Book Review – ‘Let There Be Light’ by R. Cooper
Genre: Steampunk Historical Gay Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 7, 2010)
About the book:
“In war-torn Europe of 1872, Karol and Hart devoted themselves to protecting England and the peace England maintained. Hart was a spy and bodyguard for Karol, a brilliant but hotheaded scientist. Their partnership was almost unstoppable… until Hart could no longer bear to see Karol in danger—or with other men—and seeing Hart repeatedly put his life on the line came to terrify Karol. Then a horrible accident separated them for what they believed would be forever.
Now the enemy’s plan to kidnap Karol has Hart volunteering to guard him once again. Alone together with their fear and pain from the past might destroy them… or it might give them hope for a brighter future.”
I picked ‘Let There Be Light’ by R. Cooper to read just because my friend told me that the unlikely but very cool setting for this MM novella was an alternate universe of Steampunk-ish Victorian England. In R. Cooper’s war-torn Europe of 1872, Queen Victoria’s Britain maintains a shaky kind of peace in Europe, mainly due to the discoveries of England’s brilliant in-house scientists (nicknamed ‘Victoria’s Zoo’) who live and work in a protected university-like enclave called the Menagerie. Several recent breaches in security have identified Karol Zielinski – a brilliant inventor/scientist & ex-weapons specialist/spy who is about to announce a radical new discovery – as the primary target for kidnapping (or worse). His ex-partner/bodyguard Robert “Hart” Hartley-Battridge – an ex-Spy turned Spy Master – is then dispatched by the crown to protect Karol’s life.
The whole novella covers the approximately 24 hours that the two men spend together in Karol’s tower (laboratory). It turns out that they have major ‘unresolved history’ (i.e. a world of misunderstanding & unrequited emotions) together, and haven’t had any contact for the past three years since Karol unexpectedly left the Spy service. R. Cooper does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia of the location and the isolation and danger that the characters face. Karol and Hart are both emotionally intense (while pretending to be distant or unaffected by each other) and there was a desperateness to them that tugged at me. Not to mention the insane sexual tension between them that I was just waiting to boil over.
My main problem with ‘Let There Be Light’ is that reading it was like walking into a movie theater when the movie is already about halfway through, and then once you get to the good stuff, you get an electrical black-out and you don’t get to know what happens next. It’s like the author reached in and tore out some middle chapters of a completed book and just published that. It is unbelievably frustrating since R. Cooper shows a lot of promise – there’s great imagery, intriguing characters and a really cool historical setting that sets this story apart from other MM books. But there’s no time given for a build-up to introduce the plot or characters (with the entire first paragraph of the book blurb just the back story) and the ending isn’t really an ending since the main problem (Karol’s danger) isn’t resolved and even the sexual tension is just relieved a little. If ever there was a book that (at the very least) practically cries out for a good prologue and epilogue it would be this one. Though what I really want is a whole lot more chapters before and after the events in this novella.
Check out Let There Be Light and help support R. Cooper (and maybe she’ll actually bloody write the complete book!)