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Friday, December 13, 2013

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Book Review: Degrees of Wrong

2013 has been a year of trying new things for me, so it stands to reason that I close out the year on the same note. Thus I decided to give the romance genre a try; sci-fi romance, more specifically!  Just looking at the cover of Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett had me intrigued and ready to dive in.
We open on Dr. Elyse Morgan sticking a blue-eyed soldier with a shot of morphine. It’s 2053 and she’s been living on the island of Peleliu researching a cure for the HTN4 virus, otherwise known as the Black Death, but now her quiet little world has erupted in fire and blood. The soldiers who soon apprehend her were sent by the UN, who want to fund her research… and they’re not really giving her a choice in the matter. She’s brought to the Bellator, a navy vessel deep in the ocean with state-of-the-art facilities. The UN is at her beck and call; whatever resources she needs to finish her research, they’ll provide. It could be a scientist’s dream come true except for the part about being blackmailed into working for an organization with ulterior motives, and having to pretend to be a cadet under the command of one loud, vulgar, pushy lieutenant, oh and also Captain Nicoli Marek, the young prodigy in charge of the Bellator who also happens to be devastatingly hot. With all of these distractions, finding a cure for the world’s deadliest virus will prove to be a challenge.

I was unsure what to think of Elyse when I started, but she quickly proved herself to be a funny, resourceful, sympathetic main character. And then she meets Nicoli. The second Captain Marek appeared on the scene, I knew we were in trouble. Elyse immediately becomes flustered by his tan skin and muscular physique (I’ll admit I helped myself along by imagining him as played by Adam Beach). Her interactions with him were silly, yet endearing. Heck, I’d probably react in a similar way when confronted with someone as attractive as Marek. 

The most entertaining aspect for me was the character interaction. The friends Elyse makes as she begins her adventure disappear from the story way too soon (if there’s a sequel, they better be in it). To my surprise, I even found myself liking Lt. Horan, who lives to make Elyse’s life miserable. But then, it’s the conflict that really keeps the story rolling.

At the start, it seems all Elyse and Nicoli do is fight, but as they slowly get to know one another… well, they just fight even more! What’s Dermot Mulroney’s line in The Wedding Date—“I’d rather fight with you than make love with anyone else.” Yep, that sums up Elyse and Nicoli’s relationship to me. I’m also a huge Pride and Prejudice fan, so the love/hate setup speaks to me. I like watching the struggle, and I like seeing the turning point. Sadly, that’s where the story fell flat. A huge chunk of the book is given to the romance plot, but I didn’t really notice exactly when Elyse and Nicoli’s feelings for one another changed to something more. There was a lot of lust and not enough substance, emotional or physical! I only waded knee-deep into their chemistry when I wanted to dive in headfirst. In the end, I felt like they fought better than they loved.

(I was actually rooting for Blue Eyes who, of course, comes back to complicate Elyse’s life more than it already is.)

This is also a science fiction tale, sorta kinda. Elyse spends the better part of the book in a massive vessel at the bottom of the ocean, reachable only by high-tech spherical pods. I really liked the choice of setting—to me, the ocean is Earth’s last frontier, and I’d like to see more sea exploration in sci-fi. In fact, I would’ve enjoyed seeing this environment utilized more in this novel, though I did enjoy the glimpses we did get (bioluminescent fish and giant squid, oh my!).

The whole reason for Elyse’s unusual lodging is her research. We soon learn that Elyse has personal reasons for investigating the HTN4 virus, and there’s a real villain out there waiting to exploit her efforts. The book is a precarious balance of romance and medical mystery. At times I felt the mystery aspect was incidental at best and could’ve been integrated into the story more, though I very much appreciated that attention was given to the ethical dilemmas of Elyse’s work. The Black Death is taking lives in epidemic proportions. Elyse wants to find a cure more than anyone, but she’s not blind to the harm it could do in the wrong hands.

From the way the book ended, I have to assume a sequel’s coming. I’ll be honest, I probably won’t pick it up. It was a fun romp, but not particularly captivating. Still, I enjoyed the characters and certain aspects of the plot. You might give Degrees of Wrong a try on a wintry day when you’re stuck inside and looking for a light read to pass the time.

Title: Degrees of Wrong

Author: Anna Scarlett

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction

Recommendation: Sure why not

Best Reader Audience: Mature readers

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 dozy foxes

Want to get your feet wet in the romance genre? Use the link below and your purchase will also support the Lone Book Club!

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