Nero by Valden BushNero by Valden Bush is space opera romance about overcoming the odds, taking control of your destiny, reaching your potential and never giving up on love.

Destined for banishment from birth, Stele Hosun has lived her entire life as an outcast awaiting the inevitable day when she will be exiled from her family, her planet, and Ariane, the woman who has stolen her heart.

Nero is a black, rocky planet riddled with nests of beautiful and powerful gemstones. Its people have evolved so their eye colour corresponds to these different gems providing them with certain innate aptitudes. When they come of age, each Neroian goes through a rite of passage with their matching gem shard and is gifted with a relative power. That is, each Neroian except those born with a black starburst, or worse yet, entirely black eyes. The only future for these unfortunate souls, is banishment from everything and every one they have ever known and loved.

When the fated day of exile arrives, Stele finds herself on the planet Alton with naught left to do but bury her years of torment and sorrow in copious amounts of Gandon wine. When she hits rock bottom Colonel Kian Ray, another exile, pulls her from the gutter and convinces her to join the Alton Defense Force.

Stele becomes an elite soldier and with Kian’s guidance and the help of her new friends Questa and Domino, she is finally going to make something of herself. However, she can’t forget the love she was forced to leave behind on Nero. When a buried legend resurfaces and Nero is attacked by pirates, Stele must return to save Nero, and to save Ariane.

She has found a family, now she must save her true love and fulfill her destiny.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

The world building is solid and not overbearing. I also love the cover (I am powerless to resist the colour purple). But it’s the characters and their relationships that steel the show.

Stele overcomes so much throughout this book. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy, abandonment, and so much anger. And rightly so. She has spent her entire life being told by everyone that she was defective. On top of all this, she is torn away from her home and the woman she loves. It is not hard to sympathize with her struggle with alcohol and its heartwarming to see her strength and ability to forgive and embrace happiness.

Ariane is a talented vocalist and Stele’s only real friend. For much of the novel, she and Stele are in a long distance relationship… like living on different planets kind of long distance. This allows for a deeper bond to form between them and creates a scintillating buildup of sexual tension.

Found family plays an enormous role in Steles development. The relationships she forms with her mentor and friends give her the strength to battle her demons as well as the dreaded pirates. They are a wonderful, diverse group and I loved the dynamic.

Cons And Heads Up

There are a couple of small issues I had with the book. I felt as though the ending was a little rushed given the buildup that led to the conflict. Also, there were some grammar and spelling issues which, given this was an advanced reader copy (arc), may be addressed before the final edit is released.

In terms of content, there is some difficult subject matter in the book such as extreme discrimination and ostracization of people based on the physical traits they are born with. There is also a realistic depiction of a character’s struggles with alcohol abuse and addiction.

The Conclusion

Nero is comprised of enough space opera to keep science fiction lovers nerdily happy and enough heat to keep the hearts of romance lovers warm. If you’re looking to escape to another world for a while and hang out with some terrific characters, pour yourself a steamy cup of tak and cozy up with this gem of a book.

Excerpt from Nero by Valden Bush

Stele carefully and slowly raised herself onto one elbow to try and take in her surroundings. She saw herself mirrored in the reflective wall beside her, her pale face and black eyes staring back. The center of them was black, as black as the planet…as black as her soul? At least that’s what they’d have her believe. The color of their eyes categorized everyone on Nero and black simply wasn’t acceptable as a color. They were pure black as well; there was no starburst across them to mitigate the darkness. Stele had been a pariah since birth; the Ruling Council believed that Stele was the result of a birth defect and the only person on the planet who was holly abnormal.

She lived all her life knowing she was going to be banished, because she wouldn’t be able to complete the rite of passage and get her full powers and thus reach her potential. There was no black shard in the Coliseum to allow her to connect. There had been quite a few members of the population with black starbursts on their colored eyes in the past who also couldn’t complete the rite of passage because the shards that were the color of their eyes held no power for them. They were banished too. “Impure,” was a taunt she’d heard all her life.

“Stele Hosun.”

Stele heard the voice before she saw where it was coming from. A barrage of Alton language came at her, and she understood the woman wanted her out of bed.

“Um…” was all she could make her deck dung mouth say. She slowly raised herself onto one elbow again to look at the woman. It was the sergeant, whatever her name was. She reminded Stele of a triple, a rectangular vegetable with a bitter taste that was prevalent on Nero.

She came closer, “Up, now.”

“I need a drink.”

“No.” She pinned her nose and motioned toward an open doorway. “I am not putting up with your smell or disobedience. Get in there.”

Her attitude was an unpleasant reminder of too many people in Stele’s life. Back on Nero, Jasper Sloan had made a grandstanding speech about Self Hosun and her infamous life in front of the Ruling Council. Her parents, both on the Council, were shamed. The speech was broadcast across Nero and was the final straw for her. Stele wanted to kill Sloan with her bare hands. She had been in danger of making herself into a murderer, and it frightened her. Now here the was on a new planet having similar dark thoughts about someone else.

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Bits and Bobs

ASIN number:  9781915009012

Publisher: Butterworth Books

Valden Bush Online

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