On Monday, I began a three-part review of HOTTER ON THE EDGE, a science fiction romance anthology. Today's review is for the second novella in the anthology, TO BUY A WIFE by KC Klein.
Blurb for TO BUY A WIFE:
In a harsh land where corruption rules and women are few, cold realist Hudson Land must purchase a wife to save his farm. Instead of an auction, he witnesses the start of an execution. With his first look at a beautiful woman in years, Hudson knows he has to have her—no matter the cost. Lake, a chemist and a rebel fighter, is resigned to her death, but when some back-hill farmer rescues her from the chopping block she has no intention of simply becoming his wife. She’s pledged her life to the Rebellion and being bought for some stranger’s bed doesn’t change a thing, though his soft caresses have her longing for more. As lies and secrets build between them, are the quiet moments during the nights they’ve shared enough to stand against two warring factions in a world where only the strong survive?
Let me say this right off the bat, the blurb is misleading.
We meet Hudson first. He's just arrived in town to purchase a wife to save his land from being confiscated by the Elders as an unmarried man is not allowed to own land. He's desperate to buy a wife and is willing to give forth his life savings to get one to save his land, land that has been in his family for generations. Having missed the wife auction, Hudson's last resort is to purchase a wife by saving her from execution. It's a dangerous thought taking a criminal for a wife but he's running out of time.
Lake is so close to death, she can taste it but has resigned herself to it. Knowing her life isn't worth any of the Rebels coming to save, she is surprised when a big man wielding an axe claims she is carrying his child. Simple words that save her life. Women and children are a precious commodity and cannot be squandered. With no other choice, shackled both physically and legally to this man, Lake must go with him. It doesn't, however, stop her from trying to kill him on the way to his farm.
The misleading line in the blurb is: are the quiet moments during the nights they’ve shared enough to stand against two warring factions in a world where only the strong survive?
The reader doesn't really witness these quiet moments during the nights they've shared.
As it is written, TO BUY A WIFE is Lake's story. We meet Hudson first, we learn what he needs from Lake - protection for his farm, his men, future children, and companionship. I think we even get a hint of his wanting love. After Hudson brings Lake to his farm, he makes a deal with her that she may have twenty-four hours to do what she needs - something she won't tell him - but that she return willingly to him as a wife and eventual mother to his children. Lake agrees but has no intention of keeping her promise. It's at this point that I feel Hudson becomes a secondary character. It becomes Lake's story, her journey, her mission, and eventually her fight. Hudson comes across as nothing more than a second thought and bodyguard. When he does go after her and makes a deal with the Rebels to retrieve Lake's brother, Vonn, I felt it before he declared it that he would easily accept Vonn into his family - I like Hudson.
Lake is a strong character, a strong female character - KC is good at writing strong female characters - but I get the feeling of Lake resigning herself to being Hudson's wife more than desiring it, at least until literally the very end of the story. The romance wasn't evident in this science fiction romance novella. The scene where Lake is being Marked and Hudson brings her to orgasm while she is being brutally tattooed was more sexually sadistic than romantically tender on Hudson's part since this was supposedly Lake's first real sexual encounter. I would think she would forever link sex with pain after that, not tenderness.
You're probably saying to yourself, uh oh, she didn't like TO BUY A WIFE ... not at all, I liked it but I feel it was short changed by being a novella instead of a full-length novel. The premise of the story is intriguing. I got a scifi western-esk feel from it, reminiscent of some Firefly episodes and I liked that. The problem I had with TO BUY A WIFE is that I wanted more. I wanted to see more interaction between Lake and Hudson. I wanted to know more about the world in which they lived, how it came to be and why there was such a shortage of women. I wanted to see Hudson play a greater role in the story and to see him meet Vonn and interact with the boy who he was willing to call his family merely to please Lake. I wanted to feel that Lake really was falling in love with Hudson.
In short, as it was written, TO BUY A WIFE didn't present itself as a romance - a science fiction novella, yes, but a science fiction romance, no. Perhaps some day, KC will take this story and expand it into the really wonderful full-length science fiction romance that I think it can be. HOTTER ON THE EDGE is an anthology still worth reading!
HOTTER ON THE EDGE, a science fiction romance anthology featuring novellas by Erin Kellison, KC KLEIN, and JESSA SLADE. Published by Hotter Edge, released on February 2, 2012, ASIN: B00757WOT6. Ebook format. Available at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Limited time: you can get it for $.99.