Heights of Green

Heights of Green - Lise MacTague Book 2 of the Jak -Torrin Adventures (officially it is called the 'On Deception's Edge' series, though I have no idea why) is about as different from the first book as Jak's lush home planet is from Torrin's arid desert home.

The official blurb is a litle too revealing, imho, so here's a more spoiler-free gist: (Spoiler warnings for Book 1 though, if you haven't read that yet).

After her disastrous foray into planet Haefen for an arms deal that went completely fubar, Torrin Ivanov returns to her home planet a little worse for wear, but with some unexpected prizes--shiny new implant technology plus an amazing new girl friend, Jak. For Jak Stowell, the idea of women loving women is as alien as the alluring off-world smuggler. But her attraction to Torrin, starting with her inability to kill her as she was supposed to, up to her ultimate decision to leave her home planet for Torrin's, is as real as it gets. Jak would have loved to have Torrin help her acclimate to her strange new surroundings, but pressing matters keep Torrin occupied. Not only that, everywhere she turns she is faced with Torrin's planet-wide reputation for being a player. Did she make the biggest mistake of her life coming here?

Not wanting to sit idle and stew, Jak eventually finds her niche by turning to what she does best--sniper shooting and hunting--and trains the natives in long distance shooting. The camaraderie of military life AND the freedom to be a woman, something not possible on her home planet, gives Jak a welcome sense of purpose and calm. But a storm is brewing underneath the calm. Torrin suspects her ill-fated trip to Haefen was not an accident. And her attempts to suss out the truth may just have led the hidden enemy to up the stakes.

I loved the first book of the series, and I quite look forward to the third book. And that's probably the best I can say about this book. :) It's a good, solid bridge. But compared side by side with the emotional impact, pulse-pounding excitement, and tight plotting of the first book, this one is a bit of a letdown. First, the idea of swashbuckling, lone-wolf smuggler Torrin being very establishment back home (as in, she's one of the heads of her planet's biggest corporation!) is rather, shall we say, unromantic. :) I wouldn't go so far as to say it's unbelievable, because while she may be one of the bosses, her primary role is off-world wheeling and dealing. I can see how that works.

Apparently the implant tech she brought home is a huge deal, and bringing it to market is of utmost urgency. Torrin's in corporate business meetings all day long (somehow I find that hard to visualize--imagine Han Solo sitting in one day-in and out and you'll get what I mean). So while she doesn't ignore Jak in the bedroom, everything else takes more precedence. Now what's a girl to think? No wonder Jak felt so alone. ;) At this point, if you went into this book not knowing any better, it's like reading a typical run-of-the-mill vanilla lesbian romance--complete with the usual tropes--busy partner, neglected girlfriend, player reputation, old flames, jealousy, family conflict, the dreaded "caught-in-the-act" act ;) and the resulting running away without hearing the whole story trope and everything else is just props. You can pretty much transplant the whole story to any ole place here on earth, and it will work just as well.

I don't mind the direction of the plot but it was just so terribly unexciting. Maybe if things weren't so laid back at Nadi (Torrin's home planet)... Maybe if Jak wasn't so welcome there... Maybe if Torrin didn't have so much power and resources at her disposal (and the whole militia at her beck and call)... maybe...you get what I mean. The book needed to have more tension and conflict throughout. Okay, I probably wouldn't have minded if this part was better written. I missed the awesome writing from the first book, where, when the action lulled, the romance/tension took over. I missed the terribly-conflicted, emotionally messy, killing machine that was Jak. I missed getting into the characters' heads and hearts. There was just too much telling in this book. I missed the occasional poetic imagery from the first book. There were some extraneous descriptions, scenes that I felt over-extended their welcome and at at least one subplot (about Torrin's relationship with her mother) didn't seem to have much relevance except to extend the page count. A tighter edit would have improved the overall pacing. Fortunately, things pick up a bit in the second half of the book when we finally get some action. Not as much tension as I was hoping for though. We do see flashes of the old Jak in action. And a new Jak we've never seen--a broken and lost Jak. That, plus the epilogue, is a perfect lead-in to the third book.

Fans of the first book won't be dissuaded by this review. I certainly wouldn't. But this book felt rushed--both the writing and the editing. I know fans like me love to say 'Can't wait for the next book!', but we actually can. And for as long as it takes to give Jak and Torrin the awesome ending they deserve.

4.2 stars

P.S. Again, like the first book, the cover does not reflect either of the protagonists. The hair is the most obvious difference. Jak is blonde and Torrin is dark red. But the truly glaring difference is that neither of them ever carry pistols. Jak is married to her sniper rifle and Torrin carries a wicked vibroknife. :)

PPS. The cliffhanger ending is just a tantalizing teaser for the third book. The story arc here is complete.