Recommendation Tuesday: Jill Sorenson's Aftershock Series
Recommendation Tuesday started as a joke and is now an official thing. If you've got a book to recommend on this or any Tuesday, tweet me at @FullShelves and I'll help spread the word.
I'm not sure how I discovered Jill Sorenson's Aftershock suspense series--it's highly likely that I first heard about it from Brie, when I was looking for a series to replace Laura Griffin's Tracers series, which isn't as fun as it once was.
Regardless, this series continues to hit that sweet spot of interesting characters and fabulous WTFery. (That's a compliment.)
There are several books and this series, and while they do stand alone, there's actually quite a bit of world-building in the first novel, Aftershock, which depicts the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake in San Diego. We're introduced to characters who will serve as protagonists in future installments and the earthquake influences characters' arcs in the future. So, basically, start with Aftershock and read in order if you get hooked.
I will warn you that the first installment, however, has more plot shenanigans than the others, but the bonus is the introduction of Owen, eventual main character in book 3, Badlands.
Owen is one of the more unusual romantic leads I've encountered. In book one, he's struggling to survive the earthquake after the prison bus he was on wrecks. He's not a guard, he's a prisoner. And he's join a white supremacist gang in prison. I was skeptical of him as a compelling lead in Badlands, but his backstory and transformation is the highlight of the series and I completely bought him and his happy ever after.
(I did have some issues with wanting a bit more from Penny's character, his love interest, who's also an important character in Afterschock--Brie hit the nail on the head with this aspect in her review.)
Beyond the interesting characters what sticks with me about this series is how the author manages to balance creating suspense while avoiding the violence porn that's become omnipresent in the romantic suspense sub-genre.
For the most part, I quit reading thriller-type books because I've found the approach to violence too blase and consequence-free, but Sorenson forces her characters to tackle the emotional and psychological ramifications of violence.
Circling back to Owen's character again, his life was filled with violence, with even his post-prison work being steep in protecting others from danger. In Badlands, he's force to commit an act of violence against someone else (it's totally justifiable), and he's horrified by it. While I haven't read all the romantic suspense/suspense novels on the market, I've read enough to say with a measure of confidence that's a fairly unusual scenario.
I recently finished the fourth novel, Backwoods, and I really enjoyed it, despite that it heavily features hell AKA camping.
In particular, the the multi-generational storyline (the characters are a mother/daughter and father/son). The suspense aspect was engaging, but the storyline about these two sets of parents and adultish children was pretty compelling stuff, especially considering that much of the story involves running from psychotic killers, escaping kidnappers and hot tub shenanigans.
Each novel touches on issues such as guilt, sexuality and body image in an organic fashion that generally makes sense for the characters. I appreciate this touch in stories focused on action and adventure.
Honestly, I think a lot of people who would enjoy Sorenson's series may avoid it because the covers are, well, atrocious. Like, comedically so. One features a highway surging out of shirtless man's torso, for crying out loud! (At least I hope that's his torso.) But, the absolutely CRAZYPANTS covers kind of make me love them more.
If you're looking to try out this sub-genre or are in the mood for an action-packed story with some swoon, take the Aftershock's series for a spin--I promise you can't read just one.
Disclosure: A review copy of Backwoods (Aftershock #4) was provided by the publisher.