by Linda Howard & Linda Jones
Publisher: William Morrow/Harper Collins
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie
Sela Gordon, the shy owner of a Tennessee general store, finds safety in solitude. But if anyone can pierce her protective shell it’s the handsome, mysterious ex-military man living alone in the wilds of Cove Mountain. For two years, he’s kept his distance—until the day he appears to warn her that a catastrophic solar storm capable of taking down the power grid is coming. Now, Sela must find the courage to become the leader Wears Valley needs.
Bitter experience has taught Ben Jernigan it’s best to look out for number one. For two years the former soldier has lived in a self-imposed exile, using a top-notch security system to keep people away. But he had to let Sela know about the impending threat—and now the quiet and undeniably sexy woman is making it too easy for him to lower his guard.
As panic spreads, Sela and Ben discover that in the dark, cut off from the outside world, there’s no more playing it safe—in life or in love.
First of all: this book scared the bejesus out of me, and because it did, it’s why I couldn’t give it the 5 stars. When I get to my Happily Ever After, I want some guarantees and while I think as much of a guarantee as an apocalyptic type book can provide, the authors did a great job. Just...they scared me too much to really enjoy it. That’s me. I’m more of a thriller-lite. But if you love dark thrillers--anyone may die at any time--this book rocks it out of the park for that.
Second, I truly enjoyed the pairing of Ben and Sela. They were both very shy and/or reclusive sorts of people. Perhaps having an apocalyptic situation is the only way they would’ve hooked up. Hell, it may be the only way I’ll get a date at this point, but I really liked that they were both rather reserved people. I think an argument could be made they were still an “opposites” attract kind of couple, but not in the obvious way of one is an extravert and one is an introvert. They were both introverts, but different levels of it.
Third, I really really hope we never go through a CME (big ass solar storm, Coronal Mass Ejection). I will likely die very early in the fallout.
Ben is a good guy who doesn’t want to admit he’s a good guy; and Sela is a good leader who doesn’t want to admit she’s a good leader. Both are put to the test in this story. Ben--who is a bit of a Doomsday Prepper ex-military sort who is content to sit in his Smoky Mountains cabin and keep to himself--learns a CME is coming and will knock out the power grids for at least a year. Without power grids, we have no electricity, no heat, no government, nothing online definitely, as well as a slew of other issues. Those in big cities will be hit the worst, but those in small communities like where Ben is currently living will be in danger of being looted or overtaken by outsiders who are panicked and starving.
Sela is a tad confused when the usually taciturn Ben warns her about the event, giving her an extra day or so to prepare and protect her family, but she doesn’t question his sources. She takes the extra time to set in extra rations, shut down her gas station (to conserve gas for generators), and confer with her aunt, who is a more natural leader in the community. The CME occurs and the community soon finds itself in the midst of what would happen if everything suddenly was set back two hundred years overnight. How do you wash clothes or make meals without electricity? How do you plan for food or make sure everyone can eat? How do you make trades for things you need? Most of all, how do you keep the community calm and engaged while protecting it from the few greedy and power-hungry? It’s literally the Wild Wild West overnight because you can’t call the police if you’re being attacked.
The characters are diverse and leap off the pages; the sexual tension can be cut with a knife and butter your toast with it (Ben is waayyyyy yummy); and the suspense and tension of how this works out is sharp. So if you like your military heroes to be ripped and ready to rumble, you are going to love Ben. If you like your thrillers plausible and scary, boy, does this have it. And if you like a heroine you can root for and fun secondary characters, this book also ticks those boxes. (But if you also like to sleep at night, never knowing about CMEs and possible Doomsday scenarios, maybe pass.)