I read ‘Blue Shift’ by Jane O’Reilly in my role as a reader for the Romantic Novel Awards. Out of the five books allocated to me it was the one I was most looking forward to reading; mainly because I was curious to know if a science fiction novel could also be a romantic novel.
My role was to score the book on such things as plot, character, suitability for audience, genre, and of course, romance. With ‘Blue Shift’ most of the categories were easy to score; the plot and characters are well-defined and it can certainly be described as science fiction. For me the problem arose when scoring it on romance.
For a book to be defined as a romantic novel there has to be a developing romantic relationship between two people; which there is. The couple in the tale are Dax a space pirate and Jinn, who has turned her back on her privileged upbringing to become a pilot.
I believe that for a novel to be termed ‘romantic’ the romance has to be central to the story; events have to happen because of the romance. I therefore had to ask myself if the relationship between Dax and Jinn was different e.g. if they were just good friends would the story change? If Dax and Jinn weren’t lovers, Jinn’s mother would still be a corrupt politician and the intrigue would still exist. It wasn’t until the end that it felt like the action happened because they are lovers. So maybe the romance will become more central to the action as the story unfolds in the next two books.
One of the purposes of a romantic novel is to leave you feeling happy and upbeat. Although ‘Blue Shift’ left me feeling satisfied and wanting more as only a good book can; the ending didn’t leave me feeling happy or uplifted. This is because ‘Blue Shift’ is the first book in a trilogy and the ending sets the story up to continue.
In conclusion, would I say ‘Blue Shift’ was a romantic novel? Having a developing relationship and sex scenes doesn’t automatically make a romantic novel. For example, there’s a relationship and sex scenes in ‘1984’ but I don’t know anyone who would describe Orwell’s classic as either romantic or uplifting. On the second point I didn’t feel that the romance between Dax and Jinn was pivotal to the action but rather that it added to it.
I enjoyed ‘Blue Shift’ and if it was a boy meets girl story set in space, boy and girl are torn apart, then get back together to live happily ever after; I wouldn’t hesitate to call it a romantic science fiction novel. In my view ‘Blue Shift’ is a science fiction novel with a strong romantic thread and therefore to term it a romantic novel would be a misconception. However, this view left me wondering if I was doing the book a disservice by denying it an award. The crux of my dilemma with ‘Blue Shift’ winning a romantic novel award was not that the romance would alienate science fiction readers but that the science fiction would alienate romantic novel readers.
Finally, I’m hoping book two is amongst my allocation this year.
Dorcas Wilson is a novelist, poet, compiler of activity books, lover of history and people-watching. You can find out more about Dorcas’ work here.