Having enjoyed K.S. Augustin's COLLATERAL DAMAGE (and other stories by her), I'm starting to wonder in earnest why her name isn't shared more often among readers who prefer plausible and/or hard SF elements in their science fiction romance.
K.S. Augustin's skill at integrating SF and romance is on a par with Linnea Sinclair, Sara Creasy, Kristin Landon, Marcella Burnard, Sharon Lynn Fisher, and Sarah A. Hoyt. The only difference is that Ms. Augustin is a digital-first author (and thus lacks certain distribution advantages).
K.S. Augustin has written eleven science fiction romances as well as two space opera novels (QUINTEN'S STORY and WAR GAMES). Some of her SFRs are set in the world of the Republic, a setting that ought to appeal to fans who like a wholistic approach to worldbuilding. When not writing in the Republic arena, she delivers unique fare like EUROPA EUROPA, an ocean-based story featuring genetically engineered characters.
Her work is available from digital-first publishers like Carina Press, but she also releases stories through her Sandal Press venture. Nothing comes between K.S. Augustin and her readers! She's willing to learn new skills and navigate the rapidly changing publishing landscape in order to get her stories out there. Not only that, she brings a multicultural perspective to her work that I find incredibly refreshing.
All of the above is why I'd like to tag COLLATERAL DAMAGE, her new sci-fi romance short story. First, here's the blurb:
No good deed ever goes unpunished.
Meyal Lit has been alone on an orbital for the past six months, analysing the remote planet of Falcin V. It’s a lonely job but, if it means financial security for herself and her family, Meyal is happy to grit her teeth and do it. That is, until a rival exo-geologist on a station on the opposite side of the planet contacts her.
Even though they work for competing companies, loneliness drives Meyal and Waryd together. In between work shifts, they indulge in small talk and chat-sex, knowing nothing can come from their liaison. Then Meyal gets confidential news that could change the entire way she and Waryd operate. If she does nothing, Waryd dies; on the other hand, if she saves her rival, she can kiss her dreams of financial independence goodbye.
What’s a smart, introverted geologist to do?
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is currently free, so I'm hoping that incentive is high enough for you to read it, but if you need more information than the blurb provides before taking the chance, here are some non-spoiler tags for you!
* COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a story set in the author's Republic universe. It's a prequel of sorts and you can read more about this aspect at the author's site.
* Setting: space opera. Earth is approaching a state of apocalypse, which helps make the stakes for the heroine very real.
* File under "Unique Occupations": the hero and heroine are exo-geologists.
* Meyal is a heroine with agency. She's intelligent and takes charge when danger threatens.
* The (Beta) hero has a secret.
* The story features hard, yet accessible SF elements and solid worldbuilding with great attention to detail.
* The heat level is erotic, with some graphic language, but the story isn't about their sexual journey. The sexual attraction between Meya and Waryd serves a particular function for them and also jumpstarts the romance.
* The external plot has a bit of corporate espionage flavor, which lends the story a layer of mystery/suspense.
* Action-adventure quotient: low (low because the story doesn't call for action sequences, not because it's lacking in that department)
* People of Color characters
* Fans of FIREFLY would enjoy COLLATERAL DAMAGE since it involves themes of rebellion, underdog characters, a remote setting, and an Alliance-like government.