by Rachel Ford
Series: Black Flag #1
Publisher: Rachel Ford
Publication Date: May 3, 2019
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from BookSprout. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Go big or go home. For privateer Captain Magdalene Landon, it's all about going big. For Kay Ellis, it's about getting home. Together, they're about to architect the most daring heist in the galaxy.
Kay knows too much. She knows it’s a matter of time before a Conglomerate hitman finds her. She’s desperate for safe passage back to Union space. Then Magdalene shows up, promising a way home in exchange for that information. It’s a risky bet, but Kay is out of options. So she strikes a deal: the heist of the century for her freedom.Kay is playing a dangerous game, and she knows it. She’s made herself Enemy Number One of the Conglomerate. She’s relying on privateers for her safety. It’s a fool’s game. But the worst part is, her fool’s heart is starting to warm to the enigmatic captain. And that’s a risk for which she hadn’t planned.
I’m a sucker for scifi romance, and when I saw this had lesbian space pirates taking on a big heist, well, I couldn’t wait to read it. And for the most part, it definitely lived up to my expectations.
Kay’s had a bit of a run of bad luck and bad choices lately, with the latest leaving her stranded on a backwater planet waiting for the galactic mob, the Conglomerate, to decide to kill her. Turns out, being the key engineer behind securing their planet-sized bank means they’d be happier off with her out of the picture. So when a pirate captain – excuse me, a privateer captain – approaches her with a crazy idea to rob that bank, well, what’s one more bad decision? But falling in love with that captain might be an even worse one…
“But from where I’m sitting, I’m a dead woman anyway. I’ve got nothing to lose. But you?” I shrugged. “There’s trillions of credits sitting there in Deltaseal’s vaults. And the only way you see a penny of them is through me.”
She gritted her teeth. “Ten.”
She snorted. “You’re insane.”
“I’ll give you fifteen, and nothing else. I’ve got an entire crew to split this between.”
“And I’ve got a life on the run to fund. Forty. And that’s undercutting myself.”
She scowled at me, and I fought to repress a grin. I had the impression that Magdalene Landon wasn’t used to losing, and didn’t care for it. She pushed her seat back and got to her feet. “I’ll give you twenty-five percent, Kate Ellis. And that’s my final offer. I mean it.”
Kay’s an interesting character. After a multibillion dollar mistake – caused mostly by being run ragged by her employer – Kay’s basically blacklisted. The only job she can find is with a security-obsessed businessman, and while she realizes quickly that he’s affiliated with the Conglomerate, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. For a lot of the book, she’s stuck reacting out of desperation instead of making conscious choices, but when she finally recovers, she’s got an amazing backbone of steel – she’s a survivor. While Kay almost immediately develops a crush on Maggie, since the book is from Kay’s first person POV, Maggie’s feelings are much less obvious. Maggie’s sort of your stereotypical no-nonsense ice queen, and it’s a ton of fun watching for all the little hints that she’s thawing.
Kay describes her initial infatuation with Maggie as sort of a teen crush, and parts of the romance do read a bit YA-ish. It’s light on actual sexual content, but the tension between the two of them was great (when Maggie wasn’t freezing her out). There’s a lot of “does she like me? no, she doesn’t like me” back and forth, and it doesn’t help that Maggie blows hot and cold for the majority of the book. One moment they’re going on their first date (buying parts to fix the ship at a seedy hole in the wall joint, followed by a drink at an equally seedy hole in the wall bar, hello, AWESOME), the next thing Maggie’s giving Kay the cold shoulder with zero explanation. There’s reasons behind Maggie’s behavior, which she does share with Kay eventually, but it is initially frustrating, and I could see it turning some readers off. There’s also a hint of a gay-for-you vibe, since this is the first time Kay’s been attracted to a woman, but I think it was handled well – there’s a deliciously sweet list of all the reasons why she likes Maggie. The only other thing that bothered me is that there’s a bit of a love triangle. There’s some parts where other people (including Maggie) assume Kay is romantically involved with another member of the crew, but she sorts that out with him as soon as she realizes it, and while he does have feelings for her, he supports her (possible) relationship with Maggie.
I didn’t read the author’s bio before I started the book, but I guessed pretty quickly that she was a programmer. The techie stuff – from firewalls to rebooting servers – was well done and Kay not only loves her job, but she’s really quite good at it. Maggie’s equally a great captain, managing her crew with efficiency and camaraderie, and quite frankly it was great competence porn. The heist portion was a little bit understated for me – the actual heist part is pretty fun, but I wished there was more about the planning of it.
“My algorithms are adaptive, Katherine. They will adapt to adjust for this new information.”
“That sounds ominous,” Maggie observed.
“On the contrary, Magdalene. I only mean that – as you humans would say – ‘a friend of Katherine’s is a friend of mine.’ Knowing the value she places on you, I shall now adjust my own.”
I wasn’t sure I had ever heard anything simultaneously so sweet and yet so insanely creepy.”
Of the other crew members, we get the most about Frank, and then, to a lesser extent, Fredricks, the doctor, Ginny the engineer, and the cook, David. I really liked Kay’s friendship with Frank and all the little bits that came with him being an alien. I also got a ridiculous kick out of Kay’s robot, Sydney. She accidentally acquires him after their first heist, where the rich owner decided it was a good idea to reprogram hulking security bots to serve as a butler. This results in an interesting mishmash of programming, and the robot basically adopts her and follows her around like a puppy dog.
Overall, I think I’d rate this around 3.5 stars. While I had some issues with the book, I still really enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series to see what happens!