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Love and the Corps (The Heart Nebula Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
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The mentality and pure grind of serving in the military takes point in the story. Jo is the platoon leader of space grunts sent out by command to keep the peace, settle insurrection and covertly spy. She is well-trained and can kick a** six ways to Sunday. She is also brave, selfless, humble about her own achievements, generous with praise to others, suffers when she loses troops, and relatively inexperienced with men mainly because they are all intimidated by her. She is also insecure about her attractiveness to men due to her brawnier build and a distinctive facial scar. Lex spends an incredible number of pages in this book disabusing Jo of that notion. Though I want a female military leader to not really care about such things, Jo's insecurities go back to her formative teenage years and are also deeply rooted in her own success and position within the corps. Cuvay does a good job of making you feel her pain rather than pity.
The author also twists this idea on its head because Jo thinks Lux is sex walking on a stick, while he has his own insecurities because his genes are considered "defective" by other Klorakians. Plus, the thought of a black tongue on silver skin had me really intrigued. I liked the way Cuvay played with the ideal of beauty within cultural norms.
Although there are interludes of military action, this book is all about the romance. Even though Jo is a woman warrior through and through, her sexual inexperience - and the maneuverings of Lux to at first prove his prowess and then later his love - screamed 1980s bodice ripper. Sometimes even the language seemed lifted out of a 1986 pirate romance novel (how does a nipple pucker shyly?). Somehow Cuvay manages to juxtapose that retro sensibility with a military sci-fi setting, and I think it is because Jo and Lux are likable and flawed, but genuine and good at the same time. They are also vicious when necessary.
In hindsight, this book had somewhat simplistic world-building. At first you don't notice it because the story is told from the perspective of military grunts, who might not know the bigger picture and certainly aren't part of the strategic plans. This book isn't about politics. It is about military missions, living through them, championing what you can, relying on teammates, regretting the necessary evils of warfare and finding happiness when and where you can. Surprise revelations keep the tempo going. There are definitely some things I could pick on about this book, but I won't because the romance was a romp with heart - and an epic epilogue.
One final note - although this book is billed as the second in the Heart Nebula Series, I haven't read book one and wasn't lost for a second. In fact, I'm not entirely sure how book one even ties into the story. I would read more of this series.