Captain Marrex lives aboard a huge space ship, all alone except for his two AIs, VAL and S1N. A curse in his Ghelyxian DNA has left Marrex disfigured and ugly and people think of him as a monster, so he may be better off by himself.
Juniper Bo has spent 17 years in stasis, having agreed to travel on a colonizing ship as part of an attempt to help his family. Now he awakens to learn that his ship was destroyed and Marrex found him near death and has now brought Juniper to his own ship.
At first Marrex keeps Juniper at a distance. Gruff and unfriendly after years of being alone and an outcast, it takes Marrex a while to accept that Juniper enjoys his company. And even more time to believe that Juniper is not turned off by Marrex’s appearance. But Juniper continues his friendly overtures, determined to get to know Marrex, and ultimately the two act on their attraction. But Juniper’s family thinks him dead and with them struggling financially, Juniper knows he needs to make contact with them. Marrex fears that once Juniper reconnects with his past life, he won’t still want to be with someone like Marrex. Now Marrex will have to learn to trust in Juniper’s feelings and believe that they can truly be together.
I am a sucker for the Beauty and the Beast trope in my romance novels, so I was eager to pick up this story from Bey Deckard. I think the author does a really nice job with this one, bringing in the key themes of the original story, while still giving us something unique and creative here. We have the gruff and surly Marrex, emotionally scarred by his isolation and his rejection, not to mention years of living alone with just S1N and VAL for company. He is paired with the beautiful and lively Juniper who is able to see beyond all those outside trappings to the man he really is inside. While Juniper is far from an ingenue, there is still a sweetness about him and I enjoyed watching Marrex slowly soften as he comes to accept that Juniper’s friendship and attraction are sincere. There are a few other elements with regard to Marrex’s background, as well as the effects of his curse, that nicely pick up the threads of the original tale. But this is not a straight retelling, and Deckard also gives us some interesting twists, particularly in how the story plays out with Juniper’s family. So I think we get a nice mix here and I found the story quite engaging.
I’ll note here as an FYI that Marrex is not totally humanoid in his appearance. While he has a basic human shape, he also has horns, claws, and red fur. Oh, and an amazing penis that releases a lubricant/stimulant that makes Juniper all kinds of happy. But just be aware if non-human sex isn’t your thing that there are definitely some alien elements here.
Overall I really enjoyed this story and loved Deckard’s take on the Beauty and the Beast trope. VAL and S1N make for great comic relief with their banter and bickering, and Juniper is endearing and lovely. He and Marrex make a great couple and I found the story both fun and compelling. So I definitely would recommend this one, especially if you like a little fairy tale with your science fiction.