Q: How do you think you’d fare in a post-apocalyptic situation like a huge solar storm, where power was totally lost?
It’s something that I’ve thought about before, when I’m reading dystopian fiction or on the admittedly rare occasion of talking with someone about their prepping stash.
It can be a pretty grim topic whether IRL or in fiction. But when romance is added to the latter equation we're offered something beautiful out of the chaos and fear. Linda Howard and Linda Jones work this magic in their book After Sundown.
Ben Jernigan is a former Marine and current near-recluse who retreated to Wears Valley—a community in the Smoky Mountains—after losing some of his men and faith during war. After learning in advance that a life-changing solar storm is imminent, he does the unexpected and informs the only person he remotely cares about, gas station owner Sela Gordon.
She thinks he’s crazy.
But she prepares for what seems to be impossible—a world that will likely be without power for at least a year.
The storm hits and people are taken back to a time when everything was done without the benefit of electricity...and internet. As they try to become accustomed to this new life Ben and Sela are increasingly attracted to the other, though the odds against them—from external and internal forces—seem pretty huge in this post-apocalyptic world...
Ben and Sela shine throughout this book as both of them have some growing to do to meet the demands facing them. Someone has to step up to lead their community, and it’s rewarding to see Ben start to come down from his mountain and Sela learn to use the voice that she usually chooses to keep quiet.
Howard and Jones have the whole alpha hero thing down, and Ben’s a model example of the type. He’s protective, strong, and determined. He’s resourceful when it comes to surviving and when he’s reluctantly moved to take care of people their chances of surviving go up exponentially (this is just me speculating, but it’s the overall effect he gives off).
When he turns his sights to Sela it’s very intense, and in a way that feels familiar (and exciting) to me as a Linda Howard reader and fan. Their attraction crackles and arcs between them, thrillingly interrupting the narration of day to day post-apocalyptic life. This is a slowwwww burn.
Speaking of the narration, I feel like I learned a lot about how to possibly survive in a post-apocalyptic world because Howard and Jones go into so much detail about the practicalities. On one hand, it's kinda cool, and I settled into the soothing recital of what Ben, Sela, and her family and friends have to do to make it. On the other, there are times when the narration starts to feel a bit dry, and I wanted more time between Ben and Sela, who don’t really get any meaningful face to face time together until approximately 25% into the novel.
After Sundown largely ignores the outside world for most of the book, giving its readers a sustained glimpse into a particular community during a time when their world comes crashing down. There's a lot on the main characters's plates, and they do worry about the eventual intrusion of outsiders in their community, but I missed the emotional impact I was expecting to see in a post-apocalyptic read. After all, there are a lot of people dying as a result of the storm--millions and millions--and I didn't see a real emotional toll of that on anyone in the book. That seems a little odd to me.
In the end After Sundown is a post-apocalyptic romance that’s got its share of violence, but that’s also encouraging and at the best moments, pretty tender and lusty. I wanted more more more time with Sela and Ben but oh boy did that Epilogue deliver.
Give me that HEA, please.
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