I enjoyed Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace so much that I thought I ought to start looking into this whole “romantic” sci-fi thing. It all seemed so right up my alley. And I’d seen Linnea Sinclair listed as an author of this type of work, and Finders Keepers sounded interesting.
Finders Keepers is undoubtedly a romance novel with spaceships and laser rifles (no lightsabers). No matter how you shake it, that’s what it is. Now, I’d like to be able to tell you that it was a good romance novel with spaceships and laser rifles, but I can’t.
Alarm bells start going off immediately when I read, very early on, about Trilby’s jerk rich boy ex-boyfriend getting married to another woman while still wanting to have a relationship with Trilby. Uh oh. I take a deep breath and continue onward, telling myself not to jump to conclusions. Let’s meet the hero first, shall we? The hero who is apparently actually a cold ruthless jerk until he meets our heroine. Uh oh. The hero who we meet while he’s having a dream about the extremely gorgeous, dark and made-up woman who broke his heart 20 years ago, and the reason he will Never Love Again (TM). Uh oh. The hero who thinks of Trilby as looking delicate and innocent like an air sprite. Uh-fragging-oh, my brain goes. We have the light-featured sweet innocent not made-up or aware of her attractiveness heroine. Versus the evil heart-breaking made-up not sweet innocent bitch ex-girlfriend. My Romance Trope o’ Meter begins to climb.
And it keeps right on climbing. Secrets! Big Misunderstandings! Heroines that smell nice! Seriously…Rhis notices Trilby’s “light flowery scent” after Trilby has been out in the swamp, on a planet with temperatures of 120 degrees, rescuing him and salvaging his damaged fighter ship. No mention of showers or anything, but she still manages to smell like flowers. And powder. Later it is revealed to us that it’s perfume, but why? A) Trilby barely has money to keep her ship running, let alone buy perfume, b) it can’t be a gift from her ex, she gave all those back and c) who is she wearing perfume for!? Her only other crew member is C3PO! Er, I mean, DZ-9. A droid.
Linnea Sinclair decided she wanted to play the Romance Trope Drinking Game with me, too. Every time within the first 100 pages that our hero and heroine end up in an accidental embrace, take a shot. Thank goodness I didn’t have any hard booze on hand, because this happens like 5 or 6 times at least. Including one case that ends in this:
Somehow in their grappling, her T-shirt had pulled up at the waist. His left hand rested on her bare skin, his fingers on the swell of her breast. His right hand lay against her neck, his thumb on the line of her jaw. (p 57)
Holy lightspeed traveling, physically impossible cliches, batman! Nuh uh. Okay, fine, the accidental embrace is cute and in the awkwardness of a new relationship it could happen. Once. Maybe twice. Six times within about 48 hours of meeting one another? Not unless you’re the two clumsiest people in the universe.
But that’s the thing. Rhis and Trilby’s relationship isn’t cute. It isn’t much of anything. I barely know these characters. I don’t care about them. I don’t believe in their relationship. I know they’re in love only because Sinclair keeps insisting to me that they are. As a consequence, the sex is utterly meh. I end up skipping over the second scene because I’m bored with it and that is NOT a good sign. But the very worst part? Linnea Sinclair’s writing is so clean that it makes me want to cry. No packs of misplaced punctuation roaming free, stampeding the unprepared reader (i.e., me). No awkward turns of phrase, no horribly purple prose, no redundancies, no sudden tense switches. It’s so clean, so easy to read that I keep going long past the point where I lost patience with it. I kept hoping, hoping, hoping. Unfortunately, Finders Keepers never improves. I can’t help feeling that it should have been better than it was.