It’s Cori’s first time on a station and she’s determined to make the most of it. Everything is new to her, from the smells, to the sounds, to the very sights of the station curving around her. Cori is the newest doctor in a small clinic catering to humans on the lowest level of the station and a red-headed woman is brought in near the end of the day. Aster is beautiful, yes, but she’s also unwilling to accept pain relief, shying away and surprised at any kindness.
Looking through Aster’s file, Cori discovers that the doctor in charge of the clinic has marked Aster as low priority and has refused her pain medication. Why? Because she’s a hooker. A prostitute of the lowest order. Aster isn’t licensed as a sex worker; instead, Aster works the dark lower decks of the station catering to aliens. Cori hears this, shrugs, and claims Aster as her patient, makes her high priority, and takes over her care. It doesn’t matter to her what Aster does, or why, just that she’s safe and healthy and not in pain.
And thus begins a love story spanning two space stations and a planet in a pleasant, slice-of-life love story between Cori and Aster. This is the first book in the Nova Moss Chronicles, a world in which Earth was destroyed by aliens, human separatists perform terrorist attacks on alien shops and areas, and Cori and Aster make soup, have long talks about books, and fall in love with one another.
Cori is a cheerful, friendly person, open and honest and always smiling. She’s a person whose seen shit, done shit, and is over everyone else’s shit. She’s a doctor, here to heal people regardless of who they are or how they got hurt. She’s here to live her life, to be happy, willing to open her heart and her mind to everyone and everything. Cori isn’t cruel and doesn’t hold a grudge, but she’s drawn a very firm line in the sand and if you cross it, she will gently, and efficiently, push you back.
Aster has a giant debt hanging over her, and sex work seemed to be the quickest way to cover it in the five years she has. This way, it’s her choice and her body; she’s putting no one else under obligations or difficulties, and when it’s done, she can rest knowing she did it herself. Aster feels no shame at what she does. Sex work for her is a means to an end, using the limited tools she has, and it’s something she’s good at. It’s the weight of other people’s stares and their contempt that hurt her, their ostracizing and disdain. When Cori treats Aster like a person, wants to go out in public with her, wants her to move in, Aster isn’t quick to say yes because she doesn’t want Cori to endure the same things. However, Cori shrugs and makes it clear it’s Aster, not her job, that matters. It’s Aster’s love, not the opinion of strangers she wants. And if one space station is the problem, they can move to another one. So long as they’re together. Cori’s certainty and love helps Aster remember that there’s an end to this. That, when the debt is paid, she wants someone there to celebrate it with. And Cori’s lack of judgement, her medical skills when Aster is hurt, and her love is all Aster needs at the end of the day.
Aster’s sex work is never gone into in any detail with her inhuman clients and she isn’t often injured. When she is, those injuries are played off as a side effect of the work she does … and I’m not quite certain that’s a tone I felt comfortable with. Something about how offhand it was that she got injured while working and it was just ignored — though it gave Cori a chance to play doctor and indulge in her need to care for Aster — felt a bit off putting. It felt as though it was expected and normal that, while being intimate with her clients, Aster would get bruises and injuries.
In the end, this is a quick read and decently written, however there was not enough real plot and a meandering pace. If you give it a try, I hope you enjoy it.