Bienveinido a The Chocoverse!
The Chocoverse is a homage to the cheesiness of the telenovela tradition, complete with all the heart and optimism that implies. There’s a lot in the series about overcoming prejudice and finding family inside blended cultures and backgrounds. The messages of love, mercy, and hope run through all three books, summed up by Tawny’s media campaign centered around the slogan Mercy Is a Gift.
Bo Benitez, failed telenovela star, runs to the other side of the galaxy to escape the vulturazzi, only to be drawn back home when her alien boyfriend convinces her to steal the source of chocolate. She winds up in trouble, running for her life, into danger bigger than she ever imagined — and an opportunity to change the entire galaxy forever.
In this series, you get:
An Adorable Corgi
Laser Monkey Robots
Shark Monster Soldiers
and oh, so much chocolate!
Also see the short story When Kromish Eyes are Smiling in the Fall 2019 Edition of Amazing Stories!
Download the Media Kit
The original starting point for the Chocoverse was an article I read about the history of coffee. This shows up in Free Chocolate in the form of a story Bo’s boyfriend Brill tells her, trying to convince her that stealing the cacao pod is noble by her own planet’s standards.
It took time, though, for it all to come together. My husband and I had been doing presentations on culinary herbs for the local herb society (you want some creepy novel fodder – listen to a herbalist talk about poisons), and we came up with a demo on herbs and chocolate. About that same time, Royal Caribbean signed me on to do lectures aboard a couple of their cruises, and one of the bean to bar chocolate guys I had met at the Dallas Chocolate Festival (one of the first years of the fest) had donated chocolate samples for me to do single source tastings of craft chocolate aboard ship. This met with mixed results: a lot of people didn’t think the chocolates that demonstrated the range and flavor profiles possible from Theobroma cacao grown in different regions, using different variables in the drying and roasting processes tasted “chocolaty” enough. They weren’t prepared for chocolates that had more in common with fine wine, and wanted a familiar, uniform taste possible only with blended source commercial chocolate. And yet – other attendees said I’d sold them on single-source chocolate. (And hey, I can appreciate different things about both. Especially using blended chocolate as a vehicle for other flavors, such as peanut butter or hazelnut, or for baking.)
My last cruise sailed out of Baltimore, and we basically followed a hurricane headed for Haiti, so people were complaining that their vacations were ruined because the pools were shut down and the shops were closed. I’d been out on the deck just before they closed it, and I’d seen a pool chair fly past, so this seemed like a reasonable precaution to me. And the whole area around the shops smelled like cream de menthe, because we’d hit water rough enough to be knocking bottles of booze off the shelves. So the idea of a shore excursion was super extra appealing. That was how we got to meet a family of cacao farmers in Samana, Dominican Republic, and to taste cacao pulp straight off the tree.
I remembered that article about the history of coffee, and how hard the original growing region had tried to hold onto their monopoly. (No one would sell coffee beans that hadn’t been boiled first, so that they couldn’t be planted). This kept the prices high, and at the same time caused increased demand for an easier way to get coffee in other parts of the world. So I was thinking about how history has happened, and we take whatever benefits as givens. We may complain at how much a cappuccino costs from a coffee shop, but never stop to think about what it would be like if we had only heard of coffee as something other people get to drink, or worse, had maybe tasted it once – and couldn’t afford to buy it again.
While the underpinnings are me tinkering with history and imagining the past on a galactic scale, this story is basically a telenovela on the page. So it’s going to share a lot of the plot elements and sensibilities from that genre. And there will be novela-ish character arcs. There’s glitz and glamour and celeberazzi fun. Think how people react in soap operas . . . there’s going to be that level of drama. But at the same time this is a comedy, and I’m playing with the overused soap opera tropes as the punch lines to jokes, to the point where by the time you get to the second book Bo is actively wondering how her life has taken on so many elements of a novela.
There’s also a bit here from the culinary mystery tradition, especially in the first book (a number of corpses do hit the ground in this series). Bo’s the daughter of one of Earth’s biggest celebrity chefs, and after her acting career crashbangs, she flees to the other side of the galaxy to get away from the press — and her family, who think she has behaved badly. Bo’s boyfriend, Brill is also a foodie — he’s a galactic trader who specializes in luxury foodstuffs and he’s also a connoisseur of fine wine.
And of course, this is space opera. There’s tons of geeky in references to everything from Jurassic Park to Star Wars to The Thing to E.T., but there’s a big bit about how we didn’t get the first contact Star Trek promised. Some of my favorite parts about this whole series were developing the alien species and cultures. I didn’t want them to be 1 to 1 equivalents to Earth cultures, so I really let my imagination run wild.
“Free Chocolate is quirky, fun, and loaded with sci-fi chocolaty goodness! This book is a calorie-free treat.”
– Beth Cato, author of Breath of Earth
“Exhilarating fun in a galaxy muy loca for Earth’s most sublime delicacy! Bodacious lives up to her name, and not even certain death can slow her down. Free Chocolate proves that romance, intrigue, space opera, mortal peril, and culinary ambition can be served with a sweet side dish of humor.”
– Sue Burke, author of Semiosis
“You had me at laser monkey robots.”
– Arianne “Tex” Thompson, author of the Children of the Drought trilogy
“[A] clever debut… darkly comic and sometimes deadly serious.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Soap opera drama mixed with sci-fi high stakes, Free Chocolate is a muy thrilling ride!”
– Laura Maisano, author of Cosplayed and Schism
“Earth has a monopoly on chocolate. The aliens will do anything to get a cacao sample, and the planetary government will do anything to stop them. What a premise!”
– Daniel M Benson, author of Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen
“¡Muy deliciosa! Amber Royer’s Free Chocolate is nonstop fun on every page! From strangely delicious sounding cosmic treats to Spanglish-speaking intergalactic diplomats to the relentlessly breathtaking feartastic adventure, this is a unique read and a total page-turner! Not only does Royer introduce the first university-student Mexican sci-fi heroine, with a host of wildly eclectic friends, but she builds a believable universe around them that is a true delight to visit. Can’t wait for the next adventure!”
– Eden Unger Bowdich, author of the Young Inventors Guild Series
“Free Chocolate is an absolutely bodacious debut for author Amber Royer, and a uniquely entertaining treat for readers! Part sci-fi space romp, part political thriller, and part sweet romance, this book fulfils every literary craving.”
– Diane Kelley, author of the Tara Holloway series and the Paw Enforcement series
“The world building is unique, the pace frenetic and the story fantastically inventive.”
– Worthless Chat Monkeys
“Free Chocolate is a fun, mile-a-minute read that goes by quickly and easily, mixing action and romance in equal and entertaining measure.”
– Occasionally Random Book Reviews
On Free Chocolate: “[A] clever debut … darkly comic and sometimes deadly serious.”
“Humour, drama, action and pathos fill the pages as Bo and Brill adventure across the stars in a fun easy-to-read sequel that keeps your attention from start to finish.”
On Free Chocolate: “This space opera-meets-soap opera debut is, ultimately, a rollicking adventure; a heist story in which chocolate is the greatest prize of all. Yum.”
On Free Chocolate: ” . . . The prose is excellent – even with the English/Spanish language mix – and the characters charming. This is an excellent book!”