Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Sam, a geeky college freshman, has bigger problems than lusting after Marcus, sexy jock, college junior, and his big brother’s best friend. Chasing after a beanie caught in the winter wind turns into a tumble down the rabbit hole for them both—science fiction style.
Sam and Marcus find themselves trapped on a tropical island in the middle of a strange ocean on an alien moon. The sole structure is a ruined temple devoted to the art of love. Flustered, confused, and unable to return home, they need to figure out a means of escape from a hostile jungle teeming with dangerous life-forms.
In this tale where opposites attract and secret crushes are revealed, two very dissimilar young men discover they actually have a lot in common after all, but it will take their differences as much as their points of connection to survive on an island in the stars.
An Island in the Stars by Susan Laine is a story that has me going back and forth on this review. Quick, two bit review? Sweet science fiction romance. Boom done. But you know I can’t leave it at that. I love Susan Laine’s The Wheel Mysteries series, one of my favorites. She has a great attention to detail and a wonderful imagination and both of those are employed here. I absolutely was fascinated by the world building and application of science that Laine used here in her story. On this island in the stars, she gives us a completely magical (and sometimes lethal) planet from the smallest and most endearing of animals to the largest and wildly unbelievable magnificent of creatures you would hope to see and everything in between. It’s all here, described in vivid, sometimes gushing detail. I could have spent hours here, without the two men/boys, exploring the landscape the author created. It was at times more alluring, more captivating, than the rest of the plot and that was part of the problem here.
The men/boys in the middle. I found Sam totally likable, 17, brilliant, shy and afraid of being out and gay, he’s been secretly crushing on his older brother’s jock friend for years. The story is told from both MCs pov so we get the wonderfully pragmatic and logical perspective that comes from Sam. Yes, he’s often afraid but he looks at things as calmly as he can (considering the wild situation they are in and the dumb things Marcus does) and tries to figure a way forward, all while being close to the guy he’s hugely attractive too. Teenage hormones anyone? Then there was Marcus. He was far more problematic for me. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, Marcus blundered from one impulsive bad thing to another. Yes, he had an explanation later for his behavior but still he was an idiot given the scary situation they were in and it took him until the end of the book to learn his lesson. Plus he’s 20, old enough to at least have a better insight but no. Honestly I spent most of the book irritated the heck by him and thinking Sam could do much better. So there’s that. His conversation is borderline silly and don’t get me started on his names for things considering his major. Not a whole lot about him made sense as a character, the complete opposite of Sam in so many ways.
While they are trying to figure their way home, they are also in the middle of an abandoned sex palace/temple where the walls are covered with explicit 3-D images of sexual acts (ala several Greek and Indian temples here) but taken by the author to science fiction extremes. Again, totally fascinating and described in incredible detail. This takes up a huge amount of the story and I was expecting it to go somewhere, like it was going to jumpstart Sam’s libido (but hey he’s 17, doesn’t need that and they are in a scary situation so there’s that too). Here the plotline starts to take a neat turn and then it’s abandoned like the temple/sex palace itself. Unless the author intends to return there one day, we will never know what Laine intended here which is a shame. It had possibilities but then again Sam is 17.
And that’s my final “thing” here. Again and again, we are told that in Montana, Sam is considered “legal”, but Marcus is 20, so not really. There’s a fine line here that the author walks sexually and continually makes her case “legally” over and over again, stating Montana laws as regards to age limits for sexual intercourse between consenting adults. And all that does is highlight the idea that maybe it’s not really all the legal between Sam and Marcus if it has to be brought up constantly. Even Sam himself tells Marcus at times, he’s not ready for “more”. I felt this part of the story was rushed and well, awkward. But perhaps that’s because I’m just not that fond of Marcus. Who knows.
Anyhow, what got me here was the universe, the world building and I wanted to see more. It’s amazing and deserving of 4 plus stars all on its own. Sam too and his “MacGyver” ability to use science to see them safely home. Love that boy! Think it all sounds intriguing? Pick up the story and let me know what you think….
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska. I love this cover and find it magical and perfect for the story. Great job.
Expected publication: June 12th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press