This is a thoroughly enjoyable execution of a seemingly unpromising plot. A young war hero from a lower-class background is on an official PR tour on a luxury spaceship when he meets the pampered daughter of the head of the corporation that owns it--one of the richest girls in the galaxy. Shortly after they meet, there's some kind of an accident, the ship is destroyed, and our heroes, Maj. Tarver Merendsen heiress Lilac LaRoux, are stranded on a terraformed but uninhabited planet, the only survivors.
It works because Kaufman and Spooner have created original and interesting characters, and while the expected romance is there, it's the secondary plot.
The main plot involves the strange things Lilac sees and hears on the planet, sights and voices that can't be there. It complicates their trek to the main crash site, where they have a better chance of being rescued. Is it the stress making Lilac break down emotionally? Or is there something truly strange about this planet, something that would explain why it was terraformed but never colonized?
Except for what seem to be her hallucinations, Lilac is, yes, a girl who has been pampered all her life, but underneath that a smart, tough young woman with interests and skills Tarver did not expect. That's as crucial to their survival as Tarver's more obviously relevant background.
As they make their way cross-country through forest, plains, and mountains, they begin to find signs that there is something very strange, and possibly very dark and threatening, about this planet.
It's the first of a trilogy, but the plot of this book comes to a satisfying conclusion, while leaving open the larger arc of the trilogy.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.