I like to write a new Star Cruise novel once a year (there are currently nine books in the series) and for 2022 the entry is STAR CRUISE STAR SONG. The main male character is a has been rock star on the verge of a comeback and the main female character is a newly minted graduate engineer and the newest member of the interstellar cruise ship’s crew.
For my various series, I try hard not to write a ‘cookie cutter’ story each time but to put new twists into the plot. I’ve never done one where one of the main characters was in the Engineering department and it gave me a new perspective from which to observe the established world of the Nebula Zephyr. I love rock star romances and so I was more than happy to revisit the trope (STAR CRUISE SONGBIRD is my other rock star romance) for this book but I made him someone whose career ended under difficult circumstances and who isn’t currently performing.
His old band wants to get back together and he’s highly conflicted about it. Addy, the female lead, is extremely serious about her career, not a ‘people person’ as she herself admits more than once and forms a close bond with Maeve the Artificial Intelligence running the ship. Writing this book gave me insights into Maeve and the eventual origin story I’ll be doing for her and the ship’s captain, which was helpful. Maeve certainly is evolving over the course of these books.
So Ryder has his challenges once he begins to fall for Addy and to realize how important to him she is.
Okay and there’s a pet. I just kept seeing Addy with a pet (no spoilers). He doesn’t take part in the plot issues but he’s there in a few scenes and he was fun to research and to write. Most of the Star Cruises include a pet (but not all of them – STAR CRUISE MAROONED has no animal sidekicks.)
Here’s the official blurb:
Addy Tryndall is a fresh graduate from a highly respected engineering college in the Sectors, on her way to a plum job on the Nebula Zephyr cruise ship. She knows she’ll be on probation but she’s determined to succeed and nothing is going to distract her.
Ryder McRhodes is a has-been interstellar rock star, on his way to reunite with his fellow band members to see if the lightning of mega success will strike twice for them. He isn’t sure he wants to be in the spotlight again and he hasn’t been able to write music since the band broke up.
Addy has secrets. Ryder needs a muse to unblock the creative flow…could her tightly guarded past be the answer to his problem? When the two are thrown together in an attempt to avoid the interstellar paparazzi he’s intrigued. She’s wary.
And someone is sabotaging systems on the Nebula Zephyr. Addy unwittingly finds herself in the middle of the situation while juggling her increasing attraction to Ryder and her challenges on the new job. Can she trust him with her secret? Or will he break her heart?
The danger on board comes ever closer to Addy as the cruise continues…
Ensign Addy Tryndall, Engine Room Apprentice, clutched her rucksack, smoothed her official CLC Lines navy blue tunic and got up from the bench where she’d been waiting in the Obimeron Two spaceport for hours, to catch her shuttle to the Nebula Zephyr. The ship was her new home and her first professional job and she sent the Lords of Space a small prayer for the next few months to go well. The berth on this interstellar cruise liner was much coveted and she’d graduated at the top of her class, thereby winning the opportunity but now it was all up to her. She headed toward the crew shuttle bay, hoping to see the craft set down. Of course the gargantuan liner herself never left orbit when arriving at a port but Addy was eager to know everything about her new environment. The smallest detail was important.
She’d learned the adage during her years of schooling and attributed her academic success to being extremely focused and detail-oriented, among other attributes.
As she walked toward the gate, fumbling for her pass to gain access, she became aware of a small crowd of people ahead of her. There was an excited buzz and an air of expectancy, as if they were waiting for someone and she wondered if they were anticipating the arrival of a celebrity. The Nebula Zephyr was renowned for the high quality of its passenger experience as well as for the caliber of the people who chose to travel on her. Addy craned her neck seeking to identify who the excitement might be for but then laughed at herself. I wouldn’t know who the person was anyway. Her classmates at the Propulsion & Engineering Academy had teased her endlessly for being so reclusive and out of touch with anything in popular culture.
Addy passed a robo kiosk selling feelgoods and snacks and gasped as a man stepped out from his position slightly behind the unit, grabbing her by the arm. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said, speaking quickly, right into her ear. “I mean you no harm. I need a favor. You’re on the crew?”
She stared at him, not quite ready to scream and make a fuss yet—Addy avoided becoming the center of all eyes whenever possible. He was tall and scruffy around the edges, and had a battered leather satchel and an oddly shaped instrument case waiting in the spot where he’d been lurking. Under the beard and brown hair caught back in a messy braid, he was handsome and his eyes were breathtakingly blue. She blinked, mesmerized because she’d never seen anyone with such gorgeous eyes.
He glanced past her to the crowd milling around close to the gates and clenched his jaw. “Listen, miss, I’m a passenger—I can show you my ticket if you like—but I need help getting on board without a lot of undue attention. If you’ll walk with me and pretend to be my girlfriend for ten minutes, get me inside the crew shuttle, I’ll buy you the best dinner available on board the Nebula Zephyr tomorrow night. Deal?”
“Oh,” she said, understanding dawning. Addy studied the noisy hubbub nearby. “All of them are waiting for you?” He didn’t look like a celebrity other than when it came to his beautiful eyes. Maybe he’s a famous criminal. Either way he’s a passenger and customer service is our line’s hallmark. The principle had been drummed into her during the online orientation holo class. As an engine room specialist she hadn’t expected to have anything to do with the passengers. Flustered, she said, “I guess that’d be okay but you probably should show me your boarding pass first. I can’t let a pirate or a mobster on board.” As if she’d recognize such a person but Addy consoled herself asking for a pass was an official act and if he couldn’t produce one, she’d terminate this interaction, gorgeous eyes or not.
With a frown, as if he hadn’t meant his offer to locate the pass, he pulled her further into the tiny bit of privacy the vending machine created and rummaged in his satchel while she waited. He flashed the pass at her with a resigned expression on his face.
“Ryder McRhodes,” she read. The name had absolutely no meaning to her but the pass seemed genuine and the holo stamp flickered authentically. “All right, come with me then. I can’t guarantee the shuttle pilot will let you on board but at least we can get past the people you want to avoid.”
He kissed her cheek exuberantly. “You’re an angel.” He grabbed the satchel and the instrument case, slinging it across his back and put his other arm around her waist, drawing her close. “I owe you.”
They walked together as if they actually were a couple and Addy was acutely conscious of his muscular body close to hers. He smelled like clean fresh citrus, underlaid with a darker spice and the mere thought surprised Addy, who wasn’t used to thinking in such sensory terms. She liked the sensation of being pressed close to him and she loved not being alone. All of which was confusing. This person was a total stranger and he was taking liberties in the way he held her so shouldn’t she be outraged? Indignant?
But her body was having a completely different reaction and the unaccustomed feelings were distracting.
They’d walked past the bulk of the raucous crowd with no problem but one man split off and accosted them. “Are you Ryder McRhodes?” he asked her companion.
“Naw, man, although I’m flattered.” As he lied, the passenger laughed as if he was without a single care in the world. He hugged Addy closer and said, “Just trying to get back to my ship on time with my girl here, after a day sightseeing.” He lifted Addy’s badge, which was hanging on a lanyard around her neck and flashed it. “See? We’re crew.”
“Engineering,” she said with the conviction of truth. Although she was puzzled by the whole encounter, Addy smiled and kept walking as Ryder did and they went through the gate to the restricted crew only area with no problem. The man heaved a huge sigh.
“And we’re golden now,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“No problem, sir. The CLC Line prioritizes passenger comfort and enjoyment,” she said. Her head buzzed with questions but she was reluctant to ask any of them. “I’m not too pleased the gate isn’t better tended though. You shouldn’t be able to simply walk through with me since you aren’t a crew member.”
He laughed, gave her another side hug and stepped away but only a short distance. “Mind if I ride up to the ship with you?”
She checked out the crowd of what she now guessed were reporters. “Afraid there’ll be more of them on the ship? I’m sure the captain wouldn’t allow it.”
Chuckling as if she’d made a joke, he said, “Not at all. I was lucky enough to find a pretty girl at the end of my journey and I’d like to continue to get to know you better. After all, we’ll be having dinner together tomorrow night, right?”
Confused again, Addy stared at him. “Dinner?”
“The price for getting me past the scum out there,” he said with a raised eyebrow. “We have a dinner date.”