Pairing: concubine and crown prince
First Sentence: "Is he dead, Your Highness?"
Climax: She dragged him with her into orgasm, yanking him under. He succumbed with an exultant shout of masculine triumph. (And that's just one example. -M.R.)
How do you improve the Star Wars universe? Easy: get rid of Jar Jar Binks. How do you improve the Star Trek universe? Still easy: take Wesley Crusher off the bridge of the Enterprise-D.
Okay then, try this: how do you improve the Dune universe? I don't think I can come up with a way, actually. This may have something to do with the fact that the only thing I want more than to be in Star Fleet is to be a Bene Gesserit, but whatever.
But while I may not be able to improve Dune, Livia Dare... thought she could? Her solution: the Butlerian Jihad never happened. And then go into graphic detail about all of the sex.
Completely by accident (I didn't think they'd have a book this dirty at the public library), In the Flesh turned out to be erotica rather than a romnov. However, I'm reviewing it anyway, because one of these wretched books finally lived up to its cover illustration.
I imagine that Livia Dare (aka Sylvia Day) got her start writing adult fanfiction for all three sf universes mentioned above. I imagine that she got fed up with the constraints of canon, threw her favourite bits of all three into a potion and extracted the universe in which this book is set.
So, we have light-sabre style weapons and flying bike thingies, transporters, healing chambers, a Sensual Arts school, a desert planet, and cheap stillsuit knock-offs. There're also benevolent, probably AI computer "Guardians." But thanks to all the technology, people have had the opportunity to appreciate "sensual" things? I don't even know.
The plot is of course completely irrelevant because it exists solely to justify or as a means to the sex, which makes up probably 75% of the book. I'll tell you about it anyway.
Sapphire is the king of Sari's favourite concubine. Since he won't bang anyone but her, the jealous queen of Sari convinces him to send Sapphire away, because the heir to the throne needs to be conceived naturally. Conveniently, Wulfric, Crown Prince of D'Ashier, is available nearby and nearly dead, so when the king sets Sapphire up with her own palace, the queen arranges for Wulf to be one of Sapphire's attendants, hoping he'll kill her.
I should add that Sari and D'Ashier are at war, so Wulf and Sapphire's love is of course a forbidden one.
Look, all I can say is that they bang a whole bunch of times, and end up loving each other, and, yes, getting married. There are mercenaries and fighting and political machinations, but mostly there's just fucking. Which gets really really repetitive.
Besides the sex surfeit, the dialogue is totally ridiculous, going from formality to crudity with pretty much no rhyme or reason. There's also a really weird disconnect that comes from Sapphire thinking of herself as Sapphire, and Wulf thinking of her by her real name, Katie Erikson.
The one interesting thing I noticed was that instead of the "him protecting her, her realizing she needs someone" thing that's happened in all the other romnovs, in this case, the primary concern for both of them is to protect the other.
Anyway, probably the least disappointing romnov so far, even just because picking out the origin of various different techs was amusing.
She wanted to be pissed at him, not creaming all over his hand.
Her dark eyes paused briefly on each of the women surrounding the pool, all of whom eyed her back with curiosity and/or suspicion.
Wulf stood. "It isn't like that."
Anders went still. His gaze narrowed. "Think with your other brain. She's leverage and a hot fuck. Don't lose sight of who she is."
Wulf couldn't lose sight of it. Her history made her into the woman she was. A woman he respected and found fascinating.
"Shh," he soothed, his hands molding her curves into him. "Yes, you should have asked. But then you're menstruating, which seems to mess with women's minds."
Sapphire smiled. "I look like hell."
"You look like heaven."