Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith

Cottonwood - R. Lee Smith

Welcome to Cottonwood.


"I could be part of something big here," insisted Sarah, undaunted. Her chest felt hot, almost like it did before she started crying, but she wasn't upset. She was...She was...She was certain! This was it! The perfect job! A house and good money and most of all, best of all, the chance to be where it mattered, to do something in a way that could change the world, two worlds!


When Sarah Fowler arrives at Cottonwood, she is excited. It's a chance for her to become a part of something good--to help intergrate the aliens living behind the guarded walls of the immigration camp. She has been intrigued by the aliens since their arrival to Earth twenty years earlier. Once beyond the walls, however, she finds the immigration camps are not what they appear to be...



Evil is unspectacular and always human,

and shares our bed and eats at our own table.

                                                     - W.H. Auden



This story contains everything I've come to expect from author R. Lee Smith: rich storytelling, excellent worldbuilding, and excellent characterizations. I wish other authors would take notes from Smith. In what seems to be, at least for me, a stagnant book world in romancelandia, her stories, the three I've read so far, always feel unique and fresh.


Here is a brief list of what stood out for me most:


The Internment Camp:


One thing I loved the most was the realism of the story. Yeah, okay, this is a story about aliens on Earth. I know. But, the conditions faced by the aliens, as well as the mirror placed on humanity was very realistic. Here you see both the ugly aspects of humanity as well as  the good or heroic aspects of humanity. What I found most compelling were the actions of ordinary people--any one of them could be us: you, me, our family, our coworkers, or our friends.


I also give kudos to the author for not shying away from consequences. Here there are consequences to actions and bad things do happen.


The Romance:


As I jokingly told my friend Jill, we wanted aliens, well we got aliens. Instead of giving us the usual Hero, which looks like this:



we get a true alien Hero that looks like this:



The author doesn't mess around. She really goes balls to the wall on this one, and I commend her. I love that she doesn't make it easy on her readers. I also love that she manages to make the romance realistic, no insta-love here clearly, and by the end I truly believed in the love between the hero and the heroine.


One small quibble I do have, however, is that I would have liked a little more conflict from the heroine in regards to her attraction for the Hero. I needed a little more building of the romance from her side. I felt like the progression of love from Sanford's side was handled slightly better. For Sarah, while I did believe in her love by the end, I thought there needed to be more transition from the friendship she initially felt to her realization that she was in love.


The Ending:


The final portion of this book was incredible. It was an emotional rollercoaster, I was on the edge of my seat and I was in tears. I thought the author knocked it out of the park.


All in all, a great read. If you're looking for something a little different, and if you like stories that may not fit the usual mold for romance, then I highly recommend this book.


Final Rating: 5 stars