A million years, ago a galactic empire fell. That ancient empire is a source of many things. Wonder, knowledge, academic careers, and treasure. Treasure is what Beau Johnson seeks, tracking down artifacts for high-paying clients. Once a top student at the specialist institute for the study of the ancient empire, Beau rejected respectable archaeology and academia in favor of adventure. Unlike his one-time rival Park Ki-tae, a brilliant student who became an enforcement agent tasked with keeping Imperial artifacts out of private collections. Beau thinks Ki-tae needs to loosen up, have more fun, and stop making it his life's work to send Beau to jail. Ki-tae thinks Beau is a rogue and a criminal, and that it was a big mistake to sleep with him that one time... When a client sends Beau after a legendary artifact that allows communication with the dead, Ki-tae pursues, sure that this time he'll nail Beau. But circumstances force them to work together and deal with the feelings for each other they've both long denied. They have very different plans for the artifact they're seeking--if it's not a myth. Will they ever agree on their plans, or on anything else at all?
Dear Becky Black, as I said quite a few times I tend to gravitate towards m/m stories set in SFF or mystery setting. By now of course I read quite a few good contemporary books, but if the story is a science fiction or mystery, it is always an extra attraction for me. The blurb of your book promised space opera and “from enemies to lovers” romance, so of course I one clicked.
Let me say right away that overall I did like the story even if I had some issues. The major issues was a world building. I would argue that on the macro level it was vague almost non- existent; certainly the readers should not expect to find themselves in the new and complex imaginary world. As the blurb states the Empire felt, apparently hundred thousand years ago (or maybe not – I made this conclusion based on the one sentence that empire fell when the humanity was learning to throw rocks, or something like that). Maybe it fell further back in time to when the events in the story are taking place, or closer in time, I am not sure.
Apparently the Empire left behind many interesting artifacts on various planets and now there are people who collect them, people who find them (and finding the artifacts could be very dangerous affair) and there are people who are working for the government and arrest people who collect the artifacts on behalf of the collectors or for themselves if those artifacts are protected.
Beau and Kie – Tau were the students in the Institute together, only Beau chose the life of artifact collector and Kie chose the life on the other side . In the very beginning Beau and his work partner Marz are offered a job by the very rich client whom they worked for before. The client told them that he has a lead on the famous artifact and he wants Beau and Marz to investigate the lead. The problem is that every collector, every artifact hunter, everybody who studied the Empire knows that such artifact does not exist. Or does it? The client offers a lot of money even if they will only go and investigate and if they find the non-existent Holy Graal of this world he offers Beau and Marz and their crew ten million dollars.
Beau comes from the one of the richest families on Earth, he really does not need money, but he is tempted by the possibility to set his crew up for life and of course even if there is only tiny chance that artifact is a real thing he is tempted by that tiny chance as well. They decide to take the job.
Small complication to their mission is that Beau’s nemesis and former classmate Ki-Tae who now works for the Institute learned about the mission and decided to see if he would be able to arrest Beau.
Beau and Ki-Tae were students in the institute together but chose different sides of the barricades after graduation. They also slept together once few years ago, but every time they see each other now they fight. I am a little bit conflicted as to how I feel about the execution of “from enemies to lovers” in this book. On one hand, sure the guys have perfect reasons to dislike each other.
As I said they are on the different sides of the barricades. I also liked that they had been attracted to each other and at least seemed to realize that the attraction was part of the package. They did not come to the realization somewhere in the middle of the book that they don’t just hate each other, but also have the mutual angry attraction going on. When this happens, I always want to smack the characters across their heads, because to me it makes them sound stupid.
Here I felt that both men were aware what was going on and tried to fight it (kind of tried anyway) for some time. What was missing for me is that pretty quickly I decided that the reason for them being on different sides of the barricades was not all that convincing. So Beau and Marz and their small crew collect artifacts. They collect artifacts and rich collectors pay them money to go on adventure and risk their lives. The Institute as a Government Institution seemed to feel that protected artifacts need to be out on display for everybody to see or the private collectors should at least loan them to Institute for their research.
I guess I just wanted to ask Kite Tai what was Beau doing which was so bad, if he tried for a little objectivity. Institute wants to study something that private collector got their hands on first? Go talk to this collector and negotiate, pay them a fee for studying the item they got. I did not even get the impression that Beau and Co were thieves. I have no problem with the fictional thieves by the way, if I like the characters and their motives, but was Beau even doing that? I was not clear.
And mind you, what does it mean that the artifact is protected? Is there a law that forbids private collectors to take those? If such law existed, I could at least understand why Kie Tae wanted to place Beau under arrest. Once again I was not sure. And the artifact Beau was trying to find in this story was not even protected because how can one protect something that does not exist and the official story was that it did not exist.
What I saw in Beau was modern Indiana Jones ( I only make this comparison because he was finding interesting things – I watched movies years ago and do not remember the plot), who was born to the life of privilege ( his Grandma was the US president at some point), but who seemed like a decent guy who cared about his partner and his employees and who cared about Kie Tau a whole lot, their mutual snarling notwithstanding.
By the way I do not blame Kie Tau for disliking Beau in the story, I just do not think that the author went into too much depth to tell me why, but she probably meant to portray him and his team as the law breakers, I just wish I knew which laws they were breaking
I feel like I spent a lot of time criticizing the world building, but when the adventure started I thought it was a lot of fun. The characters faced some serious danger, they learned some things about themselves and at the end I liked both men better than I liked them at the beginning of the story. To me this usually means that both of them grew up at least a little bit and I liked that. I also appreciated that several sex scenes did not interrupt the flow of the story and happened at times when the characters were not in mortal danger, because I hate when the mortal danger is put on hold. I mean I think one was pushing it, but I could still buy that when they knew that the bad guy would board their ship several hours later they would have plenty of time to get some sex in in case they will die soon. Stretching, but possible if you ask me.
What I also appreciated very much was the ending. For me it was strong HFN ending in their personal lives, but in their professional lives we leave the guys as they are about to face pretty serious repercussions for the events that took place earlier in the book. I liked that it was not an ending with the neat bow.
Grade : B-