Book Reviews

A Different Life–What If? A Different Life, Book One: A Martiniere Multiverse Novel

What if Gabriel Martiniere's family didn't die in a plane crash when he was twelve? What if he didn't have to go into hiding after testifying against the atrocities committed by his father, Philip Martiniere? What if he met and fell in love with Ruby Barkley as himself, not as Gabe Ramirez, a broke saddle bronc rider on the run from indenture bounty hunters? Gabe's a billionaire nerd with a conscience, unlucky at love, striving to overcome the shadows of his past while searching for agritech to fight climate change. Ruby's a former rodeo queen, trying to get her degree in agricultural robotics, searching for agritech means to fight climate change, also unlucky at love and struggling with a shadowy past. Can Ruby and Gabe successfully negotiate the complexities of the Martiniere Group and launch Ruby's world-changing biobots without interference from competitors?

If A Different Life–What If? A Different Life, Book One: A Martiniere Multiverse Novel’s title (which I’ll simply to A Different Life from here on out) gives you a headache, it is no doubt because of the shared multiverse it exists within author Joyce Reynolds-Ward’s various Martiniere novels. Currently, the core series, The Martiniere Legacy, consists of four books, the latest of which, The Enduring Legacy, I will be reviewing on Friday—stay tuned for that), and its spin-off series, The People of the Martiniere Legacy, includes three. Additionally, there are another two short stories. To keep apprised of this entire world would take a fair amount of reading; reading that I haven’t undertaken. This is my first Martiniere book: at the time of writing, I haven’t yet read The Enduring Legacy.

Somewhat complicating matters, A Different Life is a multiversal companion which takes place in a separate reality from the two existing series. In reading this clean, I’m doing so without the knowledge of the other books, their characters and events. While this is made a little easier by telling a different story, I am sure I’m missing the gravity of various changes to the status quo. There also appears to be an assumed knowledge of who these characters are, and the book is packed to the brim with them, which meant following along with the who’s who of them all got a little tricky. With the exception of the two protagonists (both providing their point of view, through alternating chapters), the additional characters aren’t explored in great detail, and while delving into them all would have made this novel unwieldy and there are another seven books which presumably delve into these characters further, coming into it new results in a read where careful attention needs to be paid.

At its core, though, A Different Life is a romance between Gabe Martiniere and Ruby Barkley. Gabe is rising up the food chain in his family’s company, the Martiniere Group. Designated the “Martiniere in waiting,” he is destined to take over the company. Ruby is a student, studying for her agricultural robotics degree. The two come from completely different walks of life, but bond over their love of “agritech” (agricultural technology) and the potential it has to combat climate change, and both have spectres from their past casting a shadow over their potential futures together.

While A Different Life doesn’t include the tagline, the Martiniere Legacy and People of the Martiniere Legacy books are described as “agripunk,” a fusion of agriculture and cyberpunk. This is a world where corporations like the Martiniere Group reign supreme, full of despicable, corrupt personalities using their power for their own gain. Where A Different Life is indeed a romance with a sweet centre that should resonate with fans of the genre, it is also a dark story, full of corporate intrigue. Additionally, the backstories present in this tale are littered with violence and sexual assault. While the subject matter is handled tactfully and doesn’t glorify these aspects, if you’re likely to find yourself triggered by such subject matter, you may want to think twice about reading this book.

As disparate as the romance and agripunk elements are, Reynolds-Ward balances these well. The story’s major throughline is the romance between Gabe and Ruby is a sweet story, full of great moments between the two characters. Throughout, it is clear to the reader how these characters can fall for one another and why they should be together. The characters click and the reader can feel why, and the references to them being the other’s “nerd boy” and “nerd girl” are adorable. The agripunk components flesh out the world they live in, and offer plenty of tense moments for the characters as they navigate the corporate intrigue.

At an estimated 384 pages on your eReader of choice (A Different Life isn’t available in hardcopy formats), the novel is a dense read as it packs in all its elements. Taking place largely over the course of five months in the year 2029, it presents a not too distant future with various science fiction elements not too far beyond our current world. The book blends these in with its large cast, its romance, the escalating threat, while also spending some time taking in the beauty of nature and agriculture.

The book is very heavy on dialogue, featuring plenty of conversations between its characters, often a number of them in one conversation. While Gabe and Ruby’s voices are uniquely theirs, the other characters didn’t sound as distinct as I’d like, which, at times, makes following the characters and their dialogue rather difficult. The amount of dialogue also means its prose feels underwritten at times. While there’s plenty of exploration of the characters and their backstory, between this and the dialogue, it could have stood to explore what was happening in the moment in more detail. Where the prose delves into darker subject matter, it excels, and I can see this being a true selling point in the other books within the multiverse as they focus more heavily on its cyberpunk stylings.

I also noticed the odd spelling and grammatical errors in the book. While there aren’t a huge number and they weren’t enough to draw me out of the story, when they appeared, they were noticeable. Another round of editing would have picked these up, as well as helped the flow as it juggled dialogue, backstory and the current moment.

Without having read the other Martiniere books, A Different Life is a little difficult to get into, as it juggles its many elements. While the amount of dialogue doesn’t make this easier for new readers, at its core, it presents a fun romance backed by an intriguing, escalating plot. Romance fans will enjoy it, though I suspect it will be more rewarding for people already invested in the Martiniere journey.

Favourite Passage

She choked, the fear still rising after all these years. The memory of squishy smacking noises. Screams that trailed off. The terror when her blood-spattered father opened that closet door, red-smeared tire iron in hand. Raising that pistol with shaking hands that became steady when she aimed for his nose, just as Gramps had taught her, so she could avoid the bulletproof vest her father usually wore…

A Different Life–What If? A Different Life, Book One: A Martiniere Multiverse Novel, “Shared Shadows”

A Different Life–What If? A Different Life, Book One: A Martiniere Multiverse Novel was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.

A Different Life is available in eBook form from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).

Note: I do not post scores for reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

  • Amazon
  • GoodreadsTo be posted upon the book’s Goodreads listing

You can follow Joyce Reynolds-Wood online, via:

Interested in purchasing A Different Life?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

A Different Life–What If?: A Different Life Book One–A Martiniere Multiverse Novel (The Martiniere Multiverse 1)

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