Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau, is set on a mining colony on a planet somewhere far away from Earth and some time after the year 2100. Liv Braxton is a small-time criminal who is convinced by her ex-husband, Tonio, to perpetrate one last con. This job will give her the money she needs to leave the business once and for all and retire to a vacation planet, far away from the threat of dying in the prison mines. Liv and Tonio have been hired by a pair of rather sinister brothers who intend to blackmail the Exeter mining company over their use of an unpublicized air filtration system for miners. In order to do so, they need someone on the inside, but as head of Research & Development R.J. “Zia” Talbot’s assistant, Liv finds herself becoming more attached to her employer than Felon’s Rule Number One: Don’t Get Emotionally Involved would seem to allow. Complications, including the arrival of Liv’s con artist mother on the scene and the continuous threat of exposure by either the authorities or the Exeter company, keep cropping up. Liv has been instructed to do whatever it takes to earn her mark’s trust and get the hard evidence the gang needs, but what happens when she becomes too willing to get close to Zia?
Despite the science fiction setting, the novel is more concerned with human elements, such as the interplay between Liv and Tonio, Liv and her mother, and–of course–Liv and Zia. The plot was believable, the setting was well-conceived and consistent, and there weren’t any threads left untied at the conclusion. Pegau showed herself willing to make difficult authorial decisions in order to lend weight to her narrative, and both Liv and Zia were portrayed as sympathetic, if flawed, people. My main quibble was the author’s resistance to using the Oxford comma, which could have made a sentence like “The guard, an elderly couple, Calvin and I lay on our bellies, hands on the backs of our heads and cheeks to the rough wood” more straightforward. . . but that is my own pet peeve, and I can’t really hold it against the book. I’ll just hold it against the book’s editor.
I knew I liked Rulebreaker when I kept thinking of other books and fanfiction to compare it to. Despite my strong dislike for the current trend of employer-employee romances in Harlequin romances, I do have a few I like in terms of lesbian fiction. For another good “boss romance,” try Too Close to Touch by Georgia Beers. I also highly recommend Telanu’s Andy/Miranda fanfiction from the world of The Devil Wears Prada, which can be found at her site, The Rag and Bone Shop. For a great lesbian “con” book, see Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. For another story of corporate greed and corruption and spreadsheets + romance, try Karin Kallmaker’s Car Pool.