Review: “Strange Love,” Ann Aguirre

Pros: Silly, sweet, and deliriously fun!
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ann Aguirre’s Strange Love: An Alien Abduction romance (Galactic Love Book 1) features Zylar of Kith B’alak, who has failed four times at the Choosing. If he fails once more, he’ll never have a mate, and he’ll spend his life as a servitor drone. He lacks a certain confidence, his chitin colors aren’t all that pretty, and his rival Ryzvan undermines him at every turn. So, he turns to an online matchmaking service. He’s on his way to pick up his intended mate when something goes wrong. He ends up at Earth instead, and thinking he’s rescuing his intended, he ends up kidnapping Beryl Bowman and her dog, Snaps. The computer problems cause the location of Earth to be lost, so there’s no way of getting her back home. Zylar gives Beryl a choice: he can drop her off at a station, or she can come participate in the Choosing with him. Beryl, a remarkably sanguine woman who works at a daycare and has a propensity for getting into trouble, decides that what the hell, she might as well go with him and compete to see if she can become his nest-guardian.

The world-building is pretty neat. Barath used to be over-populated, so the Choosing was created. Barathi have to compete for the right to procreate, essentially. It’s considered acceptable to “out-bond,” or mate with aliens, because they don’t need to be physically compatible–Barathi scientists can combine genetic material from both to make use of each species’ best traits.

To Beryl, Zylar is pretty terrifying–he’s tall and covered in chitin, like something vaguely insectoid. Of course, no one on Barath has ever seen a human before, and they find Beryl so fearsome that Zylar calls her “Terrible One” as an endearment. (This of course is a desired trait in a nest-guardian, because it would keep predators away.) Beryl also has experience caring for “nestlings” (toddlers) already, giving her a leg up in appearing to be an acceptable mate. Unfortunately, some of the challenges for the Choosing are quite dangerous, particularly since Ryzvan is manipulating things behind the scenes. Beryl does something a bit unprecedented–she makes an alliance with another prospective nest-guardian, Kurr, a plant creature that comes in handy.

There are shades of Mass Effect in here in that there’s human/alien sex and romance. Yes, actual explicit sex. If that isn’t your cup of tea, just don’t read this. The romance is so amazingly sweet; it takes place between two characters who start out with no inherent attraction to each other–it’s emotion that creates the heat, rather than the other way around. Zylar has some self-esteem problems, and Beryl gently shores him up. It does him a world of good to see that she isn’t impressed by Ryzvan. The relationship is very much about consent, with each character determined to only go as far as the other is comfortable with. Zylar and Beryl respect each other and want to make each other happy. It’s just delightful.

Oh, how could I forget? There’s a talking dog! Snaps and Beryl both get “chipped” such that they can converse with others, so we get to hear Snaps’ side of the conversation, which is both adorable and hilarious.

This book is funny, sweet, adorable, and yet also rather tense in places. I was having so much fun reading it that I stayed up 2 hours late to finish it!

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