will be like from this point on... It was still a good read but it could be so much better!
Grade: 8/10

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