This year Romantic Suspense has been lackluster, and with a few notable exceptions, I feel like it needs an infusion of new and innovative ideas. Jill Sorenson is one of those exceptions. Her stories may not be new, but they certainly are refreshing, and Aftershock takes it a bit further into the novelty territory. It’s not a perfect book, but I’m glad to see an author taking risks in a sub-genre that has become a bit stale.
I can’t tell much about the story without spoiling it, but the basic premise is that there’s devastating earthquake in San Diego, and a group of people get trapped under a collapsed highway. They barely have water, half of them are injured, and not all of them are good guys. Lauren, our heroine, is an EMT, and the hero, Garrett, a former Marine. They have a lot to worry about, yet find the time to fall in love.
What this book does best is the suspense part. It should be obvious that this isn’t the regular Romantic Suspense in which there’s some type of investigation and a cat-and-mouse chase. Instead, we get a group of survivors waiting to be rescued while dealing with the fact that some of them are convicts. There’s no law, and everyone is in charge of their own protection. I was glued to the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next.
I liked the group of characters, and the ensemble cast fits the story well. Ms. Sorenson writes great heroes that feel authentic in their vulnerability, even if they are borderline assholes. Not that Garrett was one, in fact, as strong as he was, he fits the beta label better than he does the alpha.
However, as much as I liked the suspense and the claustrophobic tension, I also had some issues, all of them relating to the romance. I think this is a story that makes it almost impossible for the romance to be believable. Lust I can understand, especially as a way of reaffirming life under such terrible circumstances, and even that is hard to swallow when these characters are fighting for their lives and still manage to find a way to have sex. But romance, and believable love in particular, is almost impossible to pull off, and I don’t think Aftershock does it in a successful way. The chemistry was there, but it was the least romantic and appropriate setting ever, something that ultimately hurt the story. There are also some spoilery circumstances that made me stretch the suspension of disbelief past the breaking point.
Afthershock isn't perfect, and it won’t be for everyone. The action is borderline gory and the romance is somewhat weak, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think that as long as you keep these things in mind, you will have an interesting reading experience (I say interesting instead of enjoyable because it is a violent book). It is the most unique Romantic Suspense story I've read in year, if not ever, and can’t wait to see what Jill Sorenson has in store next.
Review by Brie
As an emergency paramedic, Lauren Boyer is dedicated and highly capable. Until an earthquake strikes, trapping her beneath the freeway with a group of strangers—including Iraq war veteran Garrett Wright…
Handsome and take-charge Garrett aids Lauren in her rescue efforts, even as the steely look in his eyes seems to hide dark secrets. When a gang of escaped convicts goes on the attack, Garrett's bravery makes him more than a courageous bystander to Lauren. If they can save the others before time runs out, maybe, just maybe, they can explore the fire igniting between them—if the truth about who he really is doesn't pull them apart forever….
Harlequin HQN. December 18, 2012.