UPDATE: A different version of this review appears in the May-June (2009) issue of Fort Myers Magazine. See Ft.Myers magazine – Linnea Sinclair
Hope’s Folly, the latest title by Neapolitan Linnea Sinclair, is a rapid-fire romp through futuristic political intrigue and high-risk passion. Aboard an aging and compromised spacecraft, Admiral Philip Guthrie attempts to thwart the plans of the corrupt Imperial forces. The Imperial leadership, against which the seriously wounded Guthrie has rebelled, is attempting to kill or capture him, and Guthrie, a leader of the newly independent Alliance Fleet, must use the only opportunity available, a failing antique craft smelling of oranges from its recent use as a cargo vessel. To raise this conflict to a higher power, Sinclair puts a determined, talented, and attractive Alliance sub-lieutenant, Rya Bennton, under Guthrie’s command – and man she had fantasized about since childhood when she knew him as the best friend of her father – then an Alliance leader.
Sinclair’s imagined world is drawn successfully on many levels. First of all, there is her confident delineation of the shipboard technology – and especially the weaponry – that makes up the world of Philip, Rya, and the other characters. Tension builds around fixing the failed systems of “Hope’s Folly” in advance of an ultimate confrontation with Imperial might. Sinclair’s sure-handedness in describing the spacecraft’s myriad problems with power generation, armaments and defenses, guidance, and communication make this race against time credible and palpable to the reader. Though for some readers there may be too much space given over to detailing the futuristic hardware, most will enjoy it. No Tom Clancy reader would find Sinclair’s techno-imaginings unwelcome.
Additionally, Sinclair lends sensuality to the hand weapons worn and wielded by Philip and Rya. Rya, especially, is attuned to the eroticism of weaponry. In “Hope’s Folly,” the weapon is as much embraced as worn. It hugs the body and is sometimes joined with it. The curves of the hand weapons and the curves of Sub-Lieutenant Rya Bennton are matched in shape, in seductive power, in explosive potential.
The tug of war between decorum and passion keeps the romantic intrigue smoldering. As the daughter of his best friend, as his military subordinate, and as a women 16 years his junior, Rya would seem off-limits to the smitten Admiral Guthrie. But Rya’s boldness raises the intensity of Guthrie’s temptation. Her proximity to him as the Folly’s chief security officer allows her to impress him with her skills and character while making each accessible to the other. Add the psychology of wartime, the sense that there may not be a future, and the postponement of pleasure seems a fool’s gamble. By alternating which of the main characters is the controlling consciousness of the narrative, Sinclair builds the reader’s appreciation of both Philip’s and Rya’s dilemma. There is a sure-handedness in the way the author enters the thoughts and emotions of her characters that makes them – at least during immersion in the story – convincing and compelling.
A good-sized cast of minor characters populates the closed world of Hope’s Folly. These include a suspected Imperial mole, a by-the-book commander who cracks under stressful circumstances, and several versatile specialist officers who perform their duties bravely. Each minor character is effectively drawn, and each participates in the range of perspectives on the dangers confronting this mission and the Alliance. Sinclair individualizes them with aplomb, and she weaves them into a cohesive team under Admiral Guthrie’s charismatic but sometimes challengeable command. Not the least of these characters is the mysterious Captain Folly, a feline who prowls the spacecraft. As Sinclair’s readers know, a cat always figures in her fiction, and this one seems to embody the spirit of “Hope’s Folly,” at once its mascot and namesake.
With Hope’s Folly, Linnea Sinclair builds on a secure reputation as a leading fashioner of science fiction romance. She straddles and blends these genres with a unique bravura and wit. Already a multiple winner of major literary awards in her field, Sinclair is likely to add to her collection with this latest title, due out from Bantam Books in late February.
Linnea Sinclair will be the lead-off speaker at the Naples Writer’s Conference associated with the Naples Press Club’s 7th Annual Authors and Books Festival. The Conference, held on April 4 and 5 at the von Liebig Art Center in downtown Naples, will offer workshops on the craft and business of writing. Pre-registration is required. Authors and publishers will be exhibiting, selling, and signing their books throughout the Festival. This book fair, which includes entertainment, is open to the public at no charge. For more information visit the website http://www.authorsandbooksfestival.org or call (239) 593-1488.