Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
Desire is an addiction that could destroy them all.
The second son.
Lieutenant Commander Jace Harrow is the second son of House Morningstar—the spare, not the heir. Armored with an arrogant mask, Jace keeps the world at arm’s length to protect those around him from becoming targets for his bloodthirsty brother.
The broken sword.
Lieutenant Bryn Viera was a shadow sword and a decorated officer, dedicated to protecting her people. But for the past five years she has lived as a slave and has the scars to prove it. Bryn vowed to escape or die trying—until she met Sabine.
Born into slavery, Sabine never expected to fall in love. Her feelings for Bryn sparked her desire for a new life, but now Sabine is in phase, consumed by the need to mate with a male. Her dream of freedom with Bryn is on the brink of destruction, for to deny the phase means death.
Thrown together by the unforgiving demands of the phase, they must unite to save Cyprena’s people from a deadly new bioweapon—or be destroyed by the scars of their pasts.
Warning: Contains an arrogant officer with a weakness for having his hair pulled, an insatiable empath, and a badass warrior woman who form a male-female-female threesome sizzling enough to melt your shields.
This blurb came from the author’s website.
I usually enjoy what I have read from Bachar in the past so when I saw this and thought the world sounded familiar I requested it. I had read the first installment but I really should have reread Nightfall first since it has been two years and several hundred books inbetween ago because I think the refresher on the world and situation would have helped. As a result I found myself struggling to take the few clues included to remember the details of certain previous events referenced in this installment. My struggle certainly negatively impacted my enjoyment of this story so I highly recommend if you are interested you read Nightfall first.
Morningstar starts off with quite a situation. A team, led by Jace, was trying to rescue their contact from a mercenary attack and on the way back want to liberate as many of the civilians on the station as possible before the mercenaries blow it up. At the same time a group of sex workers led by the former warrior now slave, Bryn, decide they need to leave the station before it blows. The two groups meet and Jace offers sanctuary onboard the ship he serves. Then he discovers one of the sex-workers, Sabine, is in phase and the only thing he focuses on having her.
Cyprena women go into what is basically a form of heat which can only be abated by having a large amount of sex with a Cyprena man. Sometimes this results in children and sometimes it doesn’t. Because so many Cyprena women have been captured or just sold into slavery, their society is dangerously gender unbalanced and as a result the first male Cyprena to find a female in phase can have her regardless of what the female or anyone else thinks. Sabine and Bryn are in a committed relationship so her being in an extended period of phase is both dangerous to her health and their relationship.
Jace was almost an anti-hero in a few ways. He certainly wasn’t an example of perfection, self-control, idealized life but had several flaws. He lived in constant fear of his older brother, the heir, because of several murder attempts when he was younger. As a result he never really became friends or had a close relationship because he knew anyone/anything he cared about would become a target. So he projected quite an attitude and had learned to become a fearsome warrior while doing everything posslble to demonstrate he wasn’t a threat to his brother’s future. When he spotted Sabine, he didn’t care what it took for him to have her if it meant fighting the other male Cyprenas or taking out Bryn. However, Bryn took the decision out of his hands and Jace promised several things. I liked him for those promises but his character flaws kept appearing as the book continued and it became evident his desire outweighed his common sense.
I really liked Bryn. She was tough, no nonsense, and extremely protective. On top of being protective she was also sensual and once she agreed to something or cared about someone they were hers. I loved seeing her sacrifice what she wanted for the chance of the best possible for Sabine and her methods of selection were even better. I just kinda wish she had corrected Jace with a bit more force to go along with the rest of her personality but that was a minor quibble. Bryn was a great combination of soft and hard so watching her soften around Sabine or even when Jace hit the perfect combination was really sweet as was her determination to stay alert and protect them. Her competence made it quite evident that Jace wasn’t used to dealing with day to day threats and needed someone to trust.
Sabine was also an interesting combination. At first she seemed all yielding but as her phase and the drugs cleared from her system she was the glue that kept everyone together. It was fun watching her manipulate both Jace and Bryn to provide not only want she needed but also what they needed. She kept Bryn from being too serious and even provided a few lessons to Jace on how to deal with Bryn. She really wanted their ménage to work and I had the sense as she continued to learn how to use her empathetic powers she would be a force in her own right outside of their relationship.
I did enjoy watching the three of them work through the struggles of a previously committed duo with the requirement to add a third who wasn’t exactly willing to play third wheel but wanted to be at the center. In addition to their internal relationship growing pains they faced two serious external challenges to their relationship. Both of which involved societal and family expectations/requirements. These challenges overshadowed everything they were building and I really wanted to see how they were going to be resolved. Unfortunately, the resolution of both occurred in a very unsatisfying way for me. None of the main characters had to do, sacrifice, make a stand, or change anything. While the cause of the solution wasn’t entirely desirable to all the characters in the story, I still felt cheated.
The action continued throughout the story but unlike the first one I didn’t have the feeling the overall series arc moved forward much. It was almost as if the action was designed to showcase the individual skills of Jace, Sabine, and Bryn. Towards the end however, some events occurred which I think have moved things along although I am not sure this was a direction to help the “good guys.” I am wondering what the overall impact will be and how the “good guys” will react to the changed situation because they need to make some drastic changes.
While I was hoping Morningstar would provide me with the same level of enjoyment I have received in the past from other Bachar stories unfortunately this fell short for me. The combination of having a hard time making the connection to significant events from the first installment, the lack of noticeable series arc progress, and the unsatisfying relationship conflict resolution left me disappointed. I did like the characters and wanted to see how they settle into their relationship now some major concerns have been eliminated. I am still curious to see how the Cyprenas will manage to solve not just the overall issue but if they will make any progress on women’s rights.
I give Morningstar a C