Go to Homepage   Tracy Cozzens: One Perfect Mate

 

Hard Shell Word Factory (ebook);
ISBN: 1-58200-079-4
I expected to hate this book. Honestly. If you've ever read an average science fiction romance written by a neophyte author, you'll understand why.  

But, despite serious errors in scientific fact and a number of attitudes that made me cringe, One Perfect Mate won me over. It's genuinely romantic without being too icky sweet, adventurous without being too bloody or overly violent. And while the writer may not know science, she sure understands women's hearts, frailties and yearnings.  

Petite Mariss Sakari, an East Indian/Polynesian beauty with long dark hair and genetically engineered blue-violet eyes (who doesn't think she's really all that sexy), boards a space flight to a planet far far from anywhere. At the end of the journey Adrian Young, the fiancé she never met, waits impatiently. 

The marriage was arranged by a computerized matching service, but Mariss isn't exactly going in blind. Adrian sent a video letter detailing his prestigious family background; exemplary academic record; and tall, blond, model-handsome beauty. OK, so his humor rating is a low 55. A girl can't have everything. 

Lost in a romantic reverie, Mariss can't help but be annoyed when the short, dark, big-nosed space captain with bulging biceps pesters her during the flight. (Don't you just love a romance where it's hate at first sight?) Throw in a planetary crash landing, days of hiking alone together through an untouched paradise, daring rescues, fabulous sex and a plot twist right out of Stepford Wives, and you wind up with a pretty good read -- except for some pretty big blunders. 

Science fiction fans know you can't:

  • fire big guns inside a spacecraft;
  • have earth-normal gravity on a planet with a longer day;
  • maintain a large thriving luxury community with big houses, etc., with only one tiny supply ship every six weeks;
  • drink untested water on a strange planet, etc., etc. 

Plus, as a scientist and super-anal researcher, wouldn't Mariss check out serious dangers (like big, nasty, native critters) on her handy, portable "intel-unit" before she trips over them?  

As for the attitudes, I pride myself on not being one of those humorless you-know-what's. Nevertheless, it depressed me to read a story where every single woman other than the heroine is either an overtly sexual bitch or a wimpy, middle-aged woman who needs sedation.  

Unlike even the most chauvinistic of today's male sci-fi writers, Cozzens didn't bother to put any women in positions of authority. Every single cop, ambassador, pilot, captain, etc., is unremittingly male. Plus, One Perfect Mate's decidedly unplucky heroine constantly needs rescuing by the hero and whatever other men happen to be in the neighborhood. 

Worst of all, the "sexy banter" that ultimately seduces Mariss consists of word play like, "place that pert little fanny squarely in your seat." Can you imagine the sexual harassment lawsuit if an airline pilot said that to a female passenger these days? 

So, why did I still genuinely enjoy reading this story? Although Cozzens may not know a thing about science or sexual equality, she does know a great deal about women.  

The heart and soul of the story struck true. Yes, the "perfect man" you think you want is often nothing like the one you finally fall in love with. Yes, short dark guys with big noses and chips on their shoulders can be really sexy. Yes, sometimes you can feel ugly and unappealing, despite all evidence to the contrary. Yes, sex can be better than ever when you forget about trying to be perfect. Yes, really smart women can make terribly stupid romantic choices.  

And then there was that super-fun, retro Stepford Wives angle. But that part you'll have to read for yourself.

 

Anne Hills Holland

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