The Shade Ring by Connie Lacy

The Shade Ring

Nat’s leg brushed against hers as the chopper bounced along, like they were riding in a jeep on a rutted dirt road. He’d been trying to get her to go out with him for months. Nat had Bollywood good looks and was about to get his PhD, but he was her father’s assistant. And although she wasn’t sure why, that bothered her.

She scooted closer to the window and decided to break the ice with Osley. Maybe that would cool Nat’s restless legs.

“Dr. Osley, are you looking for anything particular on the coast?” She had to speak up to be heard over the double rotors roaring in opposite directions above them.

“Just going down for a look-see,” he said, immediately turning his attention to Nat. “Mr. Patel, did you specify you wanted the smallest helicopter in the fleet? Where the hell am I supposed to put my samples?”

Neave has grown up with wealth but without affection, the child of two highly esteemed scientists who have never seemed to care much for each other, let alone for her. She’s being pushed into a career that she doesn’t enjoy, expected to follow in her father’s footsteps and do her part for climate change research — something she’s only tolerating out of a mixture of fear of her father and layers of social guilt.

The Shade Ring is set on a near-future Earth where the oceans have risen, the sun has become unbearably hot, and many coastal towns are wastelands that can only be visited in full protective gear. When Neave is dragged along on an expedition with Nat — her father’s ambitious assistant — and Osley — her father’s main rival — she dons her climate suit and her most stoic expression, determined to get it over with as quickly as possible. But she doesn’t count on being attacked by a crab… nor on Will, the young salvage entrepreneur who rescues her and teases her and steals her heart.

Neave’s life is further complicated by her father’s bid to become Climate Secretary and get his pet project, the eponymous shade ring, signed into law. As soon becomes apparent, he’ll do almost anything to achieve his goals, and Neave is expected to play her part as the dutiful daughter. That includes dressing up and going as Nat’s date to important state events; in fact her father seems determined to marry her off, viewing her reluctance as a minor obstacle to be negotiated away. Meanwhile, her tentative relationship with Will is threatened by secrets in his past, and hers.

As well as Neave’s personal trials and tribulations, there were some great things going on with the secondary characters. In sharp contrast to Neave’s dysfunctional parents, Will’s family is a cheerful, exuberant, and loving clan, offering up a positive view of adoption and mixed-race families. And (minor spoilers) there’s a happy ending for a beautiful lesbian couple who’ve had more than their fair share of heartache.

This book has it all: a gripping, fast paced (if occasionally far-fetched) thriller plot; an ill-fated romance; a near-future setting of melting ice caps and rising seas. A fantastic debut that I devoured in one day.

The Shade Ring is Lacy’s debut novel. It is available on Amazon.

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