To See the Sun is a SF m/m romance, set almost entirely on the remote and hostile planet of Alkirak. Bram is an ex-miner turned farmer, leading a quiet life on his own land claim. Gael is an interstellar runaway from the dystopian megacity on the planet of Zhemosen, barely more than a kid, fleeing a life that’s set to destroy him. Bram’s looking for a companion to share his days with. In Bram, Gael sees a way out.
There’s a lot to like about this novel. Jensen’s worldbuilding is thorough, and Alkirak—a planet too hot to survive on except for in the crevasses that mar the surface—really feels like a frontier in the style of the history of the American west or Australasia.
The power differential between Gael and Bram is something I would have really liked to have seen explored more. From the point at which Gael arrives on Alkirak, a destitute fugitive with only the clothes he’s standing up in, he relies on Bram for everything. Bram provides him food and a roof over his head, and doesn’t seem to really need a lot in exchange. Gael’s life is in Bram’s pocket.
There are moments seen from each of their perspectives which drive this home. When they argue, in Bram’s eyes he just needs to apologise for being an ass. For Gael, his entire world is upended and he could be headed back to Zhemosen to face death. There’s no indication that Bram recognises what he holds over Gael’s head in these moments.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen Gael learning to stand on his own two feet. His self-effacement and his need to please are totally believable for a character with his backstory, and made my heart hurt a little. But to get me totally onboard with Bram and Gael’s romance, I’d need to see Gael learning how to be a person in his own right before learning how that person can love someone else.
None of this is to say that Bram, as a character, isn’t bloody adorable. If Bram weren’t as kind or as patient as he is, this romance would have gone nowhere for me. But because Bram is a sweetheart, I was desperately rooting for their happiness all the way through.
Jensen builds such a tender and precarious romance that my blood pressure could scarcely take it. In fact, some of my favourite scenes are the quietest—learning to live on Bram’s farm together, getting used to one another’s habits, moments of domesticity. In these moments, Jensen’s story really shines.
If you’re into the frontier setting; if you’re into the bear/twink dynamic; if you’re into sweet, gentle romance: this book is worth your time.
Kelly Jensen’s To See the Sun is out now from Riptide Publishing in paperback and ebook editions. Get it from Amazon (US/UK), your friendly local bookshop, or ask about it at your local library.