This week’s Danger Gal profile is on Admiral Brit “Stone-Heart” Bandar from RITA award winner and New York Times best-selling author Susan Grant’s latest release MOONSTRUCK. No fainting virgin here, Brit Bandar is the commander of the CSS Vengeance, a respected admiral, and a steadfast heroine well into her thirties.
Grant twists around gender expectations for her heroine immediately in the opening scene. The story begins with Brit Bandar in bed with a gigolo, doing what so many Historical Romance heroes have done before her — trying to mask her loneliness with sex:
Brit woke slowly, luxuriating in silken sheets as she took a drowsy accounting of her circumstances: One, it was morning. Two, she was naked. And three, she was lying in a strange bed.
A real bed. Compared to the one in her quarters onboard the CSS Vengeance, the bed was lavish, big enough for three or four. It appeared, however, that only one other person shared the mattress. What was his name again?
Bandar is a heroine who is in charge of her life and also her sexuality, no apologies or regrets. Of course her needs would be better met by someone who she loves and who loves her, but Bandar is clear on the difference between love and sex. This works well in the story, because it sets up the conflict later with the hero, Finn Rorkken, her second in command. We know that Bandar doesn’t automatically fall in love with the guy in her bed, so Grant shows us all the emotional steps Brit takes in falling for Finn. I knew there was an HEA waiting for me at the end of the book, but this character development created quite a bit of good tension in the story.
Bandar is driven, and Grant demonstrates well what events shaped Bandar into the woman she’s become. This is a difficult job because — and I think I can say this without giving too much of the plot away about this new release — the Admiral has quite a lot of emotional baggage that could have turned her into a caricature, but Grant takes the story just far enough so that we see Bandar as having been hurt, but ultimately not damaged. The Admiral lives through a devastating situation and not only survives, but channels her emotions into something productive and active: fighting the good fight. That’s all backstory, but Bandar does this again when her whole world changes at the beginning of the novel.
When the Coalition forms the new Alliance with the Drakken Horde and Earth forces, former Warleader Finn Rorkken finds himself appointed second-in-command of the Vengeance. I agree with Jayne over at Dear Author that I like how Grant “didnâ€™t make him [Finn] a whiny, angst puppy constantly dwelling on his childhood past as reason and justification for being a jerk.” Rorkken has had his share of hard times, which make him better equipped to understand and accept Bandar’s past, but it also explains the bond he has with his crew and his desire that they learn to fit in. Rorkken doesn’t want him or his crew to end up destitute again.
I also like the realism and aviation details Grant inserts into her stories. So many space opera novels provide a lot of ship details, but much of it is overkill. Grant provides important details at the right times without using paragraphs of techno-babble to do it. One of the first women in history to graduate from the USAF Academy, Grant served in the military as an instructor pilot and achieved the rank of captain. Now a commercial airline pilot, she flies 747 jumbo jets to China, Australia and Europe, and her personal experience shines through.
I’m looking forward to the next installment in Grant’s Borderland’s series, titled THE WARLORD’S DAUGHTER (take a sneak peek at the cover here). Also, the new Science Fiction Romance blog Galaxy Express, helmed by a regular commenter here at Danger Gal HQ, is giving away a free copy of MOONSTRUCK in the next week or so. Also, review an excerpt of MOONSTRUCK on Grant’s site.