Review – There All Along by Lauren Dane and Megan Hart

There All Along cover image
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher

Bestselling authors Lauren Dane and Megan Hart deliver two stories of longing, lust, and love in futuristic worlds where love comes first—then survival…

Land’s End by Lauren Dane…The Land’s End highway is one of the most dangerous places in the universe. The constant peril of brigands keeps Verity Coleman stuck in Silver Cliffs, dreaming of the open road—and of Loyal Alsbaugh, the tall and silent highway patrolman. When her town is attacked, Verity has a chance to win over Loyal’s muted heart. But will his wounded past make him leave her along the road, or can she convince him to take her along?

By the Sea of Sand by Megan Hart…Captain Kason Reed was willing to give his life to the Sheirran Defense Forces, but now he can’t remember anything but bits and pieces of the war. When his sexual attraction to his caregiver, Teila, causes him to make advances toward her, she becomes the aggressor, urging him with her body to explore the memories of his past—memories that all seem to draw him back to Teila…
This blurb came from Goodreads.

Land’s End by Lauren Dane

As much as I love reading an anticipated installment in a series, there is something special about picking up a story set in an entirely new world written by a trusted author. It is like going on an adventure and knowing that the journey to the unknown end-point will be full of surprises. As a result when I read the blurb for Land’s End a few weeks ago I was pretty excited. Reading Land’s End was even better than my anticipation and made me hope she would turn this into the start of a new series.

Dane established a very interesting setting. Isolated settlements or villages have developed connected only by a major road called Land’s End. Some of those villages were larger, better protected and equipped while others were smaller and more tenuous. They were always on the defensive from attacks by traveling hordes of brigands who survived by raiding. The villagers were expected to provide their own self-defense long enough for the roving highway patrol to respond. Unfortunately as the brigands became more adept or more determined, the larger villages could no longer depend on their size as a deterrent. Silver Cliffs was one of the larger towns set up in a well defensible location. It was also one of the favorite stops for the highway patrol on their route as they delivered mail, goods, and supplies.

I enjoyed Loyal and Verity. Both filled valuable roles in their world but they felt constricted by society’s expectations. Verity was married off at a very young age and gratefully widowed some years later. She inherited and ran the post office/general store, which happened to be the location that Patrolman Loyal stayed at during all of his trips. As a widow, Verity had a bit more freedom than the usual unmarried woman in Silver Cliffs but she was still faced with restrictions on her movement and behavior. For years, she fed her lust for adventure and travel on the tales that Loyal provided during their evening discussions but Verity decided that she wants more. Loyal looked forward to his stops at Silver Cliff and the welcome he would receive from Verity. While he would have welcomed more than lodging, he knew she walked a precarious line between acceptance by her village and losing her reputation. He also felt she was worth more to him than a casual stress relief. As a result, it was up to Verity to pursue and convince Loyal to give them a chance.

Counterbalancing the passion of Loyal and Verity’s romance was the intensifying danger from the brigands and Verity’s shunning by her family for going against their wishes. I thought the inclusion of those two elements really brought to the forefront what Verity and Loyal were risking and what they could gain. Watching Verity show she refused to be limited to a specific role nor would she support limiting anyone else’s dreams spoke volumes about her character. Loyal also showed one of the many reasons Verity was attracted to him when he mentally wrestled against possible danger to Verity and the certainty of losing her if he tried to keep her constrained. I loved their resulting compromise.

By the Sea of Sand by Megan Hart

When I was looking at this anthology, I thought Hart’s name was familiar but I couldn’t quite figure out why. After looking at her backlist I realized that was because I owned some anthologies with her contributions but I had only read selected stories. Obviously I need to go back and correct my oversight. Hart also created a very interesting world that I would love to see more of despite the sometimes uncomfortable questions raised by the narrative. Humankind has expanded to the stars and as a side effect of the expansion bumped up against another space-going species that was not willing to share. The inevitable ensued and as the enemy tactics changed over the centuries, fighters suffering from both physical and mental wounds needed a place to heal.

The planet Sheir has oceans made of sand complete with waves, tides, winds, and storms. Teila, one of the Sheir residents is also a single mother who runs a lighthouse along the edge of The Sea of Sand. With the loss of her husband, she started to take in some of the more grievously wounded fighters who needed a peaceful place during their recovery. Then one day a new fighter, Kason, arrived who was close to dying. He had no memory of his previous name, life, or much beyond his torture as a captive and his time in the military. However, he was intensely attracted to Teila and she returned his attraction hoping their time together would help him regain his memory.

The dynamic between Kason, Teila, a high military commander, and the other individuals recuperating at the lighthouse was full of underlying messages and tension. Teila was trying desperately to help Kason heal because she had a lot at stake with his health. The high military commander had personal and professional reasons to hope for Kason’s recovery. In addition to the internal and external pressure to help Kason recover, not all of the other inhabitants of the lighthouse were supporting Teila’s efforts which added to the tension. As the story continued it became evident that the information provided to the public was very different from reality and that raised the stakes even more. Not only did learning aspects of the truth raise the stakes for Kason and Teila but it also raised some questions in my mind about the trust we tend to place in public officials.

I will admit I found it a bit jarring when things came to a head and the pieces started coming together in a rather shocking series of events. I knew something was going to happen but I wasn’t expecting the extent of that something. While the novella had a satisfactory ending I have some serious questions about what happened after, not with Kason and Teila but with Sheir, the military, the war, and the lies told to the public. Like Dane’s earlier novella, I would love to see Hart continue to write in this world/universe because I think there is so much possibility.

I give There All Along an A-

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