A stand-alone SF romance set in the Liaden universe. Part of the Dragon Variation and Partners in Necessity collections.

Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza is the Cargo Master aboard Liaden space ship Daxflan. She’s also running from her past and dodging the unwanted attentions of the second mate Dagmar Collier.

Shan yos’Galan is the captain of Dutiful Passage and the thodelm of Clan Korval. He’s the half-blooded son of Er Thom and Anne whom we meet in Local Custom.

Priscilla finds out that someone aboard the Daxflan is smuggling illegal goods. In short order, she’s sent down to a planet to load goods, which isn’t the cargo master’s job, and is knocked unconscious and left behind. Her record has also been falsified to show that she’s a thief who reneged on her contact. This would make her pretty much unemployable. However, she’s very lucky because the Liaden ship Dutiful Passage is in orbit. She manages to convince the captain, Shan, that she has been betrayed and Shan takes her on board as the pet librarian.

Shan sees great potential in Priscilla and he also sees how emotionally wounded she is. He sets out to gently coax her out of her shell and to heal her emotionally.

For the first time since Priscilla left her home world ten years ago, she starts to make friends. She even gets a lover, Lina, and starts to open up to the people around her.

I admit that I was a bit worried when the book started with female Dagmar sexually harassing Priscilla. The characters in the previous books had been heteros so I was worried that non-heteros would get a bad treatment. I didn’t need to be worried however; both Lina and Priscilla are bisexuals and the good guys.

Once again I liked the characters and the setting. Shan had clearly similar sense of humor to Daav (“My dreadful manners!”). Unfortunately, once again, there wasn’t really tension in the story. Once Priscilla got on board the Dutiful Passage, it was clear that she wasn’t in any danger. This is the story of her mental healing and journey of self-discovery as a competent professional. But she needs the help of a man to do it.

Unfortunately, once again, the heroine is in trouble and it’s the job of the hero to charge in and save her. Shan (or rather the clan Korval. Shan is just the easiest target) and the captain of Daxflan, Sav Rid, have a previous quarrel, and it almost felt to me that Priscilla wasn’t the center of the plot. Shan and Sav Rid’s fight was.

This book had more fantasy elements than the previous ones. There are three characters who can use spells: Priscilla, Lina, and Shan. Priscilla has been taught according to her customs and differently than the Liadens which was great! She was taught that only women can use spells and was quite shocked to find out that Shan had also powers.

The characters are charming and likable, well the good guys anyway. The worlds and the customs are interesting and I’d like to see more of them. I was intrigued by a world where the gender roles were reversed: the women were the heads of households, did all the trading, and had as many husbands as they could support financially. In this world, the priestesses are gathering more power and have so declared that their traders can only work with female off-world captains. The local trader is very worried about the trend. This was left unresolved, however.