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Molly in the Middle

The Midnight Moon by Stobie Piel
(Leisure Love Spell, $4.99, R) ISBN 0-505-52268-3
The Midnight Moon will please many fans of sci-fi romance. There's much to like in this story, especially if you enjoy complicated plots and lots of innuendoes.

Dane Calydon is biding his time on the planet of Candor, waiting for something to happen. He's an ambassador of sorts, an assistant to the planetary leader, and he's thrilled when a summons comes which leads to a troubleshooting assignment on the planet Franconia. He'll travel in the company of two women. One is Galya, overtly sexual and a Tseir, the most populous race of Franconia. The other is Aiyana, a Keiroit. Both Tseir and Keiroit are engaged in a struggle against the Ellowan, a violent race of warriors bent on the destruction of other civilizations.

Or so it seems.

Under the rags and wrappings she wears, Dane soon finds that Aiyana is a lovely young woman. She's also not the Keiroit she claims to be, and before Dane quite knows what's happening, he's involved up to his neck in treachery and deceit. Aiyana holds all the answers, if she'll only tell him.

Parts of this book I really enjoyed, and parts of it frustrated me immensely. The author obviously knows her worlds and her characters inside and out. I enjoyed immersing myself in the settings. My problem was that I found the story line to be confusing. The various races and worlds and history were hard to follow. I think I needed a flowchart or something to help me keep it all straight.

Aiyana was a mixed bag. She spends the first half of the book casting tragic glances and dropping references about the time when she "lived", and the time when her people "were alive", and the time "before the tragedy". I shared Dane's exasperation with all this cloak and dagger backstory, and wanted some answers to help move the story along. As it was, Aiyana takes so long to explain what she's about that I lost much of my interest in her.

The story trickles out in frustrating dribs and drabs, and rather than piquing my interest, I felt teased.

Dane was a much more engrossing character. He's attracted to Aiyana, so much so that he believes he loves her. At the same time, she's a mystery and refuses to explain herself. What's a guy to do? How can he believe in a woman who won't tell him the truth, even when he demands it? And it's not like Aiyana is hiding an earth-shaking secret. When she does finally get around to explaining herself, it just wasn't worth the wait.

The sexual explicitness in this book may surprise some readers, but it seemed to fit the futuristic setting. Aiyana and Dane have no trouble communicating in bed.

Futuristic romance is a shrinking sub-genre, and I give full credit to any author willing to tackle the special demands of a sci-fi romance. The Midnight Moon wasn't a home run for me, but perhaps a solid base hit. I am sure that it will strike other futuristic lovers in a different way. Enjoy.

--Cathy Sova

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