Rating: 1 out of 5
H.E. Trent’s Salvo (The Jekh Saga) (Volume 3) (also available in The Jekh Saga Collection One: Erstwhile, Crux, and Salvo) focuses on Owen McGarry (the third)–Erin and Court’s older brother. He’s kept very busy on the farm setting out sensors around the farm to detect intruders, fixing up the communications equipment, and so forth. One day a search party is sent out for Ais (a Jekhan/human hybrid), who has been missing for a few hours. Given the fact that she’s legally blind and doesn’t entirely know the local languages yet, people are concerned. Owen finds her trapped in some thorns, and is seriously put-out that he had to waste his time because she was being “a silly little fool.” He decides that the best way to handle her is to lock her in his cottage and not allow her to go anywhere or talk to anyone. Meanwhile, three people from Owen’s past show up in a stolen spaceship and end up helping to track down the missing Jekhan women.
Well, you can probably tell right away why this installment got a 1/5 instead of the 3/5 I gave the previous book and the 4/5 I gave the first. Owen kidnapped Ais. The only thing that barely makes it “almost” is that he told people where she was, but he made sure she had no way to contact anyone, left her in a locked room when she couldn’t really see anything, was not entirely on time with bothering to bring her something to eat, and thought “she’d thank him later.” Then when she resorted to throwing stuff around to deal with her anger, he dismissed it as a tantrum. Note that this is a woman who was literally kept in a cage. She’s already been kidnapped. She was raped repeatedly. He completely ignores the fact that she’s been traumatized. How am I supposed to like him as the hero of a romance story once he’s done something like this? And how come she settles in fine after her first thoughts of escape? As far as I can tell the only reason she goes along with it is because she’s used to being abused and doesn’t know any better, and that’s far from romantic.
The thing is, this becomes a perfectly good SF/romance novel past a certain point. If the author had only made Owen’s initial actions less extreme, the entire book would have been good. It would have been an easy change to make. Then Owen wouldn’t have come across as an abuser. He even resents Ais for “putting him in this situation” and complains about losing his solitude! The absolute nerve of him. Then one of Owen’s friends, Luke, decides to play match-maker and pushes her toward Owen while saying, “I think if you like him a little, you should see what happens if you touch him.” No effort made to make sure she’s okay with it, particularly when she was conditioned previously to do what men wanted of her. At that point we’re supposed to suddenly decide Owen is a good guy because he finally gains a little sense and realizes that maybe having sex with her under the circumstances would be a bad move.
Back to the situation on Jekh: Thanks to Lillian and the elder Owen, the Jekhans are starting to reclaim the city. Reg Devin gets tossed in jail finally, although someone breaks him out because they want to pay him to track down Ais. Ais is also certain that she spotted one of the creatures who genetically engineered her trying to find her–she was stolen from their lab and they want her back.
The particularly frustrating thing about the Owen/Ais relationship is that it could have been made non-abusive and it wasn’t. At this point I can’t read the rest of the series.
Content note: mfm and mf explicit sex.