An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair (2005; available in ebook, paperback, audiobook; originally published in 2002 under Megan Sybil Baker name)
This is an incredible story—the world building and SF aspects, the fascinating plot concept, the multiple layers, the humor, but most especially the characters. The heroine is wonderful and complex and very, very human (although perhaps she isn’t quite “human”). The hero is to die for, a strong, confident and commanding alpha male (not the domineering and overbearing kind of alpha) who still treats those around him as equals, especially the woman he loves and respects.
You have to know the past: The Raheiran are a reclusive race, a complex blend of very advanced technology and magick. Thousands of years ago their race split, with those following the evil sorceress Melande becoming known as the Fav’lhir. The Favilhir threatened to conquer the Khalaran Confederation, a non-magical culture that was just developing the technology to venture into deep space. Despite their usual non-intervention policies, the Raherians realized they must help the Khalar if they want to stop their old enemies. So they sent an Advisor to assist the Khalar in creating space stations and organizing a cohesive military space fleet for defense—Captain Gillaine Davre, Raherian Special Forces, who was also a Kiasidira, the most powerful Raherian sorceress. Six years after her arrival, the Fav’lhir do indeed attack and are defeated by the Khalarans. In the final battle, Gillaine and her sentient crystalship Simon destroy the main Fav ship, carrying most of their sorcerers—but the resulting explosion also engulfs her.
To understand the present: Gillie wakes up in the sickbay of the space station Cirrus One—342 years later! Turns out that massive explosion created a temporal space/time warp and threw Gillie and her ship into the future. Gillie has to invent a network of lies and false information to disguise who she really is and how she got here—time travel is just not believable. Repairing the damage to her ship will take weeks; she finds herself drawn into the life and politics of Cirrus One—especially as they relate to Admiral Rynan Makarian, “Mack”. Gillie discovers that there has been no contact between the Khalarans and Raheirans since her “death”, and that Raheirans are regarded now with reverence and awe. The Fav’lhir still exist but also haven’t been in contact; it is assumed that all their sorcerers were destroyed and they no longer have any magick.
But the very worst is that Gillie discovers she has been deified! The Khalarans considered her death a sacred sacrifice to destroy the evil Fav’lhir, and they now worship at shrines to the Lady Goddess Kiasidira. The cliches and quips she used to utter are holy edict; her few personal possessions that survived are used in religious ceremonies. And of course, the reality of who and what she was has long been replaced by myth and misunderstanding. Should she reveal herself and destroy a large chunk of Khalaran religion and culture? Or stick with Raheiran non-intervention policy and just get herself and her ship away from here as quickly as possible? Or a third option—become “just Gillie”, not Raheiran and not a goddess, just someone who could maybe pursue a relationship with the gorgeous and fascinating Mack, someone who could live a normal life instead of being a powerful sorceress responsible for saving a civilisation. Gillie has to struggle with conflicting desires and responsibilities, but knows what she would like to choose—until the Fav’lhir show up again, as much a danger now as they were three and a half centuries ago. And only a Raheiran Kiasidira can stop them again.
Sensuality: Lots of build-up and romantic tension. There are several short non-explicit bedroom scenes between the hero and heroine.
If you like science fiction romance, GO READ THIS STORY !! Even if you don’t think you care for SFR, read this story! The science/technology aspects are not overwhelming or distracting; the main focus is on the plot and characters, not on how the futuristic technology works.