The husband-and- wife duo who comprise ‘Tiffany Roberts’ are an autobuy scifi romance author for me. I thought today for my occasional series of posts on books I love from favorite authors, I’d share five of my favorites from them. Right up front I must state this writing team excels at making me relate to, and care about heroes I normally would say I’d never read, from kraken to spiders. They’re so good! (And as always with a favorite author it’s hard to pick only five.)
While I’m waiting for the second book in The Spider’s Mate trilogy, I can tell you the world building in the first novel Ensnared was as seamless as ever; the slow build of the friendship and then the romance between the human woman and the alien was well done and yet again I’ve been made to care deeply about an ‘alien’ alien! It’s not a trope I gravitate to – I’m all about human (or at least pretty much humanoid) couples in probably 90% of my romance choices, but then Tiffany puts out a new book and I sigh and one click and off I go on another scifi romance adventure. Every time!
So Ensnared is the first book for this post, but now I’m going to dig into their older backlist a bit, in no certain order.
Claimed by An Alien Warrior: BBW Alien Romance – wow, what a roller coaster ride. Heroine Zoey loses her job, her apartment and her worthless two-timing, confidence-sapping boyfriend in the same day and packs her car to leave town and make a cross country trip home.
Four-armed, four-eyed, green-but-sexy-as-all-get-out warrior Rendash has been held in captivity and tortured for years by a shadowy government agency. All his alien companions died and only he is left, full of rage and determined to escape. So when the transport van he’s being moved in breaks down and he gets his chance because someone forgot to shoot him up with tranquilizers, guess whose car he eventually sneaks into to make good his escape?
Zoey finds him scary but fascinating right from the start of their adventure together. “His skin was green, though its precise hue was impossible to determine in the poor light…he had only three fingers and a thumb…covered in scales…” and as we learn later in the book, he’s massively endowed with the right equipment to make an Earth woman very happy. She feels sympathy for him, which grows into a much deeper emotion as their journey continues. He finds her “…as bizarre looking as any human he’d seen, and somehow infinitely more appealing…there was a softness to her appearance to which he was wholly unaccustomed…” but which he can’t resist. The attraction is off the charts and when the slow burn romance moves into high gear, the bedroom scenes are hot.
These two have a modern day Bonnie and Clyde thing going, not that she wants to be a criminal but he’s an alien warrior who has been tortured, regards himself as being at war with the humans and will do literally anything to reach his ship and go home. At first some of the law breaking they do bothered me but none of it was particularly gratuitous, given the circumstances established up front by the authors, or unnecessary to the mission of evading the evil government forces and getting to his ship. Eventually I got to the same point Zoey reaches – Rendash has to be saved and she’ll take any action needed to get him there. Fortunately he has some near superpowers to draw upon, thanks to handy nano-type machines in his body.
The narrative gets intense toward the end, when the government is closing in on the couple and the reader really has to wonder if the Happy Ever After ending can be achieved. You won’t want to put the book down, trust me. But in the nick of time the authors answer the questions, solve the dilemmas (no spoilers from me) and the story is done. I loved it!
In order to talk about Treasure of the Abyss, I have to indulge in a mild spoiler.( It can’t really still be a spoiler after the entire series has been written, can it?) What I’m going to say is revealed very early in the book but if you don’t want to know, stop here and just be aware I read the book in one sitting and loved it. Highly recommended.
Okay, still with me? SPOILER! The hero is pretty much human from the waist up but from the waist down he’s got the tentacles of an octopus. (That cover is really drawn very artfully, isn’t it?) Now if you’d asked me previously, I’d have said I don’t read anything with a hero who has tentacles instead of legs. I can handle tails, barbs, enhancements, ridges…just wasn’t turned on by tentacles. I think in general I still feel that way but I really came to appreciate, admire and care about the character of Jax the Wanderer. He and Macy the human woman have kind of a Romeo and Juliet story going – the kraken remember they were created by the humans (and a lot of unpleasantness ensued) and the present-day humans have no idea that the kraken exist in the ocean covering much of their colony world.
(Jax is very well endowed and the intimate scenes are steamy….)
I’m always fascinated by tales of interstellar colonies that only vaguely remember their past, and the discoveries that can be made. In this case, the kraken know certain things and the humans on land know other things and it’s highly enjoyable to watch the situation unfold. The authors convey the beauty of the ocean setting in breathtakingly well described scenes. The hero has the best aspects of octopus attributes, from coloration to camouflage. Macy is fascinated by him after he rescues her from drowning. She’s not exactly content with her life in the land based colony but neither does she want to be Jax’s treasured possession, kept on his island of salvaged flotsam and jetsam. Fun echoes of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” in that sequence.
The relationship between Jax and Macy develops in a very natural fashion and is an unshakable bond by the end. He totally gets her. “You give of yourself. To your people, to your parents…you worry for them; you concern yourself with how they will feel. You speak as though you only worked to accomplish what they expected.” He urges her to expand her horizons, to nurture herself, to do what she longs to do. And Macy in turn enables him to help his people while still preserving his desire to explore and push the frontiers of what lies under the vast ocean, waiting to be discovered. And to defy some of the kraken’s more restrictive traditions.
Never fear, there’s a happy ending to this tale, despite the Shakespearean analogy I made.
Undying is simply unforgettable to me. I read so many novels, being a voracious reader, but this one sticks in the memory. Earthwoman Quinn Dalton is a convicted murderer and has been in prison and then sentenced to become an unwilling subject of terrible experiments on the Concord space station. When the station is suddenly destroyed, she falls to the surface of an alien world, miraculously unhurt. “I fell from the sky. I should be dead.” But since she’s not, and she’s brave, determined and practical, she explores her surroundings and stumbles upon an ancient, abandoned city.
Which is as irresistible to me as catnip is to Jake, my cat. I LOVE this trope. I want to know all the alien secrets.
“The wind moaned through the empty streets, sighed through the seemingly abandoned buildings.”
Quinn meets Orishok, the only being remaining in the city, whose mere touch is instant death to any living thing. He had “…patrolled this city and kept out the living, keeping vigil over his fallen brethren…” But there’s something about Quinn that he finds himself unable to resist. “Logic told him this place was…too dangerous, insisted he send her away; he knew he would not.” I think it’s more a case of him being totally unable to deny himself her company after all those years of solitude.
The way these two become friends and then much much more to each other over time was absolutely riveting. Both are carrying secrets and have lost so much in their previous existences but together they find harmony and understanding. Sometimes the memories bring a lot of pain but Quinn and Orishok push through it. We do learn a great deal about the city and its past along the way. Author Roberts sets up this seemingly impossible situation and then resolves it, keeping the tension ratcheted up until all seems lost – but then, yes, the HEA. Just wow. I was convinced they’d never be able to bring off an HEA….but they did!
Something a bit different than a plot recap and quotes to emphasize my love for Dustwalker – a portion of an interview I did with the authors in 2017 for the much-missed USA Today Happy Ever After blog, talking about the story inspiration and the main character:
The first paragraph of the blurb for Dustwalker: A Synth searching for purpose… Walk. Scavenge. Destroy. Trade. A simple cycle that’s suited Ronin for one hundred and eighty-five years. With no clear grasp of his programming, the barren wasteland known as The Dust offers him purpose, a place where his armored undercasing, amped-up processors, and advanced optics can be put to use. The ramshackle towns on the edges of the waste serve merely as resupply stations between increasingly long treks. But one night — one human woman — makes him question everything….[snip]
Veronica for USAT/HEA: What were your major influences when writing the book?
Rob: Dustwalker was the result of many ideas from many sources coming together in a frenzied bout of mutual inspiration. It’s difficult for us to narrow it down to three influences, and some of the things that influenced us the most might seem fairly small on the surface. Tiffany, in particular, is often inspired by pictures and songs.
Tiffany: We couldn’t decide what to write after our first novel, and we went through a lot of false starts. I was browsing through a batch of art I have saved for inspiration, and found a Luis Royo drawing of a woman and a robot engaged in some ‘adult’ activity. It sparked my imagination. After seeing that image, the idea of a romance between a robot and a human woman stuck with me.
Rob: Music played a large part in Dustwalker’s creation, too. I was listening to a lot of Daft Punk, and for whatever reason I kept coming back to their songs that allude to being robots, which is part of their act. The song ‘Touch’, especially, was a big inspiration, as the story I heard in the lyrics was about a machine learning to feel.
Tiffany: Around that time, I was listening to a song called ‘In The Night’ by The Weekend, and the story of a woman dancing for money to survive evolved into a scene and came together with the Luis Royo picture. When Rob came home from work, I brought it up to him.
Rob: And that’s where the third influence finally comes in. I told her that I’d planned to write a bunch of stories for her for our anniversary, and one of the stories was about a robot who sees a woman dancing and falls in love with her while he watches. He becomes human. The kernel for this story was actually Pinocchio. Just like he becomes a real boy, we wanted to tell a story about a bot becoming a ‘real’ human.
Tiffany: *Whispers* It wasn’t “Terminator.”
Veronica: Which was the most difficult character to write and why?
Rob: There were challenges for us in writing Lara. Her temper and stubbornness required a delicate balance, because we didn’t want her to come across as annoying. But Ronin was definitely the most difficult of the bunch. We had to make him both inhuman and relatable, and so we paid close attention to lens through which he viewed his surroundings. Eyes became optics, bones and muscles became casings and actuators, and the way he processed all his sensory input had to be conveyed in a different way. There were times when we thought he was coming across as too human, especially early on, and we had to fight for the balance in his slow growth toward humanity.
Tiffany: We wanted him to feel things differently. To be a real robot, or at least as close to it as we could get.
Veronica: I’d say you were pretty successful in your portrayal of Ronin!
(I have to add that I actually got a little teary-eyed at the ending of the book but not to worry – the couple achieves their Happy Ever After!)
And that concludes my visit to the Tiffany Roberts’ backlist for today!