Aftershock by Jill Sorenson

Why I read it: The author provided a review copy. 
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  THERE’S A FINE LINE  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….

What worked for me (and what didn’t): Given that the earthquake is right at the start, we’re into the action almost immediately – and the action just keeps right on going.  The description of the quake and the first aftershock was gripping and the confusion, terror and grief is palpable.    The author pulls no punches in describing the carnage – including later on in the book when the bodies have been decomposing for a few days in the heat and bits are falling off (ew!).  There are no zombies but if you’re squeamish, this might be a bit much.  (It’s hard to find a hero terribly sexy when he’s covered in gore.)

There was a lot going on in the book, with almost constant action.  I could easily see it as a movie (although if it were a movie, there would be a dog.  There’s always a dog. Which survives – I think it’s a rule.)  We spend a bit of time in the heads of quite a few people so it felt a little more like a movie to me as well.
The writing was spare and at the beginning, sometimes if felt a little jerky, moving quickly from one emotion or idea to another without any depth.  I wonder if this is a function of the category length?  I didn’t notice it in Crash Into Me (which I liked a lot).  But it did even out as the book went along.  
As to the romance, I could certainly see Lauren and Garrett falling for one another but I wasn’t entirely convinced they would last together – trauma may bring people together but can they survive the mundane?  I’d like to think so, but there wasn’t any of that in the book so the jury is still out for me.
It is apparent early on that Garrett has a secret and it didn’t take long for me to figure it out.  I thought Lauren was a bit dense actually for taking so long to get it.  Garrett gave plenty of clues.  While he didn’t confess, he didn’t lie either and he had a credible reason for his deception, at least at the beginning.
I believed the attraction and chemistry between the two leads and thankfully the author found a way for them to be clean before they got “dirty”  (heh).  Because, rotting flesh?  Not sexy.  
Ultimately, I think I would have preferred if Garrett didn’t have the secret he had – I think it was one extra element in a book that already had so much going on.  Him dealing with the after effects of  PTSD would have been enough for me and they maybe would have had an opportunity to live a “mundane” life for a few months before the end of the book, which may have made the HEA more believable.  
I liked the relationship between Penny and Owen and I didn’t mind that there wasn’t any real resolution to their story (mainly because the story wasn’t about their relationship as such) and I felt both were in a much better place at the end.  Owen was a complex character – he did some heroic things but he was a product of his environment and his instincts were to lie and steal and cheat.  So, when he did anything outside that, it represented a big change for him.  I can’t say that I trusted that  would last but I’d like to think he will turn his life around.
I also liked that Garrett, even with his military background, had difficulty getting the bad guys.  He wasn’t super human – while he did fairly well at attempting to be a combination of MacGyver and John McClane, he didn’t actually achieve it, which meant the book felt more real to me – even though there was a sense of heightened reality in the book – just like in most disaster movies.
Mostly, I liked that Garrett took responsibility for his actions but I seesawed a little on whether he was being just too hard on himself.  I’m not sure I ended up with a firm view one way or the other actually.
I also liked how Lauren’s career as an EMT/Paramedic played into her broader personality and how the disaster brought about a change in her career goals.   
The medical side of things felt believable (I have no idea really but it seemed authentic to me).  Lauren couldn’t perform surgery and her equipment and supplies weren’t unlimited.  Their situation as regards food and water wasn’t glossed over.  I was glad there was an RV trapped with them so there was a toilet the girls could use though :).  The RV idea was pretty clever actually, because it mean a private space for Penny, it meant cooking utensils and facilities and staples, like rice being available.  Definitely if I’m ever trapped in an earthquake on a freeway, I want to be near a fully stocked RV (but no convicts please).
What else? There was an excerpt from Freefall in the back of this book.  Sam Rutherford is the hero – we meet him briefly in Aftershock.  I’m really looking forward to reading about him.  Sexy rock climber with a tortured past. Yum.

Grade:  B-

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