Gabriel’s Ghost is the first book in science fiction romance writer Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five series and a winner of the RITA Award for Best Paranormal Romance in 2006. This book has a direct sequel, Shades of Dark, featuring the same main characters as the first book. Hope’s Folly, the third book (out in February 2009), is about Philip Guthrie, a character appearing in the first two books. Gabriel’s Ghost is a fun, fast-paced novel containing action and adventure in addition to the romantic storyline.
Chasidah (Chaz) Bergren, former captain of the Sixth Fleet, has been sentenced to life on a prison planet for a crime she did not commit. After three weeks as a prisoner, she is found by Gabriel Sullivan (Sully), a mercenary smuggler whom she thought to be dead. Sully faked his death and now is on a mission in which he needs a “beautiful, interfering bitch” who knows the fleet and is prepared to free Chaz if she will help his cause – which he won’t reveal until they have reached their destination. On the way to shelter, they are attacked by and kill a jukor, a huge smelly creature bred to counter telepaths that were supposedly all deemed too dangerous to everyone and destroyed.
Sully brings Chaz to an Englarian monastery where she is surprised to find he seems to know the monks rather well. She is also surprised by the presence of a Stolorth, a member of a race infamous for their mind powers and therefore abhorrent to Englarians. However, this Stolorth (Ren) is blind, an outcast of his kind because this limits his abilities to some basic empathic powers. The monk Ren is to travel with Chaz and Sully, who will pose as members of the clergy on the way back to Sully’s ship and crew where they will work on the plot Sully mentioned – destroying the Empire’s jukor breeding program. Chaz can’t help but join such a worthwhile endeavor despite being wary of Ren’s abilities and Sully’s constant flirting with her.
I have only begun reading some science fiction romance this year and this was the first book I read by Linnea Sinclair. Her novel An Accidental Goddess is on my bookshelf and I had tried reading a chapter from it before reading this one and just couldn’t get into it (yes, I am impatient sometimes). I absolutely loved this novel so I’m very glad a friend recommended it to me. The beginning of Gabriel’s Ghost had me intrigued but not riveted until I was about 2/5 of the way into the book, but from that point on I could not put it down. The day I finished this book, I read 4 pages of another book but couldn’t stop thinking about this one so I went to the bookstore and picked up Shades of Dark. With the average enjoyable series, I can wait for the next book – not this one.
The highlight of this one for me was the characters of Sully, Chaz, and Ren. The story is told from the first person point of view of 35 year old Chaz, who is a fantastic heroine. Although it is partially a romance story, she is not the swooning, brooding type but a very logical, analytical woman as fits her military upbringing and and status as a captain. Chaz will listen to her mind over her heart, and although she finds Sully very attractive, she is not ready to let herself fall for him when she thinks he just wants to conquer her and add her to his list of women. Sure, she thinks about Sully sometimes, but he’s not her only concern in life. I also appreciated that she was very open minded and willing to learn and reevaluate her beliefs if presented with evidence that they might be wrong. Ren terrified her at first since her training had taught her Stolorths were an evil race intent on destroying human minds, but instead of continuing to fear him, she talked to him and attempted to learn more about him. This does not mean she automatically decided she should not be frightened of him because Sully and the monks said she shouldn’t, which would not be very realistic since this was a belief that was deeply ingrained into her and she didn’t entirely trust Sully – but she did try to find out if what she had been taught was untrue.
Although the story is told from Chaz’s point of view, it is really about the title character and his struggle for acceptance from both Chaz and himself. As much as I loved Chaz, Sully was my favorite character. I don’t want to give away too much about what is revealed about Sully (the example I gave about Chaz happened early in the book) so I will just say that the reasons for his problems were well done and his conflicts were very understandable. His issues were not due to someone taking away his wubby toy as a child.
Ren was also a character I enjoyed reading about. He is perhaps a little too good if you like flawed characters (which I do) but I didn’t care in this case. The model monk should be kind and understanding of others and he was just so likable.
The character relationships were interesting to read about and I thought Sinclair did a fantastic job of giving each character his or her own personality and making them believable as people, but that was not the only aspect to this story. There was a lot of focus on characters and revelations about them, but there was plenty of action and adventure in the quest to destroy the jukors too (especially at the end). Gabriel’s Ghost is not just romance, as it also has a strong element of science fiction, albeit not hard science fiction but space opera. The science fiction aspect of the story is somewhat familiar with an evil empiric conspiracy, interplanetary travel, life as part of a crew on a spaceship, but it still entertains especially when combined with such great characters.
The pacing was excellent and there was never a boring moment – the pages fly by quickly with a straightforward, easy to read book like this one.
No book is perfect, even those that make their way on to my favorites list. Toward the beginning, I did find the writing style a bit abrupt and choppy with a lot of short sentences (which seemed intentional but I’m not a fan of that type of writing style). Later I did not notice this, though, so it either got smoother or I got so absorbed in the story that I ceased to care. I also did find the love scenes/descriptions to be very cheesy and read through them as quickly as possible. There were maybe two or three of those so it was a small percentage of the book and this ends up being a minor complaint. I’m not a big romance reader and I normally find these types of scenes to be a bit silly, though.
The pros far outweigh the cons with Gabriel’s Ghost, which is one I know I’ll be rereading. Highly recommended to those who enjoy science fiction romance and great characters.