This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Dystopian Romance
Published by Zebra Books
Released on January 26, 2016
The wait is over. After reading the thrilling prequel, I could finally dive into book one. Man, things are tough, gritty, sizzling, and in a dark place for the survival of mankind after the Scorpius plague outbreak. Zanetti impressed me with her super-soldiers, her paranormal alphas, and now her post-apocalyptic survivors.
So yes, this is book one, but I’m going to make a huge, helpful suggestion that the reader snags the prequel first. The prequel is hanging out in the On the Hunt anthology at the moment with several other fab stories. This book could be read as the beginning since the explanations to the world are there and characters are introduced and developed along with their storyline, but the prequel shows how it all began and gives a taste of what is to come both in this story and further down the line of the series. Plus the heroine and a few other characters began their stories in the prequel.
The story opens when Lynne Harmony, aka Blue Heart the most infamous survivor of the Scorpius plague, is near the end of her long exhausting journey to do what she set out to do- find a vaccine against the plague and end a very dangerous person- before she hopefully can find permanent peace and rest in her own death. Lynne is reviled by humans who think she started the plague, who think she cares a worse strain of the plague, or who just flat out blame her as the head of the defunct CDC for not stopping the plague. But all Lynne wants to do is use her sharp mind and skill to help people survive and maybe find a way to stop it all. And the key to this is the legendary former special ops soldier and leader of a rag-tag group of survivors, Jax Mercury.
Jax has been a fighter to survive most of his life and now he is the leader protecting a group of humans against rival gangs, those who are twisted by the plague into something not human (zombies) or worse into high functioning psychopaths. He doesn’t see himself as more than a way to give the people under his protection a small chance, but his own hope of making it is hanging by a thread. Into his life walks the most famous woman in the country and though he can see she has secrets, she has offered to help find something to counter the plague. Jax shouldn’t be attracted to a complication like Lynne so he works hard to ignore this and think in terms of the best way to use her to help his people.
Rival gangs want to push in and take over the territory and take the stores, danger lurks from those infected by the plague, members of Jax’s group react to Lynne’s presence, the newly forming government is headed by a man who wants Lynne at all costs, and daily living is a fight. Jax and Lynne circle each other warily. But in the end, they must figure out how to trust and work together if they are to keep hope and survive.
It has been some time since I read a post-apocalyptic story. I love these gritty, survivor tales though I confess that plague scenarios leave me a bit queasy. Fortunately, this one doesn’t get gross and the victims don’t look nasty either. Though, don’t get me wrong, those infected who didn’t come through intact are way more dangerous than your average zombie.
The story spends quite a bit of time on set up and getting the reader up to speed. I was interested and intrigued by the complicated world, but at the same time, I noticed that this does effect the pacing. Hang in there, because it does speed up and there are some really intense scenes and action sequences to get your pulse-rate going.
Another thing that might get your pulse-rate going is the passionate encounters between Jax and Lynne. Jax is rough and he tries to stay detached. Lynne is smart and knows it’s not a good time to get all emotional, too. So by necessity this is a slow-burn relationship. Neither think they are good for each other nor that it is the right time for focus to be off their survival goals. But that said, their steady partnering and build of trust and feelings was great.
Now one of my favorite parts to post-apocalyptic stories is to see how the tearing down and rebuilding of a race happens when the ‘big’ event (in this case a plague) occurs and wipes it all out for a reboot. The author did a good job of making this world on the brink feel authentic right down to the fatigue, losing hope, and horrendous situations.
And paired with my interest in the setting and world of a story like this is the development of the characters who populate such a tale. I enjoyed seeing how those who survived either rolled over and gave up, stepped into the vacuum to gain for themselves, or grew into their full potential as protectors, nurturers, and leaders.
The narration switches up between mostly Lynne and Jax, but even one of the villains gets his perspective included. Have to say that in this case, I wasn’t that into the villain’s perspective. But I did enjoy both Lynne and Jax as narrators and I enjoyed seeing both in action.
I’m hard on heroines, but Lynne was a great heroine for me. She’s smart, pragmatic, compassionate, resourceful, and fearful yet brave. Jax was a man in transition. He was so tough in ways, but also not so tough in others. He wants to do his job and not get involved with others at the same time. He resists being a true leader. But Jax is surrounded by a strong unit of people who shore him up and have their own strengths to toss in the pot. I can’t wait to get their stories as the series progresses.
The last part of the book is where all the money scenes are. While I wasn’t surprised by any big breath-snitching twists, things still got pretty intense. Love the action and fight scenes and where the story left things leading into the next book. I peaked at the teaser long enough to see that it is about the couple that intrigued me the most so now I’m left drumming my fingers impatiently again.
So in summary, it gets off slow as a first book in a series can, but then it gets rolling for some good action and romance in a gritty, post-apocalyptic setting. I would recommend this series to those who enjoy this sub-genre and others who can take their romantic suspense in any setting.
My thanks to Kensington Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #41 Sci-Fi R
Literary Pickers #40 microscope
New to Me #21 series