Title: To See the Sun
Author: Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 295 Pages
At a Glance: As someone who enjoys sci-fi, I appreciated the attention to detail and the excellent incorporation of the setting into the story. All in all, this is a charmingly sweet romance in a captivating sci-fi package.
Reviewed By: Jovan
Blurb: Survival is hard enough in the outer colonies—what chance does love have?
Life can be harsh and lonely in the outer colonies, but miner-turned-farmer Abraham Bauer is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion—someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart.
Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.
Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work—until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.
Review: To See the Sun takes the “mail-order-spouse” trope and pairs it will the difficult homesteading conditions of the American Old West by setting the story on a newly livable mining planet called Alkirak. In the ten years since Abraham “Bram” Bauer retired from mining for the Muedini Corporation, he has become a colonist on their planet Alkirak and built a home and farm that he loves. While proud of his farm and content with his life, Bram has come to crave a family to share it with. After a year of searching for candidates for a companion contract, he comes across Gael Sonnen’s profile, and is immediately intrigued by the shyness and earnestness he sees in Gael’s eyes.
Gael has lived his entire life in the undercity of the planet Zhemosen. Cut off from the sun and prosperity of the planet above, he has struggled since childhood to care for and protect his younger brother, all the while dreaming of saving enough money for them to escape the lower districts and finally see the sun. Trapped into service by his brother’s actions and debts, Gael is forced to take a job he is ill-equipped to handle, and when it goes sideways, he uses the companion service as a way off the planet. However, his attempt to leave his old life behind isn’t entirely successful, and both Bram and Gael are smacked in the face with unexpected complications, reassessing expectations and the reality that building a life with a complete stranger isn’t as cut and dry as they thought it would be.
While Bram and Gael’s romance is very slow-burn, the pacing is right for their situation and for the characters, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship unfold. Although the MCs lived very different lives before they met, they have much in common by way of personalities and ideals. Both are relatively shy, hardworking men who like taking care of others, value home and family and are content with a simple life. Their courtship is filled with easy silences, tentative touches and the shared joy of working the land and being a family. The one constant hiccup with them as a couple is that Gael and Bram don’t establish an equal footing in the relationship, and that Bram seems oblivious to the power dynamics that keep Gael from settling in and being completely comfortable. At the end of the day, Bram holds all the power; the farm belongs to him and if their relationship fails, Gael is out the door. However, this never seems to occur to Bram; he is disappointed by Gael’s inability to think of the farm as his home but never offers Gael reassurances to that effect. So even when their relationship becomes more, those shaky foundations are still there, and are on painful display whenever Gael feels he’s stepped out of line. However, this insecurity between them does play a fundamental role in their development as a couple and the plot, so while unfortunate, it’s not without merit.
As engaging as Bram and Gael are as they build their family, the worldbuilding is equally so. Zhemosen and Gael’s experiences growing up there are very different than Bram’s experience with the planets he was born on/explored, and you can see how the different environments play a role in shaping the characters’ lives, behaviors and even their colloquialisms. I also enjoyed that while the main focus of the book was the budding friendship and romance between the MCs, that being in space wasn’t just a throwaway concept to make the book seem different. Not only is Alkirak described, but everything about the planet is important to the atmosphere and development of the story—from how the town works to the life Bram leads to major plot points. As someone who enjoys sci-fi, I appreciated the attention to detail and the excellent incorporation of the setting into the story. All in all, this is a charmingly sweet romance in a captivating sci-fi package.
You can buy To See the Sun here:
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