012322 BadariGladiator-Kyden_final copy

Submitted Art by Fiona Jayde

The cover of “Kyden” by Veronica Scott. First in her new series featuring alien Badari gladiators.

By Veronica Scott

Special to the Daily Record

For my first post of 2022, I thought I’d talk about a few first-in-series science fiction romance novels.

One series I don’t talk about enough is E.G. Manetti’s “Twelve Systems Chronicles,” a 10-book completed series which has the world-building and galactic sprawl of space opera, with a strong, slowly building romance at its heart.

The mix is very satisfying and the author balances space battles with the more intimate scenes. The blurb from the first book, “The Cartel,” reads, “Where passion and duty collide. A woman in peril. A ruthless warrior with a hidden agenda. A society where honor is revered and trust a dangerous luxury. Raised to wealth and privilege, Lilian’s future was shattered when her father was convicted of terrible crimes. By law and custom she should have followed him into death to redeem her corrupt genetics. Desperate to avoid execution for crimes not her own, Lilian accepts an indenture contract with a powerful warrior. For three years he will have total control of her body, will and intellect. Lucius Mercio commands one of the most powerful Cartels in the Twelve Systems. As clever and ambitious as he is ruthless, Lucius’ wealth, influence, and power place him among the elite of the warrior caste. It is not enough. Lucius intends to take his Cartel to unimaginable heights with the aid of Lilian’s brilliance. He faces only one obstacle. Lucius must keep Lilian alive.”

The recently released final book in the series, “Thorn Bearer,” ties up the entire adventure and has been extremely well reviewed.

For a less classic but enthralling sci-fi romance, there’s the USA Today bestselling husband-and-wife writing duo Tiffany Roberts and their “Spider’s Mate” series. Yes, the hero of the three novels is indeed an alien spider. I’m normally not a reader who enjoys nonhuman heroes. I like my romance between humans or at least humanoids, and my steamy scenes the good old fashioned way, to put it politely. These authors are such excellent writers, however, that they can draw me in and make me care deeply about nonhuman characters, which they have done with Ketahn, the hero here.

In book one, “Ensnared,” he has quite a set of problems, as per the blurb: “Ketahn did not want a mate. Fate has a different plan for him. When the queen he despises declares her intention to claim him, he retreats into the jungle. What he finds there changes his world. Small, delicate, and pale skinned, Ivy Foster is nothing like the females Ketahn has known. She’s not of his kind at all. Yet the moment he sees her, he knows the truth in his soul — she is his heartsthread. And now that he has her, he won’t let anything take her away. Not the jungle, not the gods, not the queen and her warriors. Whether Ivy agrees or not, their webs are entangled. No one will ever sever those threads.”

The third and final volume, “Bound,” was recently released. I wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone who doesn’t enjoy dark themes and complicated “bedroom” scenes. Tiffany Roberts has a number of other series with more humanoid heroes that a reader could try first before moving on to the “Spider’s Mate.”

The “Stryxian Alien Warrior” series by Ella Blake is a sci-fi romance reader favorite that also has great cover art. The series stands at six books, and I think she may write more in the future. Each book can be read as a standalone. “Bonded to the Stryxian” was the first book and here is the blurb: “Humans made a deal with the Stryxian males: Help us defend Earth, and when the war is over, we’ll send you women to help rebuild your dying species. Now, the war appears to be over and Trinity Bentzer’s number has been called in the lottery. Only, instead of winning a boatload of money, she’s getting some … winged alien she’s never met. Trin’s not thrilled to be shipped off and matched up, until she meets Raig.

“Maybe she hit the jackpot, after all.

“Commander Raig Thanor’s job is to supervise the females’ move to their holding chambers until they are sent to their final matches, but the moment he meets Trinity, he knows she’s his. If only claiming her didn’t risk sparking a war within his own people.”

Reviewers compare the series favorably to those by Ruby Dixon and others, and I’m always happy to see a new release in the Stryxian universe.

I have a long running series myself, the “Badari Warriors,” about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future whose DNA includes alien predator influences and their human-fated mates. The series is at 17 books and still going, but I recently began a spinoff, “Badari Gladiators,” with the first book being Kyden.

The concept is that over the centuries of the Badari experiment, a few unscrupulous scientists sold off individual Badari to become gladiators in various interstellar communities where staged arena battles are fought for the entertainment of the masses. Kyden is one such unfortunate who has actually done well for himself but can’t obtain his freedom. Then by chance he meets his fated mate Elara, who is a senator’s daughter and therefore out of his reach. Or is she? I had a great time writing this book since I always loved the old sword-and-sandal movies about gladiators. It was fun to update the trope to futuristic sci-fi.

I’m hard at work on the second gladiator book now and hope to have it released in the next month, before turning back to the original Badari series to continue the story there.

Wishing you many hours of happy reading in 2022!

USA Today bestselling author Veronica Scott is the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her books. She had a long career at NASA/JPL, where the Mars rovers were built, among other exciting projects. Scott is seven-time winner of the SFR (Science-Fiction Romance) Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. One of her favorite achievements is that she read the part of “Star Trek Crew Member” in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.” For more information, visit her blog at veronicascott.wordpress.com or find her on social media.