Trapped on Arden, Earthman Tristan Mallory discovers that men are sex slaves forced into harems. He has no intention of belonging to anyone, not even beautiful fellow scientist Mara d'Jorel. Mara despises the harem system and has refused to participate, but her heart won't allow anyone else to own Tristan, and owning him will turn his growing love into hate. To give Tristan the freedom her world denies, she must risk everything--her reputation, her home, and even her freedom and life. But her greatest risk is losing Tristan's love to another woman. Tristan's friend Kellen Votrain is acquired as a bed slave by vicious Cadaran d'Hasta, head of Arden's Internal Security, who has used the lives and deaths of thousands of men to gain her power. Intelligent and amoral, she'll do anything to destroy him and Tristan and any woman weak enough to love them. With the help of a local intelligent alien who resembles an Earth cat and Dorian Dalia--Tristan's long-time romantic interest, Tristan, Mara, and Kellen escape the planet. Through the vast emptiness of space and the most primitive of human colonies, they seek freedom, but Cadaran is always one step behind them.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Marilynn Byerly's writing passion is adventure stories. Some are set in the present day and involve intense suspense, thriller, or paranormal elements like reincarnation, others are set in the distant future where gender roles are switched. Romantic Times has called her an author to watch. Affaire de Coeur has named her an Outstanding Achiever in romance. Both the readers and the reviewers of Affaire de Coeur named her TIME AFTER TIME one of the best time travel novels of 1998.
Her novel, STAR-CROSSED, has received a Sapphire Award, the National Reader's Choice Award, the "Affaire de Coeur" Award, and a Write Touch Award. It was also a double finalist in the PEARL Awards and the RIOs (Reviewers International Organization) for the best sf romance and best book of the year, and it was nominated for the Frankfurt eBook Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, for exploring gender issues using science fiction.
"The characters are all realistically drawn, and the world building is a masterpiece of pragmatic cynicism wed to hopeful optimism. Truth and true love triumph, but the battle takes physical and emotional casualties that both satisfy the sense of realism and provide an uplifting theme of hope for those who endure suffering."Jennifer Dunne -- Knowbetter.com
"If you're looking for a tender, heart-felt romance; If you're looking for a fascinating futuristic - this is the book for you. Star-Crossed has got it all, and more. Author Marilynn Byerly will keep you flipping pages right to the end in your urge to discover whether the girl does indeed get the guy and whether the good guys defeat the bad guys once and for all. Ms. Byerly is a wonderful writer, as capable of portraying a tender moment as a brutal encounter, a lingering love scene or a compelling battle, and making the reader feel and believe every word. I loved every minute of Star- Crossed!Word Museum
"Star- Crossed grabbed my attention from the first page and refused to let go until I had finished it. It was easy to become involved in the problems of Tris and Kellen, Mara and Dorian, and to root for them whole-heartedly. I hurt for them when they were hurting and rejoiced with them in their triumphs. This is definitely one of the best books I've read recently."Karen McCullough -- Scribes World Review
"...a complex and involving plot, sympathetic and beleaguered characters, and well-crafted world-building. The good guys are multifaceted and believable, the villain is thoroughly evil, and even the fuzzy native sentient sidekick proves a likable, well-developed character. STAR-CROSSED is an accomplished, involving, and challenging contribution to the world of futuristic romance."Escape to Romance Reviews
"Picking the right star to wish on?"
Tristan Mallory jolted in his chair at Kellen's voice. He blinked, seeing again the moving starfield on the forward viewing screen. Kellen Votrain sauntered through the hatch onto the tiny bridge and plopped down in the chair beside him at the ship's command console.
"Or is it star intoxication?" Kellen handed him his beer.
"A bit of both." Tristan pulled the tab and waited a moment for the can to cool its contents then sipped.
Kellen grinned and leaned back, propping his heels on the top of the console. He raised his beer can. "To both."
"To both." Tristan sipped again. "Picked out your star? Must have the perfect one if you want your wish to come true."
"Not the binaries. Fickle wishing stars binaries. How about that one?" He pointed at the luminous yellow star at the left bottom corner of the screen.
"Good choice. Trigellan. Like Poppa Sol himself. Earth colony on the third planet."
"Beautiful diseased Arden." Kellen's green eyes glimmered with seriousness as he examined Tristan's face, then he turned back to the starfield. "And your wish?"
Kellen rephrased his question. "What's wrong, Tris?"
"I'm not sure. Boredom. Emptiness when I should feel complete."
"Life as a megamind scientist isn't to your liking then?"
"No. Remember how it was with us after graduate school. Let's do that again. I'll plot a course away from that bloody dull conference, and you and I will sneak out of the known galaxy. We'll find the planets, you can figure out what makes them tick, and I'll figure out how to communicate with the local version of people. It's not as much fun playing Columbus without you along. And we haven't named a system after you yet."
"And probably never will."
"Is it my fault women have a weakness for me?"
Tristan mimicked, "Oh my dear, you're so beautiful. I'll name a star system after you." He snorted. "God, what a line."
"It works." Kellen jerked upright. "What the..."
Warning strobes flashed on the control console. Kellen fingered the controls with the skill of a concert pianist.
Tristan leaned forward in disbelief. "Another ship on collision course out in the middle of nowhere?"
Their ship bucked. Kellen's can sailed off the console, a tail of beer following it. Kellen swore and also stated the obvious. "They're shooting at us." He punched the communication switch. "This is The Helen of Troy, The Helen of Troy. We're not hostile. Repeat, not hostile. Hold your fire."
The ship shuddered as another force bolt hit.
Their eyes met, all questions and answers settled in a moment. Tristan grabbed the controls as Kellen charged toward the weapons bubble beneath the bridge. Tristan began evasive action, intending to get the hell away from the larger ship, a heavily armed fighter by the size of it.
A force bolt shimmered across their hull; the ship's structure groaned.
Swearing through his teeth, he dodged the next bolt. The ship's laser buzzed as Kellen shot back.
The Helen reared and bucked with a direct hit. Fire exploded behind him. His fingers touched suddenly stiff controls. All power gone, the ship wallowed then floated sideways like a dead whale caught in a current. Even the ship's weapons were gone.
He glanced back at the holocaust and the automatic fire sprinkler fighting the flames then hit the communications button. "We surrender. This is The Helen of Troy. We surrender. Acknowledge."
Not even static answered. Either they weren't replying or couldn't hear him. He shrugged and considered the identity of their enemy. The Helen was in a peaceful trading zone in human space. Pirates rather than aliens.
The weapons system screamed with disintegrating metal and buckled.
"Kellen!" He ran toward the weapons bubble and peered down. Acrid smoke flared upward. Flames around him, Kellen sprawled at the base of the ladder.
Some tiny, reasonable part of Tristan's brain told him it was suicide, but he shimmied down the ladder and knelt by his friend. He sought a pulse.
At his touch, Kellen swore violently. "Get the hell back up, you idiot."
Returning the compliment, Tristan threw the other man across his shoulder and began to drag them both up the ladder. That tiny voice told him his hand was scorching on the ladder, but he paid no attention.
The journey up was ten times longer than the journey down. He dumped Kellen onto the floor of the bridge and crawled up beside him.
The ship shuddered again, the wall behind them beginning to bulge. The tiny voice told him to run, but he threw himself over Kellen's body as the propulsion system exploded.
Pain and darkness. He swam up through miles of darkness and pain then opened his eyes. Tears streaming down his smoke-blackened face, Kellen leaned over him. Eerie red emergency lights shimmered in the smoke. He forced his voice up through the darkness between them. "You okay?"
"Nothing major." Kellen blinked tears. "Oh, Tris. You damn fool."
He didn't ask how he was. The terrible pain and his friend's eyes, sea green with grief, told him. He smiled. "Guess I made the wish on the wrong star." His body shuddered.
Kellen's hand found his and held. "You damn fool."
"Love you too, Kell. Only brother my parents didn't have."
"God watch over you." Tristan closed his eyes and stopped fighting the darkness' pull. Images drifted past. His parents, brothers, his sister, and little Peter. He'd never hear his nephew pronounce his name correctly. He smiled at them. They'd be all right. They had each other. Then he saw beautiful, loving Dorian. He pleaded to her image, "Please forgive me for leaving you, too."
Kellen was calling his name, but he drifted deeper in darkness until his friend's voice faded away. Finally, he settled so deep even his tiny voice couldn't be heard.