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Hope's Folly Mass Market Paperback – February 24, 2009
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Philip is called to lead a ship into battle. The ship in question is Hope's Folly, named after a young girl who survived an attack by Tage. Her name is Hope and her pet cat is named Folly. Philip is not amused by with the name of the ship that is also a run down bucket of metal. But Philip has no choice in the matter since the Alliance doesn't have many ships to go around. He also feels so out of place and wishes he could have Chaz by his side because even though they were far from being the perfect married couple, they are close friends. They have a lot of history together and Chaz is a woman Philip has always admired. Philip now thinks he is on his own. What he doesn't know is that a woman from is past is about to come into his life again and pull him even more off center than he already is.
Rya Bennton was part of the Imperial Fleet Security Forces and has almost five years of experience under her belt. Rya's father, who she had a great deal of respect and love for is dead. She has some residual guilt over his death because she couldn't save him. As Rya makes her way to her dead father's ship, she comes in contact with Philip. Philip doesn't recognize Rya at first, but she certainly knows Philip. When Rya was a little girl, she met Philip who came to her house. Rya's father, Captain Cory Bennton was a mentor to Philip. As most young girls Rya's age, she had a bad crush on the much older male. Philip is fifteen years old than Rya, but regardless of their difference in age, Rya finds Philip magnetic and the only man she has ever dreamed about for more than just sex. He is her perfect man, the one she could be with and grow old with. But in her mind, she thinks Philip wouldn't give her a second glance. Rya is a "big" girl, or so she believes. She feels she is too curvy in all the wrong places. Plus, the age factor as well as Philip being her superior does hinder any romance between the two. Fate intervenes and Philip takes Rya on his mission where she becomes a crew member on Hope's Folly.
When Philip first meets Rya, he is impressed by the way she can handle herself and a gun. He is even in for more of a shock when he figures out that this gun totting woman is the former little girl who used to annoy him. He even nicknamed her, Rya the Rebel, and the last time he saw her was when she was ten and he was twenty-five. It may have been twenty years since they last saw each other, but Rya made quite the impression on Philip. Now as a grown woman, Philip appreciates her in a whole new way. Rya will become his security expert on Hope's Folly and make sure she stays out of trouble. Rya will keep watch over Philip so no harm can come to him.
It seems Hope's Folly is in worse shape than originally thought. Plus, there is a saboteur on the ship who wants to take them down and perhaps get rid of Philip. It is up to Rya and some of Philip's most trusted crew to find the person responsible and get Hope's Folly into working condition. Philip also has to control his growing attraction to his adorable rebel.
In Linnea's past books, the action was not so contained as it is in Hope's Folly. There is no jumping from planet to planet or extensive battles in space. I felt this was more a mystery if anything. A mystery set in space where no one can be trusted and everyone had a gun pointed at each other's back. Things are very tense on Hope's Folly as well as the undercurrent of another type of tension all together. The other tension I am talking about is the growing lust that the much older Philip has for the much younger Rya. Both are so far gone over one another, but both tip toe around their attraction for each other because of the situation they have been placed in. How can they act on their love for one another when the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket?
Philip beats himself up over his feelings for Rya. He feels like a dirty old man, and as a man in a position of great power, he doesn't want to abuse it. He tries to be the constant professional. He also has a bit of a self confidence issue from his scars and limp. He thinks that Rya wouldn't look at him twice. It was too funny to be privy to Philip's thoughts about Rya and how he would argue with himself on why he couldn't have anything with her. As for Rya, her internal thoughts are a great joy to read. Her issues are much like those of a woman unsure about herself and dealing with the man she so wants to love. Rya is not some innocent woman in the ways of sex. She proudly admits to herself that she has had many men and has enjoyed them. That was a bit refreshing since it is the heroine, and not the hero who has had a great deal of fun in bed. Rya is also at odds with her own appeal. She doesn't seem to care for her body, but also at the same time she realizes she has generous curves and has to live with it. Of course Philip loves Rya's curves, and everything else she embodies.
One thing I noticed in Hope's Folly was that there was more of an importance on the relationship of Philip and Rya and how it grew from two co-workers who respected each other to a true loving bond. From the moment Philip and Rya meet, they are so in sync with one another. It was great to see these two people find each other in the vast universe during a time of great unrest. Philip and Rya became a true team who were able to save the day in the end, as well as find a great love with one another. There is passion between the two, but their love was more of a deep abiding one of respect.
Hope's Folly may not have too many twists and turns, but it is a great story with great characters. There were some funny moments, especially with the way Philip tries to deal with the ship's cat. I also let out a chuckle or two as Philip tries to come to terms with his feelings for Rya.
Linnea Sinclair constantly impresses with every story she writes. For the longest time I was so stuck on her hero, Gabriel "Sully" Sullivan. I can now say that Philip almost gives Sully a run for his money. Sully may always be my favorite Sinclair hero, but Philip comes in a very close second.
Shades of Dark
But what about science fiction fans? Some of you may have been disappointed by crossover sf romances that didn't deliver the goods. HOPE'S FOLLY delivers the goods. Roger Zelazny once contrasted "world vision" with "stage vision." In stage vision, there's nothing outside the story itself -- if the hero took a right turn instead of a left at some point, he'd end up out in the wings with prop men scurrying out of the way. In a story with world vision, he'd find himself in another part of the imagined world.
In HOPE'S FOLLY, you always have the feeling that you're in a real world, whether it's at Kirro station or a planetside shipyard or on the fixer-upper warship of the title. This is the third book in the Dock 5 series, so like David Weber with his HONOR HARRINGTON series and Elizabeth Moon with VATTA'S WAR, Linnea Sinclair has a created space opera universe going for her. She's mapped it out; she knows where every place is in relation to every place else. She knows how the Folly is designed, and how its weaponry compares to that of the enemy -- an interstellar empire that has gone toxic, touching off a rebellion that needs every competent man, every competent woman and every ship it can get.
Philip is a competent man and Rya is a competent woman. They know what they're doing and they're good at it. They'd better be, because the survival of freedom and justice is at stake, and even if this were straight space opera, they'd make HOPE'S FOLLY a good military sf story -- there's plenty of mystery and intrigue and a victory in space over tough odds worthy of Honor Harrington. But because they are what they are, there isn't any mystery about what they see in each other. There's nothing arbitrary about their romance, or even about their personal demons -- both have traumatic pasts, rooted in the events of previous novels -- that threaten to derail it. Philip isn't a cardboard hunk and Rya isn't a cardboard babe: these are believable people, people you're going to root for as you get into their story.
HOPE'S FOLLY is full of energy; energy that comes from the synergy of sf and romance. You can trust me; I've been an sf fan more more than 40 years, and I'm telling you you can trust Linnea Sinclair.
* okay, maybe the rebellion can't count as normal activity, but the day to day work load/routine has a certain normalcy.