Review – Aftershock by Jill Sorenson

Aftershock cover imageReview – Aftershock by Jill Sorenson
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the author

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…

This blurb came from the author’s website.

I grew up in Southern California living through earthquakes with the threat of “The Big One,” knowing that if it happened, my city would be cut off from Los Angeles. I also saw some of the highway aftermath from a one of our more powerful earthquakes, so I thought I was prepared for whatever Sorenson was going to bring. Let me tell you she really brought the grimness of her characters’ situation to my attention. It was very well done, but not entirely comfortable to read at times. However, that very discomfort made the actions of the survivors and their hope very poignant.

Aftershock opens with Lauren in a sad mood because if life went as planned she would have been on her honeymoon. She and her partner are on their way to respond to a call when the earthquake hits. Once the immediate aftershocks are complete, Lauren, while battered and bruised, is still alive–unlike most of those around her. She grabs the oxygen from the ambulance and is preparing to start looking for survivors when Garrett arrives out of the cloud of dust and smoke. Together they formed the center of a group of survivors who banded together for survival. Not everyone who survives the initial set of quakes makes it to the end of the book, which while sad added to the realism of the situation. Also, not everyone who survived was on the same side. During the immediate scramble to make it through the first few hours, no one worried about each other’s backgrounds but as days passed, food and water grew scarce, danger intensified, and rescue stopped looking imminent that lack of knowledge became a factor that could rip the group apart right when they needed to be their most cohesive.

Lauren was a very strong woman who was accustomed to dealing with the immediate traumatic situation, but passing people over to someone else for long term care. She was the perfect person to have around when an incident first happens but her sometimes-futile efforts to keep the small group of survivors alive started to wear her down. She finds herself depending on Garrett for assistance and support, not to mention physical protection and finds herself drawn to him. She thinks that Garrett is attracted to her as well but he seems to run hot and cold without really giving Lauren a reason why. Despite the frequent rejection Lauren continues to reach out to him while dealing with the worsening situation. I did find her repeated attempts annoying after a while and I wanted her to grow a backbone when it came to her personal situation. But by the end of the book I ended up liking her stubborn character a lot.

Garrett was a very complicated character. He was dealing with the delayed aftermath of his service in Iraq as well as paying his dues for breaking the law. The earthquake brought out both the man he had been as well as flashbacks of the horrors he experienced in Iraq. He also had a secret that he really did not want any of the survivors, but especially Lauren, to discover. I had my suspicions before it was actually revealed so I could completely understand his reticence. I liked that he did not have all of the answers to their situation and that in fact some of his solutions actually made the situation worse. Yet even that flaw pointed to his ultimate character and how he really was one of the good guys.

While Lauren and Garrett’s relationship was the center of Aftershock, I found that I was rooting for two of the supporting characters as they both went through a maturation process. The sweet innocence between Owen and Penny was simply heartwarming to read. Both of them were struggling with the results of previous choices and how those very visible choices came off to the others. It would be great to get their story along with some of the other survivors. **not so subtle hint**

I found myself fully invested in the survivors and wanted them to make it and then to see how they dealt with their experience once rescued. Since Aftershock was a romance I did want Lauren and Garrett to have their HEA but that did not end up being the draw in the story for me. Sorenson created a very vivid world populated by people who were boiled down to their very essence. Like in any high stress situation you get to see who people really are or could be. In some cases you get to see the best and in others sadly you see the worst. One of the nice things about this story is that Sorenson was able to challenge some prevalent stereotypes to include one that challenged a preconceived notion of mine. She made me open my eyes about possible motivations for joining certain organizations. Not that I agreed with the decision but it did make sense and as a result I viewed that particular character through an entirely different lens by the end of the story. Even though I wasn’t focused on Lauren and Garrett’s romance I did enjoy reading Aftershock.

I give Aftershock a B/B-

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