Lady Felicia Sorensen, a brilliant microengineering student, finds herself pressured to date Emperor Victor Sinclair, for he has fallen madly in love with her! Despite being showered with extravagant gowns and attention, she longs for a fascinating life as a scientist, instead of the stressful and dangerous destiny of an Empress The social pressures of being the Emperor’s Betrothed, from gossip and manipulation to an assassination attempt, cause her to weigh her love for him against her personal goal, to do research in her own lab someday. Will Felicia choose her Imperial lover and tough out the extreme political and social pressures with the supreme ruler of the Empire, or will she choose her goals and help thousands, millions, possibly billions of people through her intellectual achievements?
Dignity is the first of Eva Caye’s thirteen-book series “To Be Sinclair”, a romance in a science fiction setting. Everything that happens in the plot revolves around the relationship between thirty-one year old Emperor Victor Sinclair and his paramour, Felicia Sorensen. When we meet Victor, he is despairing of ever finding the woman to help him secure his dynasty.
Felicia is something of a maverick. Although of high-born status, unlike her female peers, she has no interest in pursuing a suitable mate and becoming, effectively, the manager of a household. She wants to be a scientist, and do something to improve the lot of humanity.
Introduced to Felicia, Victor finds the young woman refreshingly different. Felicia, for her part, is well aware that a relationship with the Emperor may well mean the end of her ambition to be a scientist. The story evolves as Felicia learns more about Victor, while at the same time growing to a greater understanding of how she might fit into his life as Empress, without giving up her own goals.
The juxtapostion between the essentially solitary role of a scientist and the glaringly public life of the Emperor’s fiancee is taxing. Felicia constantly struggles with her ambitions and her feelings for Victor. Increasingly, her position in Victor’s life attracts envy, duplicity and hate, emotions Felicia must learn to deal with.
The characterisation is excellent. I liked Victor and Felicia, and wanted their relationship to work, despite the trials. It was nice to see that neither was perfect, tripping and falling and making mistakes. The subsidiary cast – quite a few – were sufficiently fleshed out, with plenty of jealousy, back-biting, and plotting, as well as support from friends and family. Both main characters develop and grow, and the ending is as satisfying as one expects from a romance.
I found the world building to be an interesting mixture of high tech, low tech and no tech, ranging from space travel via wormholes, to computer systems which seem to be no better than we have at present, through to hand-written letters on exquisite paper. But then, the feel of the society smacks of Georgian Britain, with high-born ladies vying for eligible men of rank. Indeed, the author’s writing style is more reminiscent of an earlier time. There’s a formality about it. For instance, Lady Brighton, who runs the hostel for young ladies where we first meet Felicia, is frequently referred to as ‘the good lady’, and the author tends to use the word ‘for’ instead of ‘because’ or ‘since’, a rather old fashioned construction. Although we’re in (mainly) Felicia’s head, often the narrator steps in to explain something, or to summarise a discussion, telling instead of showing. That said, there’s plenty of exquisite detail to bring the scene to life. I particularly liked the descriptions of Felicia’s gowns, which she wears to various court functions. She has no interest in fashion, so Victor commissions the dresses for her, sometimes to make a point to an audience, sometimes to make a point to her. The security arrangements surrounding an Emperor and his court are detailed and totally convincing. Privacy is hard to come by in that world.
There are a number of low-key sex scenes in the book, nothing much more than suggestion. However, the author has included a short story at the end, something she calls an Easter egg. It’s fun – but it’s hot. You have been warned.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It’s leisurely reading, not a full-on, action-packed space opera. But it’s a book I kept going back to, and something with sufficient depth to make me think I might well read it again. If you like series, then after you’ve finished this one, there are eight other books as Victor and Felicia’s family grows and matures.