Thierry is a Sythe orphan, which means he’s a humanoid being who happens to have very dark purple skin and is highly sensitive to touch, which makes Sythes extremely responsive sexually. They are a small race of beings and highly valued as consorts. Thierry’s older brother Corbin works as an aspacian, a trained prostitute, in an exclusive brothel on the pleasure planet of Wish. He spends tow weeks of every month as a companion and occasional sex partner where he makes sufficient money to keep their lives comfortable.
When Thierry is accepted to the Intergalactic Star Pilot Academy, the first Sythe to ever be accepted, he and Corbin are elated…and troubled. The entry is too expensive for Corbin’s earning potential. An idea comes to mind, however. Thierry—determined to be a pilot—has been a stalwart student and never dated, though he’s attracted to males. Corbin contacts the owner of his brothel, Monroe, to see if Thierry’s virginity can be auctioned—and if the price will cover the cost of school.
Thierry travels to Wish when Corbin is due to return for his two-week stint and meets Monroe who has agreed to host his virginity auction. Monroe is a Denobelas man, a race Thierry has never seen personally, but he finds Monroe to be strikingly attractive. Thierry is understandably nervous at the brothel, and I was really drawn to his vulnerability, especially when his brother’s clients started to hit on him. The auction goes off as planned, with Thierry’s virginity selling for far more than his goal. It’s a relief and a stress, as now Thierry must prepare himself to deliver the goods. I enjoyed how tentative Thierry was about this prospect; he has several conversations with Monroe and Corbin that help him accept this new role with grace. The sex, when it happens, is very lovely. Thierry’s highest bidder chooses to wear a facemask and doesn’t speak throughout their encounter, which includes a shared meal. He is a passionate and considerate partner, whose only defining characteristic is a dragonfly tattoo, so Thierry dubs him Dragonfly in his mind.
Once the deed is done, Thierry recognizes that he had a special experience, and treasures the memory. Monroe tells him his highest bidder is willing to pay him a stipend if he will write weekly letters to update his progress. Thierry is agreeable, and writes his Dargonfly short notes, always hoping that they will connect. It isn’t long before Dragonfly sends a message via Corbin that he’d love to pay for the pleasure of Thierry’s company. Again.
So Thierry has another conundrum. He likes Dragonfly, but he’s a star pilot trainee. Can he also meet with the man he’s coming to know via their correspondence? And, is he a professional aspasian like Corbin if he takes Dragonfly up on the offer?
There are some crises of conscience, and a huge conflict of interest involved in this tale. I very much enjoyed the sensuality and love story as it developed between Thierry and Dragonfly. I think I really would have enjoyed a bit more alienness to the story, however. Beyond a few descriptions of appearance, and all the travels between planets (which was remarkably short), this really could have been a human love story. The speech and manners and physiology of the alien races in the story was all so human, so much so that I soon forgot they were alien races, and that was a shortcoming, for me.
All in all, it was a solid story with an interesting plot hook. I will admit, I found the brief epilogue emotionally rewarding, too.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.