On this frontier, love could get you killed. And that’s part of the rush.
Space Rustlers, Book 1
Like all miracles, a rip in space has its dark side. Through it, adventurers explore new worlds, smugglers make their fortunes, and wranglers like Rick Gage pit their skills against hordes of magnificent robots. The downside? Five percent of those who enter “the sinkhole” are never seen again.
Alexia Montoya isn’t looking for thrills. She just wants to find her brother, who disappeared in the sinkhole five years ago. Conventional wisdom says he disintegrated within seconds, and the powers-that-be want her to stop looking. Stop agitating. Stop ruining business.
When desperation drives her to transit the rip herself, the official reception is armed and hostile. Luckily, someone steps in to protect her: a handsome, gun-toting wrangler—who believes her quest is futile.
Rick has one piece of advice for Alexia. Go home. But the pesky woman persists until the authorities come up with a more permanent solution. Reunite her with her brother—permanently—by throwing her into the sinkhole. After all, no one would dare challenge their absolute authority.
No one, that is, except Rick.
I loved this book and I loved it hard. Space Wrangler is a sci-fi romance that combines space travel with an Old West cowboy feel similar to Firefly. Unlike Captain Mal and his motley crew, Captain Gage is a crew of one (plus a sentient computer) and a legitimate wrangler. Like Mal, Rick is a former soldier who has a strong sense of right and wrong and has no problem wading in to help someone out who is being wronged. This is how he comes to meet Alexia Montoya – the last surviving member of the Montoya family, the family responsible for the discovery of the sinkhole and harnessing its properties for travel. As she had Sea-Mont enforcers pointing guns at her, an unarmed woman whose family was largely responsible for the D-side platform they were all standing on, Rick had no choice but to wade in on her behalf. And thus began their adventure.
Space Wrangler is the first book in a new series, so there is a lot of world building going on, especially as the book is over 350 pages. Yet I was never bored with the story. Donovan not only builds a fascinating world on Destry, but she infuses a lot of science in the story without getting over technical to the point of losing the reader. The sinkhole, space travel, sentient computers, and Titans all combine wonderfully with the Old West style justice of Seaton, wranglers, and pirate outlaws, and it kept me glued to my Kindle the entire day. Not knowing which direction the author was going to take the romance didn’t hurt either. Because even though there was chemistry between Lexie and Rick, neither was looking for a relationship and they had entirely different agendas. I actually liked that they understood and respected one another’s plans. Their mutual respect made is easy for me to believe their decision to spend a night together and go their separate ways. And it’s why I wasn’t sure which direction the author was taking the romance, especially with TJ in the picture and Rick’s departure the following day.
Donovan does an excellent job of weaving multiple storylines together in the book. Between Rick’s wrangling, Lexie tireless search for her missing brother, the conflict between Lexie and David Seaton, the mystery about the Titans, the sinkhole, the sentient computers, and the romance, there is a lot going on, but like life, it takes place simultaneously. I was shocked by the turn the book took when David Seaton showed up, not because he showed up, but because he was so freaking evil and brought out the absolute worst in his son, TJ. I will admit that while realistic to the outlaw feel of D-side, it ticked me off every time one of the men called Lexie a slut. Yes, she admits that she slept with 3 or 4 men (my confusion and by no means slut-worthy) in an effort to get help on her quest to find her brother. But the men who were calling her a slut were usually men who regularly utilized the services of the bio-girls – women who, while sweet as could be, were basically company-provided prostitutes. Yes, the sexual double standard was alive and well on the D-side. Other than that personally annoying bit of name calling, I loved Space Wrangler. And the manner in which Douglas chose to end the book with the Epilogue left me with a serious hankering for the next book in the Space Rustlers series.