Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew—a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.
When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates—humans who escaped Earth before its demise—are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.
The life of the man she loves.
His casual tone stung her composure. How could he talk of such mundane things when they’d almost been captured, when she’d touched him so tenderly?
“We’ll let them get farther away,” Striker explained, reasonable as always. “We’re going in their direction tomorrow.”
The sting of rejection grew, burning a hole in her heart. “Why?”
Her lips trembled. “Why not kiss me like you did before?”
“I can’t.” He shook his head, and the air cooled between them; so much so, Aries wondered if the desert had turned into deep space.
He’d teased her with such affection before, it was cruel to take it away. “I don’t understand,” she said, wishing she didn’t care, wishing she could stop all the emotions he’d started in her heart.
Aries caught a glimpse of pain etched in the wrinkles around his eyes. Striker turned away and started pulling supplies out of his backpack. “I can’t do this.”
Striker shook his head and Aries prompted, “Can’t kiss me, can’t trust me? What?”
“I can’t allow myself to get tangled up with someone. Not again.”
The thoughts of Striker with another woman confused her. On the New Dawn, everyone had one lifemate and that was it. “You mean you loved someone before?”
Striker’s hand tightened on the backpack. “I trusted someone a long time ago, allowed myself to love, if you will. She hurt me so much I lost my entire life and ended up here. I can’t experience that kind of pain again.”
Aries clasped her hand over her heart. “I’m so sorry.”
He waved her apology off as if it meant nothing. “It’s a tough world, Aries. And it’s dangerous to love. If I were you, I’d keep my heart well-guarded, because you never know when it will affect your decisions, when it will make you weak.”
Aries couldn’t take his advice. Watching him talk about his past made her realize she’d already given up her heart.
He had it.
When I first read the blurb for Paradise 21, I was struck by the unique story line. While I’m not a big fan of books about space and/or space travel, I enjoyed this book very much. It was easy to relate to Aries and her feelings. What reader hasn’t, at some point, felt that life was beyond her control? What reader hasn’t wished she had the courage to make radical changes? I found myself rooting for Aries and Striker before they even meet. There were just enough twists and turns in the plot to keep me guessing. Just enough suspense to keep me reading to see what happened next. I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters, each one helping the other to purge the demons of their past and take a chance on another. The only thing I would change, if I could, would be to add a little more romance. I typically read contemporary romance or romantic suspense so I was looking forward to the moment when Aires and Striker came together. While I certainly got my happily-ever-after, I would have enjoyed a few romantic scenes. That said, I enjoyed reading Paradise 21. I would recommend it anyone who enjoys a nice light read. One where the good guys and even the ‘bad’ get their happy ending. I look forward to reading more from Aubrie Dionne.