It’s easy to have a little trepidation when approaching a science fiction erotic novella. Science fiction, by its nature, is about world-building and a writer has to devote valuable word count toward while also developing their characters and the rapid attraction between them. Add to this dilemma the fact that Undercover Alliance is the third in a series and I was sweating bullets that had nothing to do with the warm summer weather.
In the excellent hands of writer Lilly Cain, however, I had nothing to worry about.
I was shocked that this beefy novella was around 100 pages since the emotional and intellectual journey it took me on felt equivalent to a full-length novel. It’s also a terrific value at a smidgen over $3 for the Kindle version; I’ve paid a lot more for writing that was not this good.
A space-travel capable Earth has made contact a few months prior to the books events with the Inarrii, a people bound by complex clan systems filled with warriors who follow a strong code of honor in order to reflect well on their families. The Inarrii are also covered with swirling tendrils of what looks like henna tattoos but are in actuality a system of visible nerves which give them outstanding sensitivity, particularly sexually. This is vital to their health as Inarrii must experience regular sexual release in order to deal with stress and maintain mental and physical health, a fact of life which endows them with a freedom and openness to sexuality reflected in their honest approach to life.
Sarina is a damaged Inarrii warrior, looked upon with pity by her people. In a battle during the previous book in the series, a portion of nerve system was damaged beyond repair, making her unable to orgasm, despite her healer’s best efforts. Denied the work as a warrior she loves, she knows that she is a ticking time bomb with her people waiting for her to go insane. When she is given a token assignment to guard a minor human who is part of the legal team negotiating the treaty between their planets, she takes it in the hope that her diligence and ability will be proof of her continued competence.
John Benning is not what she expected however. A good looking, sleek bodied male who can move silently and knows martial arts doesn’t seem the typical prototype for a lawyer consumed with the fine print of contracts. She knows he’s not what he seems yet she can’t help feeling sexually attracted to him. The discovery that they share a mental bond, a rarity between two different species, means that she might be able to obtain orgasm with him by riding his pleasure and through it attaining her own.
John can’t believe the beautiful woman who is his bodyguard. She’s clearly a consummate warrior and her direct sexual approach is refreshing, even as they continually experience one attack after another. Sarina clearly knows he’s lying about being a minor player in the negotiation process, but due to the nature of his mission he is unable to tell her that he is a high-level spy. Ever since losing his partner years ago, John has only worked alone and for good reason – he can’t afford to be distracted worrying about someone other than himself. But this Inarrii beauty might be his undoing.
The emotions, and not just attraction and love but growing tenderness between our hero and heroine, are carefully built and bring the reader into a realm of total belief regarding a relationship between these two. The larger political conflict is easily understandable and introduced with a minimum of exposition but it’s the almost anthropological approach to understanding the Inarrii where Cain excels. When science fiction becomes erotic, it always runs the risk of seeming tawdry or sensationalist, but the reader comes away with a strong respect for the differing approach to sexuality the Inarrii possess, an understanding which does not diminish the hot attraction between the main characters.
I’ll be purchasing the previous books in this series in order to enjoy this world even more and to also revel in Cain’s writing. Both the science fiction and the erotic romance side of this equation will be quite the pleasurable experience thanks to her!