Series: Star World Frontier
Published by Self Published on May 26, 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Sexual Content: Explicit sex scenes
Reviewed by: Kim
A desperate woman in need of a miracle—A bad-boy prince in need of redemption
She was playing with fire...
Jemm Aves battles to keep her dreams alive on a dead-end world. Working for the mines by day, she’s a successful bajha player at night, disguised as a male to be allowed to compete in the colony’s dangerous underworld where club owners will go to extremes to retain the best players. Every win puts her one small step closer to her goal: saving enough to escape Barésh with her family. When a nobleman from one of the galaxy’s elite families recruits her to be a star player for his team, it's because he doesn't know her secret. Her ruse proves to be her most perilous game yet when it puts both their lives—and her heart—at risk.
Prince Charming he was not...
Prince Klark is eager to reverse his reputation as the black sheep of the Vedla clan, a family as famous for its wealth and power as it is for being a bastion of male-dominated tradition. If his bajha team can win the galactic title, it would go a long way toward restoring the family honor that his misdeeds tarnished. He travels to Barésh to track down an amateur who’s risen to the top of the seedy world of street bajha, offering the commoner a chance of a lifetime: a way off that reeking space rock for good. But his new player comes with a scandalous secret that turns his plans and his beliefs upside down. He sets out to win a very different prize—his champion’s reluctant heart.
This book is fabulous. Automatic new favourite.
I fell in love with Jemm, the main characters, from the first few pages of the book. She’s strong, she’s worried about her family and she wants a better life for them. She wants to follow her dreams, but the same sport that is putting food on their table is the one their mother claims killed her father. Oh, and girls aren’t allowed to play bahja, a kind of sensory-deprived fencing/martial art/yoga. Oops.
The story of the girl dressed as a boy, updated, in space! I also appreciated that unlike many of these stories, the other main character, Klark, catches on early in the book, making it their secret to protect rather than her versus him. It was a pleasant change of pace and really helped raise the stakes: he was not another victim of her deceit, he was her co-conspirator. He wasn’t just training a hot new talent, he was training a woman he was learning to love.
One of the best things about this book was the way the three planets the action took place on we're so different. The cramped, dirty, dome-covered planet of Barésh felt claustrophobic and dangerous. We could understand why Jemm would do anything to escape it. There are dirty children everywhere, crime and corruption are constant, and the poor die of things the rich get cured in an instant. Still, Klark’s world is no less dangerous, if more comfortable; every move is being watched and calculated, women have less power than on Barésh, and your mistakes are not only your own, they shame your whole family. The tropical planet where Jemm and Klark train was lush and felt like a perfect hideaway, one they knew was only a reprieve from the real world of competition and backstabbing.
THE CHAMPION OF BARÉSH is related to other books in the previous series, but is isolated enough that you don’t need to have read them. Even without knowing the full story, I knew that Earth was a new player, that the in-fighting of the noble families was serious business and that the universe can be a harsh, unfair world.
The romance between the two characters evolves slowly, at first confusingly because he thinks she’s a boy, then hesitantly because he’s the team’s owner and he trains them as well. They almost tumble into it, and as a reader you’re just cheering for them to just get it sorted!
Susan Grant’s books always make me happy when I read them. The worldbuilding is top notch, the characters feel alive and real, and I always end up thinking about them for days after I finish them. I have re-read MOONSTRUCK and CONTACT so many times, I nearly know them by heart, and I still enjoy them fully every time. I’m adding THE CHAMPION OF BARÉSH to my short list of science-fiction romance favourites!More Reviews: