Aftershock, by Jill Sorensen

>> Saturday, February 22, 2014

TITLE: Aftershock
AUTHOR: Jill Sorensen

PAGES: 384

SETTING: Contemporary US (San Diego)
TYPE: Romantic Suspense
SERIES: Starts a series of related books. Followed by Freefall and Badlands

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…

Aftershock certainly starts with a bang. San Diego paramedic Lauren Boyer is riding in her ambulance with her partner when a huge earthquake hits. The highway they're driving on collapses completely, with vehicles flying off in every direction. Lauren manages to survive and get out of the ambulance (her partner is not so lucky), but they were on an underpass, and the highway above has collapsed in such a way as to trap her.

Many have died, but there are several survivors. One of them is war veteran Garrett Wright, who immediately starts working with Lauren to save as many injured survivors as possible. A small group of them, including a very pregnant teenager and a grandfather and granddaughter in a camper van, team up to try to survive until rescue comes, if it ever does.

But the danger doesn't only come from injuries and lack of food and water. One of the vehicles trapped in the collapse was a prison van, and several of the prisoners have escaped. And a couple of them make it immediately very clear that the others aren't safe from them.

I liked this very much on the whole, but the components were a bit of a mixed bag.

As suspense, this worked brilliantly. The setup was intriguing, and it was developed wonderfully. The tension brought in by the presence of the convicts, in addition to the danger of the situation itself, makes things extremely tense, and this is sustained throughout. I was turning the pages like crazy.

I particularly liked that this danger the convicts brought didn’t come about because our core group of survivors behaved stupidly (e.g. deciding to trust people who patently shouldn’t be trusted). There really wasn’t much more that they could have done. Still, that said, I loved that while Garrett is strong and competent and behaves intelligently, he’s also capable of miscalculation and mistakes. He might be a war veteran, but that doesn't mean that he's unbeatable. Sometimes with romance heroes you just know that as soon as they make a plan, it will go off without a hitch. Not here, even if it was a really good plan, and that made things even more tense and suspenseful.

The characters were well done, too. We get an excellent sense of the who they are through their actions. There's obviously little time for sitting around chatting, but what there is really counts. The evil convicts are possibly a bit cartoonish, but I was willing to go with it.

I join several other readers in being particularly interested in Owen, one of the convicts, who turns out to have a lot more to him than his horrible white supremacist tattoos would suggest. He's been quite divisive amongst readers, with many finding him hard to accept at all, because he chose to align himself with the Aryan Brotherhood gang in prison as a survival strategy. Sorensen doesn't go into much detail, leaving much to our imagination. I kind of took what we do know at face value, thinking that I’d also do quite a lot of unsavoury things to avoid constant rape, but completely see why that would be an impossible line to cross for other readers.

And now we come to the negatives, unfortunately. For all that I liked the plot and the characters, the romance was disappointing. I cared about Lauren and Garrett individually (quite a bit, too), but the romance didn’t quite capture my interest. There didn't seem to be much more than physical attraction there. I was more interested in Penny (the pregnant teenager) and Owen, but even there there was quite a bit of inappropriate lusting that I found annoying. There was a particular moment when Penny (about to give birth!) is seeing Owen with his shirt off for the first time and she sees his tattoos (we're talking burning crosses and the like). And yet she thinks that what really caught her attention were his chiseled abs. Oh, come on!

I'm in two minds about the writing style. It felt a bit simplistic at times, but it worked well to ratchet up the tension, and could also be described as ‘spare’, I suppose.

MY GRADE: It was a B.


Darlynne,  22 February 2014 at 16:25  

I like the setting and the set up, from your recap, and wouldn't be bothered by the lack of romance. What made me pause was why convicts, when presented with a perfect opportunity to escape into the chaos of an earthquake aftermath, wouldn't do just that. Does the author make their action/s believable?

Rosario 23 February 2014 at 08:33  

Hi Darlynne! Oh dear, rereading my review, it's not very clear. The thing about the convicts makes perfect sense. They're all (the convicts and the other survivors) trapped under the collapsed highway. It's a largish space, but they can't get out, and the chaos outside is clearly so huge that rescue will take a long while. A lot of their efforts are towards finding a way out on their own, and it's clear that as soon as there's a way out, the convicts will take off as well.

Darlynne,  23 February 2014 at 19:01  

Great, thanks.

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