Her voice is famous throughout the galaxy; her face is completely unknown.
Fleeing her monstrous husband back on puritanical Earth and the police assassins he’s hired, singer Mella Archer becomes stranded on the frontier planet of Nexus. Desperate to survive, she picks the wrong target–Dain, the head of planetary security.
Dain is amused by the attempted theft, and when Mella is sentenced to serve time indentured as a bedroom slave, he buys her contract. As he introduces the repressed Earther to the pleasures of sex with a dominating warrior, he slowly comes to realize that the little thief has stolen his heart.
When the monster arrives on Nexus and has lunch with Dain, Mella is panic-stricken. Her owner must be part of the conspiracy to kill her, and it will only be a matter of time before the monster discovers that she’s still alive. She attempts to escape. She fails. Embittered by her lies and mistrust, Dain returns her to Indenture Hall to be sold again.
Oddly enough this is quite possibly the only full-length novel of Sinclair’s earlier works that I have not read. Why is this odd? Not only am I a huge fan of the author’s writing, but sci-fi erotica is one of my favorite genres. My guilty pleasure, if you will. So the fact that this is the first time I’ve read The Starlight Rite is odd to say the least. When I discovered and devoured the Shadowlands novels and moved on to the Mountain Masters and Dark Haven series, I have no idea why I didn’t nab this book at the same time. But as the book has now been rereleased with a new publisher, I’m kinda glad I didn’t read it before because I now own the newly released edition rather than the original version. Despite this, I’m also kinda ticked at myself because The Starlight Rite combines just the right amount of BDSM, science fiction, romance, and stellar sex that guarantees it multiple reads.
The author wastes no time jumping straight into the action when we meet Mella as she is contemplating how best to steal money from an unsuspecting mark. Before you judge her too harshly, Mella is in the unenviable position of being stranded on a planet not her own, with no money, no food, no connections and having barely survived an assassination attempt – by her husband. But when her mark turns out to be more able-bodied than she expected, she ends up on the auction block being sold into 39 days of slavery to pay for her crimes. Although she does not think so at the time, she is fortunate that her indenture is bought by her victim, Dain. Even though he doesn’t trust her, Dain finds himself drawn to Mella and outbids a sadist to keep her safe … and in his control. Despite their wariness of one another, Dain and Mella communicate beautifully in the bedroom – that is once he is able to get past the moral rigidity of her upbringing and introduce her to the pleasures of sex. In comparison to Sinclair’s Shadowlands series, the BDSM elements found in The Starlight Rite are mild in comparison as it’s more of a focus on domination and submission with light impact play. But this does not equate to a lessening of the heat because Sinclair writes hot sex and this book is no exception. Add to the mix Mella’s homicidal husband, corruption among the planet’s law enforcement, and the romance between Mella and Dain … well that kept me up until one in the morning so I could finish the book because I had to know how it ended.
While this is not the first sci-fi erotica book that I’ve read in which the heroine falls in love with her alien “owner” (nor will it be the last), Sinclair makes the concept her own. In many cases, the hero is an unsympathetic male who has to be won over by our heroine. But Dain is quite sympathetic to the differences between his people’s sexual openness and what amounts to the sexual shaming of Earthers. This actually seems to be the impetus for him attending the auction and it is at her plea that he procures Mella’s contract. Her resistance to Dain was not unexpected, especially as we learned about the attitudes Earthers have about sex and this is actually what made her eventual submission to him enjoyable to read. Her reaction to seeing Dain with her husband on the news was realistic and heartbreaking, just as his reaction to her escape attempt was. The actual Starlight rite scene was hot as heck, but I was surprised that nothing came of that particular coupling, all things considered. Of course the presence of Mella’s ex on the planet adds a good deal of action to the storyline and had me worried about the ultimate outcome for Mella and Dain’s relationship. But in true Sinclair fashion, the end was exactly as it should be. The Starlight Rite shows that Sinclair’s talent is not restricted to Earthlings and I can only hope that she decides to revisit the sci-fi erotica genre again in the future.