Anywho, on to the review.
One word: Ambrea. Gah! She bugged the heck out of me from the moment she walked on to the page. Why? She's too perfect. And he was an afterthought. Which means I didn't finish it.
By too perfect I mean she always said the right thing, always did the right thing, took charge of every situation she was, manipulated the hero like was a blob of Silly Putty, and was instantly hot for a man from a race her people consider Public Enemy Number One.
Oh, but wait. It gets better. She grew up in SECLUSION! As the spurned heiress to her people's throne, put aside by her father because he was convinced her mother was a traitor therefore his heir's blood was tainted too. Very Henry VIII/Elizabeth I. She walks back into her palace after the IM intervenes to reinstate her as the empress, and says and does exactly the right things without even thinking about it. Then she runs off to her private rooms with the hero, this enemy of her people, a people she cares so much about she's willing to risk her uncle's wrath to reclaim her throne, and that's where Ms. Frank lost me. They have their first time making love, they're both virgins, and guess who's taking the lead? Her. Sheltered little "I can't believe anyone would try to kill me, let alone my own flesh and blood" Empress Ambrea talks this "huge Tarian" through his fear of having sex with her. And I mean little as in tiny, she's practically a midget compared to him.
Ooh, I almost forgot. She's obnoxiously religious and carries her prayer book everywhere.
The part that supposedly makes it SFR is the Three Worlds. Three separate planets, filled with humans, but each planet considers the others to be a different race. No sign of Earth. They have a police force dressed in military terminology called the Interplanetary Militia. The heroes in this series are IM soldiers. The first hero, Commander Bronse Chapel, acted and sounded like a soldier. He lived and breathed for the job. And his heroine didn't get on my nerves. She made mistakes, and plenty of them. She was cool, and her psychic abilities were well thought out and believable.
Then comes Ambrea, the little perfect princess. Grew up in seclusion remember? On a world that felt like it had been yanked from a bad fantasy novel. No woman could have hair longer than her. The villainess relied on a mystic healer sort of lady to off the princess's little brother with some kind of herbal poison undetectable to the IM's technology. Really? You expect me to buy that?
Can't forget Rush "Ender" Blakely, the hero. From the race her people consider Public Enemy Number One, and so far beneath them it was almost comical. For some reason I didn't stick around to find out Rush is a pyrotechnic. And he's never told his commanding officer about it! He's not a well crafted pyro either. His pyro genes, or whatever the heck they are, make him impervious to every known weapon in the Three Worlds. And again, his CO doesn't know about it.
Except more often than not it felt like Ms. Frank *did* forget Rush. And don't get me started on the inconsistency with character names and their handles (that's what military given nicknames are called).
Then there's the worldbuildling. It started out great in the first one, but the second one made no sense. It was the strangest mashup of ancient Rome, epic fantasy, and Elizabethan court. Plus, it didn't work. At all. This is a world with interstellar transport, cutting edge technology, and I'm supposed to believe the nation of Allay is still so backward socially that no woman can have longer hair than the princess? And that the emperor and his brother imprison people they don't like in medieval style catacombs? And that herbal poisons can't be detected by IM scientists? One more. I'm supposed to believe the emperor's concubines use herbal poisons to keep each from conceiving, and it doesn't show up in tests of any kind?
Sorry. Don't buy it.
The third book in the series, according to Ms. Frank, is "indefinitely on hold". Which is a nice way to say the publisher cancelled it because sales were abysmal. I completely agree with the publisher's decision to drop this thing like a hot potato. Because it was one hot mess.
To have a solid SFR universe the world building must make sense. Scientific and logical sense. It's SCIENCE fiction. You can extrapolate out the wazoo and come up with anything you want, but you have to build the foundation to support your skyscraper. The Three Worlds has no foundation to support the skyscraper she tried to build in this one.