I sat back in my captain's chair and breathed, slowly and deeply, letting my body adjust to traveling at a normal velocity again. ~ Opening of Nightchaser
Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2019
Fantasy/Romance; 416 pgs
Tess Bailey: the galaxy's Most Wanted. Captain Tess Bailey is in deep trouble. She and her crew are on the run, pursued by a tyrant who'll take them dead or alive. Tess's best hope is a tall, dark, and much-too-appealing stranger, Shade Ganavan, who says he can help her. But his motivations are far from clear...
Shade Ganavan: arrogance, charm...and that special something that makes you want to kick him. With the dreaded Dark Watch closing in, what Tess and Shade don't know about each other might get them killed...unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other before it's too late. [Goodreads Summary]
I have long wanted to give Amanda Bouchet’s work a try, and Nightchaser seemed a good place to start. Picking this one up right on the heels of a similar science fiction novel about a ragtag group on a space ship on the run, might not have been the smartest choice, but ultimately, it fed my itch to read another space opera, and I came away feeling satisfied and entertained.
Nightchaser is set in a world ruled by an oppressive government that aims for conformity by all. They believe they have brought order where war and lawlessness once ran rampant, whereas there are those who feel the government has gone too far, hungering for power and control, extending beyond its reach.
The novel opens right in the middle of the action as Captain Tess Bailey and her crew flee from the Dark Watch, the military extension of the Galatic Overseer, they’ve just stolen from. Tess hopes to distribute the much needed vaccines to children at the orphanage she grew up. Only, those vaccines aren’t quite what they seem, and the Dark Watch is intent on getting them back at any cost. Risking suicide, Tess and her crew see only one way out, having been found in their quiet hiding place in deep space—right through the center of a wormhole. Somehow, the group survives, finding themselves in another part of the galaxy. With their ship in desperate need for repair, they head for the first place possible to make that happen.
When Tess walks into Shade Ganavan’s shop, Shade instantly takes an interest in Tess who clearly has something to hide. It isn’t long before he learns she is the galaxy’s most wanted and then he has a decision to make. The bounty on her head would solve all of Shade’s problems and then some. With that as the goal, he agrees to help Tess and get closer to her, intent on turning her in for the money. The more he gets to know Tess, the more he delays the inevitable.
I really liked Tess. She is a fighter and survivor. For all of Tess’s reputation and the betrayals in her past, and her struggle with anxiety, one would expect her to be more cautious when it comes to Shade. She trusts him way too easily—which is my only bone of contention with the novel. It could be chalked up to her attraction to him and the loneliness she feels, however. She’s long learned to keep her parentage a secret, and for good reason. Even her crew, whose loyalty to her even after they find out, is unshakable. They are her best friends and have been through a lot together. Tess has a good heart and is of strong moral character. She wants to help those who cannot help themselves, particularly the children at the orphanage.
We get to glimpse into Shade’s mind and life, the novel alternating between his and Tess’s viewpoints, which I enjoyed. He lives on the edge, while trying to make up for past mistakes. I liked that the author did not make the struggle for him easy—having the choose between Tess and the money. He had a lot at stake—his entire life built on it. He seems like a really good guy overall, with good intentions. And I was rooting for him and Tess from the very start.
Given this is the first in a series, I imagine readers will get the chance to know more about the various characters in coming books. I really want to know more about each of them now that Bouchet has given us a peek into each of their lives. Although a minor character, I was, of course, quite taken with the bookstore owner and her cats (and Bonk!). The bookstore itself sounds like a wonderful haven. I hope that isn’t the last we are able to visit there.
With a good mix of science fiction and romance, Nightchaser had me in its grip from page one, and I did not want to put it down for anything. There were several moments when I caught myself holding my breath, hoping everyone would make it out of whatever tight fix they were in. I look forward to not only reading the next in the series, but also Amanda Bouchet’s other novels.
For more information about the author and her books, visit her website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
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