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REVIEW: Reel to Real Love – Elle E. Ire

Reel to Real Love - Elle E. Ire

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Lesbian

Reviewer: HL

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About The Book

Finding the right romantic partner is always a challenge—especially when your first spouse turns out to be a greedy, business-obsessed hardass who winds up on her CEO office floor with a bullet through her brain. 

After the murder of her first wife, Elaine is ready for a vacation and a solid relationship with a woman who only has time for her. Thanks to some found alien technology, Elaine can get what she wants… sort of. Okay, so a computer-generated tangible holographic image of a twentieth-century film star is about as far from “solid” as it gets. But as her themed pleasure cruise on a passenger starliner progresses and an additional plot to murder Elaine reveals itself, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her fantasy companion.

Ricky might be the result of exceptional programming, but she proves to be more than the sum of her particles. She shows Elaine more affection, and eventually more protection, than any so-called “real” woman in her life ever has, leaving Elaine to wonder—are Ricky’s feelings for her truly artificial? Or is this REEL TO REAL LOVE?

The Review

Action, excitement, romance – Reel to Real Love by Elle E. Ire has it all. 

Elaine Kane, recently widowed after her corporate monster wife Harriet “Harry” Kane was assassinated, has finally emerged from her isolation to go on a vacation on board a cruise ship to rest and recover from the traumatic experience and maybe let loose a little. But it’s not just any ordinary space cruise: the ship is populated with THIs – tangible holographic images of 20th century film stars (including a superb guest appearance by a certain bald starship captain who likes to adjust his shirt a lot), who are used as companions and lovers by the wealthy human guests. Elaine is paired with Richelle, AKA “Ricky”, but at first Elaine wants nothing to do with her. She’s not real, after all, despite how much more expressive and self-aware she seems to be compared to other THIs. 

But then things take a turn and Elaine’s relaxing cruise suddenly becomes a plot against her life. She has no one she can trust… except Ricky, who keeps saving her life, which makes Elaine reconsider all she thought she knew about THIs, and love itself, as she begins to fall for her holographic partner.

Elaine and Ricky are fantastic protagonists. Elaine is smart, sensitive and tough, but holds a lot of barriers around herself due to past hurts and PTSD. As she finds herself drawn more and more to Ricky, she begins to open herself up. Ricky is gorgeous. There is so much more to her than what meets the eye. She is emotional, sensitive, and just as real – if not more so – than the actual humans. She is immediately noticeable as not like other THIs, but the truth of her nature is so much more than Elaine – or even I! – could have anticipated. 

The plot is easy enough to follow, but it went in a direction I couldn’t predict – and I won’t spoil it here! Suffice to say, the shocking twists and turns of every chapter kept me on the edge of my seat the entire way through, and the romance between Elaine and Ricky was a delight to watch unfold.

The worldbuilding in Reel to Real Love was also a pleasant surprise. I went into the book expecting a straightforward lesbian romance in a sci-fi setting, but instead I found myself intrigued by the hyper-capitalist future envisaged by Ire. The world has been affected by ‘rads’ – radiation – and the rate of birth has plummeted. There are other planets and ancient alien ruins. There is corporate espionage and socio-economic commentary. The POV chapters from Ricky were particularly engaging, as we see “life” through the eyes of a holographic person. It was a deeply interesting exploration of what it means to be “real”. Are Richelle’s feelings lesser because she is not made of flesh and blood?

Reel to Real Love is nothing short of fun. If you’re after something easy, exciting, thrilling, and unexpected, then absolutely check out this book.

The Reviewer

H. L. is a Jewish Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.

She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.

She has had two speculative short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.   


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