Monday, January 16, 2012

Review of Zoë Archer’s Chain Reaction

Title: Chain Reaction (8th Wing #2)
Author: Zoë Archer
Publisher: Carina Press
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: January 9, 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5

I admit it. I’m a sucker for nerdy heroes. Just look at my husband! Pretty darn nerdy! So when I saw that Zoë Archer’s latest book, Chain Reaction, featured a hero who forms part of “NerdWorks,” I knew this was going to be a winner. At approximately 43,000 words Chain Reaction is fairly short, but there is a lot to love in this book. I’ve read all of Ms. Archer’s paranormal historical novels in the Blades of the Rose series, and highly recommend them, but the 8th Wing series is firmly in the Sci-Fi camp, a departure from her earlier books.
In Chain Reaction, Lieutenant Celene “Stainless” Jur is the 8th Wing’s ace pilot. She flies the stealthy Black Wraith ships, and only a few months ago was captured and nearly sold when an enemy used a disrupter to immobilize her ship. The creator of the disrupter has finally been discovered, and Celene wants to be the one bringing him in.
Engineer Nils Calder is proud of his role in the 8th Wing’s “NerdWorks” (think GeekSquad in space), and he’s managed to find a way to locate the disrupter and lead them to its creator, a disgruntled former NerdWorks engineer. But Nils has had little field experience, and Celene doesn’t want anyone getting in her way on this mission. Unfortunately, her commanding officer insists that Nils is the best man for the job.
Nils has long had a crush on the stunning pilot, and when they’re forced to work on the recovery mission together, he decides to seize his chance and woo Celene, setting off sparks. In the past Celene has felt isolated as a woman among all the other pilots. Her reputation as a pilot is such that others speak of her with awe, and men are inevitably disappointed when they discover the real woman behind the legend. Nils seems to see past that to the real Celene, but can a hotshot pilot and a NerdWorks engineer find common ground when the mission ends?
This was a fast, action-packed read filled with steamy romance. I really enjoyed reading about a beta hero who trusts in his abilities and those of his female companion rather than trying to take over the entire mission. I was surprised that Nils and Celene didn’t set off any supernovas in space, their chemistry was so sizzling. It also helps that the “nerdy” Nils has a tone,d athletic bod and plenty of self-confidence.
Celene is an appealing character as well. It’s always fun to read about competent female characters who really don’t NEED someone to hold their hands but are looking for companionship. Celene is a believable mix of strength and vulnerability, and frankly I enjoyed her kick-ass status among the other pilots. My one criticism would be the choice of her nickname, “Stainless.” That had me cringing throughout the entire book. It just struck me as very awkward.
Chain Reaction is the second book in the 8th Wing series, and the hero and heroine from the first book, Collision Course, appear in the second book, but you can easily read Chain Reaction as a stand alone novel. That said, Collision Course is currently on sale for only $1.99 at Amazon, so catching up on the series won’t break the bank.
I do wish Chain Reaction were a bit longer, because I would have liked to see more of Nils and Celene together and learn more about their enemy, the Praxis. However, given the  length, I felt the romance was well developed. I definitely recommend this one if you’re interested in space opera or sci-fi romance.

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