The Central Galactic Concordance has been stable for two centuries, but trouble is brewing. A pandemic is affecting hundreds of civilized planets, and someone is stealing the vaccine...
Brilliant investigator Luka Foxe's hidden mental talent is out of control, making him barely able to function in the aftermath of violence, and the body count is rising. The convoluted trail leads to a corrupt pharma industry and the possibility of an illegal, planet-sized laboratory. In the face of increasing threats, he must rely on an enigmatic, lethal woman he just met, but she has deep secrets of her own.
Mairwen Morganthur hides extraordinary skills under the guise of a dull night-shift guard. The last thing she wants is to provide personal security for a hot-shot investigator, or to be plunged into a murky case involving sabotage, treachery, and the military covert operations division that would love to discover she’s still alive.
Two more lives in a rising death count won’t bother their enemies one bit. Their only hope for survival lies in revealing their dark secrets and learning to trust one another.
I loved the finesse with which Van Natta handles Mairwen and Luka's individual back-stories. Their motivations and challenges are there, clear and sufficient, without overwhelming. There's just enough to explain and engage with Mairwen and Luka without dumping too much emphasis on previous events. It's handled in such a quiet way that every time there's a little more the plot moves forward, not the other way.
I also really enjoyed the subtle humour I found ever present. As little as a few words or the smallest change in facial expression made the dialogue real and relatable and I found myself connecting more and more with Mairwen and Luka. Too many times I've read SFR with overdone violence or straight to the bedroom smut and the relationship between the H/h is lost to the flash and bang. Luka and Mairwen come across as very genuine and their relationship builds in solid layers.
Van Natta's tech is both simple (in that it's reasonable and makes sense) and powerful (in that it's reasonable and makes sense. Her names both for super gadgets and plain old household items tell us exactly what it is and what it does without losing me in any need for weighty description.
Finally, it was so refreshing to see a H/h pair somewhat close in age to my own. They had a respect and maturity we don't usually see in romances set around twenty-somethings. It was nice to see them being good together without unnecessary drama centered around eye-rolling juvenile behaviour. I'm glad they have a follow-up novella together as I will miss them. I must admit to a small amount of trepidation getting in to the sequel, Minder Rising, since I'm so fond of Mairwen and Luka but I'm also happily in to Van Natta's well built Galactic Concordance world and look forward to experiencing more.
FYI: New favourite space-ish curse word is "cluster bucket"
If you're new to SFR or a hopeless addict I think you'll find Overload Flux to be a good find. Definitely recommended.