I knew when I saw the premise of this collection that I was going to love it. Published by Less Than Three Press, who specialise in LGBTQ romance, this is a space anthology with a difference: its five stories are centred not on important captains or interstellar mercenaries, but on the engineers and maintenance crews who keep the ships running.
These are sweet, gentle romances between believable men, interspersed with adventures unlooked-for and crises narrowly avoided. I loved the down-to-earth characters, and the focus on ordinary people living ordinary lives, albeit in a range of interplanetary settings. An excellent collection.
The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce
Jasno is a food synth technician who is accidentally kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. Jasno dreams of recreating special meals from the discarded recipe book he once found, and the prince responsible for his abduction spots an opportunity to use these exclusive talents to win over the target of his affections. Unfortunately for Jasno, he’s fast falling in love with the prince.
About a Bot by Andrea Speed
Perhaps my favourite story in the collection. Tahir is the engineer responsible for keeping Nebula Station’s maintenance bots in good order, but he also repairs and reprograms obsolete bots for fun, giving him a small coterie of robotic pets for company. Jorian is a reporter making a series of human interest profiles. When he turns up to do a feature on Tahir and his bots, Tahir is mortified: Jorian was his biggest crush when they were at the academy together.
The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander
Regin hasn’t seen his ex-lover since the accident that left them both injured, so it comes as something of a shock when Makari turns up to interview him in association with a crime he knows nothing about. What they uncover is a conspiracy that could destroy Regin’s whole world… and a retelling of their past that completely reframes their parting.
Flight Risk by Talya Andor
Kiel used to be a successful Gryphon, flying to war on a powerful Gear, but after his accident he’s resigned himself to a quiet life maintaining the Gears of others. And he’s a truly outstanding mechanic, with an intuition for machines and careful attention to every fine detail. Unfortunately, at Cadlow Hangar, even the best mechanics are treated as second-class citizens, so when a new Gryphon arrives and tries to strike up a friendship, Kiel warns him off, afraid that becoming friendly — or more — will just hurt them both.
Survival by Leona Carver
Cryogenically frozen for the journey through space, Valentin wasn’t expecting to be woken until they arrived at their new planet. Even when the ship wakes a skeleton crew for emergency repairs, he’s surprised: in his role as gardener, he would usually be the last person needed during the flight. But the forest park they’re transporting has grown far beyond expectations, and its wild growth spurt is damaging the ship.