Find out our thoughts about Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith, it’s the dark sci fi romance to read if you are in the mood for a book that will make you cry with a slow burn friends to lovers romance
Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. This post contains affiliate links. That means we receive a small commission at no cost to you from any purchases you make through these links.
Aliens have arrived on Earth, only the didn’t mean to. Their ship malfunctioned and now they’re stranded. Fast forward a few decades later and all the aliens are dumped in squalid camps to be forgotten about. With most humans believing that they are too stupid and violent to join mainstream society. It doesn’t help that they look like bugs with a humanoid body.
Sarah naively goes into the Cottonwood, a new reservation for the “Bugs” as she wants to help integrate them into human society. What she finds is horrifying. But she does as much as she can and is especially drawn to Sanford and his adorable son T’aki. She knows she has to help them escape and get back to their home, even if she has sacrifice everything to do it.
R. Lee Smith has been recommended to me before, especially her epic tale The Last Hour of Gann. However, it is this book Cottonwood that captured by attention. It was a moving and emotional read that I couldn’t put down once I started reading. Those of you who follow my reviews know that I adore sci fi alien romances, indeed my love of the genre is what prompted me to pick up this book. However, this isn’t a fluffy love story between a human woman and her gorgeous alien. Instead Smith has given us something a little bit different to get our teeth into.
Let’s start off with the romance, Sarah and Sanford start off with a wary friendship, which grows closer and closer until a romantic relationship seems inevitable. The growing respect and love between Sanford and Sarah as well as the adorable T’aki, Sanford’s son, is one of the sunny spots in a book that is otherwise a depressing tale of humanity’s worse traits. If the book wasn’t peppered with sweet moments between Sarah, Sanford and T’aki, this book would have been too bleak.
Cottonwood is an immigration camp where the aliens are forced to work in recycling. This is just a euphemism for forced labour in a massive rubbish heap whilst living in a dirty slums. Due to the aliens bug-like appearance humans have discarded them with an “out of sight out of mind” mentality leaving them in the power of those who can exploit them. We experience this from Sarah’s POV as she enters Cottonwood wanting to help those inside but instead gets slowly disillusioned.
I found the portrayal of every human, apart from Sarah, as callous, cruel, uncaring or condescending a little off putting and uncomfortable. But, it added to the hellish and depressing atmosphere of the place and explained why Sarah took all the risks and actions to try and help Sanford and T’aki. And, ultimately it made the ending of this book all the more triumphant.
I really enjoyed this book, the romance in it was powerful but a slow burn and the story itself was touching. I definitely found myself wiping away a few tears as I was reading. If you like a really intense read, regardless of the genre, with some social commentary than this is the book for you. It is certainly down as one of my favourite reads of this year.
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