Playboy Tellan knows other races consider his people spoiled and arrogant, but he’s determined to put aside fine sheets and elegant meals in order to search for a mythical Domidian elixir for his ailing sister. He’s also smart enough to realize he’ll need help staying alive in the unsettled wastes of the Empty Quadrant.
Enter Jorant, an intimidating Atavaq who’s been genetically modified to be the perfect soldier. On the run from his past, Jorant accepts the task of protecting Tellan as they venture to a planet populated by tentacled monsters and space pirates. As they search for the potion, Jorant realizes his Domidian client isn’t as helpless as he’d assumed, and Tellan is intrigued every time the taciturn bodyguard speaks.
I believe this may be the first sci-fi romance I’ve read in which both main characters were aliens of different races – no humans involved – and I really enjoyed it. With that said, I still approached the story as if Tellan was human (or at least humanoid) because so many of his mannerisms and behaviors were characteristic of a human. Obviously this relegated Jorant to the role of full-on alien for my mind’s frame of reference and once Lore reveals the true nature of Jorant’s being, it wasn’t a far-fetched assessment.
With The Essent Quest being a novella, the author wastes no time in getting the story moving and we join Tellan as he is purchasing the provisions he will need for his quest – to find the mythical Essent Water, which is said to be able to cure those who drink it. While doing so, he meets Jorant, an Atavaq soldier who, we learn, has been in hiding due to his last failed contract. When circumstances occur that necessitate Jorant leaving the planet, he ends up getting hired on as Tellan’s guide/guard for the journey. As the men spend time together, some of it peaceful, some of it harrowing, they get to know one another a little better, but not well enough for either to admit to the other that they are attracted to men. Fortunately for Tellan, but unfortunately for Jorant, an attack results in an injury that leads the men to some extremely close contact and biology “outs” their secret. Oh thank you, biology! But once the quest is over, can there be a future for two men whose races seem set on being enemies?
My only real “complaint” is that early in the novel, I was under the impression that Tellan’s sister had asked him to search for the water; however, when we meet Mirae toward the end of the book, she seemed surprised that Tellan had gone on his quest and was nonchalant about the water. I take that back, I do have another complaint – I wasn’t ready for it to end! I really liked learning about the two different cultures and even the differences of the Atavaq people versus the Atavaq soldiers. But even those issues did not diminish my overall enjoyment of the novella as Lore does a great job of combining action, romance, and hot man-on-man action to make The Essent Quest an enjoyable treat. I do hope the author writes a sequel because I’d love to see where life takes Tellan and Jorant next.