Recommended Read, Review

Review: Strange Love by Ann Aguirre (2020)

Galactic Love, Book #1

Heat Factor: There is sex, but not the way we usually imagine it. 

Character Chemistry: Zylar is the kindest, gentlest, giant cockroach alien ever. He calls Beryl “Terrible One” and it’s adorable.

Plot: Zylar kidnaps Beryl, kind of by accident. And then they compete in a dystopian mating competition. 

Overall: This book is WEIRD AF and I am so glad I read it.

Heroines in these alien romances must all be really lonely on earth because they accept their changed circumstances—which involve never, ever, going back home—with remarkable aplomb. Sure, Beryl is upset when Zylar abducts her. But at least she’s got her dog with her. 

Anyways, Zylar thought he was picking up his intergalactic mail-order bride, but there was a ship malfunction, which is how he ended up with Beryl and Snaps the dog. He takes them anyway, because he is about to enter the mating games, and if he and his partner don’t make it through this time, he’ll be turned into a service drone. Let’s just say, he’s feeling a little desperate.

There’s a good bit of adventure here as Beryl and Zylar navigate the competition, plus some intrigue with Zylar’s terrible brother (ish? family relationships are different on this planet), but what makes this book so amazing is the relationship between Zylar and Beryl. They just unfurl towards each other as they work through this extremely stressful situation. Obviously Beryl does a lot of the adapting here, as she and Zylar figure out how she can thrive in an alien space; but Zylar, in seeing his world through Beryl’s eyes, also changes how he interacts with everyone around him. 

A note about the sex scenes, because I know that the sex may be off-putting for some readers. So, Zylar’s sexual morphology is based on these Brazilian cave insects with sex-reversed genitalia. (Here’s an article! With pictures!)

So he has these openings in his abdomen, and Beryl can reach her fingers inside and stimulate them until he releases his sperm packet. But more importantly, Beryl is such a revelation to Zylar because she has hands instead of hard pincers, so she can touch him in ways that he’s literally never experienced. So sex is a huge moment of connection for them, but it’s more fundamentally about touch and physicality and closeness. (Don’t worry about Beryl and those pincers and mandibles—Zylar is an inventor, who comes up with all kinds of handy prosthetics, so sex works for her too. Unlike many other smut aliens, Zylar does not have a massive schlong with a barb on the end for extra pleasure.) 

I cannot, in good faith, complete this review without talking about Snaps the dog, who 100% steals every scene that he’s in. See, when Zylar kidnapped Beryl and Snaps, he didn’t know that they were different species, so he gave them both communicator implants. Now Snaps can talk, and he is a delight. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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