After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones

After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Danger brings together two guarded hearts in a battle for survival in this irresistible story from New York Times bestselling authors Linda Howard and Linda Jones.

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.

This novel is a keeper, an edge-of-your-seater powerful read with elements of truth that sent shivers up my spine. The story and romance sucked me in and never let go.

To divert attention for a bit, I watched a disaster movie, and the basic premise was the same – the loss of everything we use in regular everyday life, setting us back about 200 years in technology and in living conditions. The difference is the movie gave me nightmares because it showed the brutality and twisted evil some survivalists can devolve into. In After Sundown, I found a more positive, optimistic yet pragmatic take on it that was an absolute pleasure to read. The book didn’t leave me with a bad taste, it had a sensual spice-lite romance that was wonderful to watch grow and a cast of characters I came to care about, and villains that deserved what they got.

I choose to call this a contemporary story because up until the CME (Coronal Mass Ejections) hits, it is. And the thing about the CME, is that it’s a real thing, it can do what this novel explores, but so far, it’s only been on a scale that affected about 6 million people. I can tell the authors really did their research and it’s probably why this book makes such an impression on me. The Carrington Event is mentioned so I took the time to look it up. Blew. My. Mind. This story sure has opened my eyes to the possibilities.

Now, to the good stuff…the romance between quiet, I-want-to-stay-in-the-background, Sela, and Ben, the ex-military isolationist that is holed up on the mountain and only comes down for the bare essentials. They are a most unlikely pair, and that is why it works so well. The strong point for me about the two main characters is their growth. One becomes strong and a kind of leader, and the other, eventually rejoins the human race as an active participant. For the hero, it was like pulling impacted wisdom teeth – but, you know, eventually, they come out, you feel better, and you can move forward without that level of pain, right? That may be a strange analogy, but in my mind, it fits Ben to a T. You see, the authors wrote from each of their points of views, so a reader can understand what makes them tick. I found Ben to be absolutely fascinating. Hidden really deep inside the man, is a soft, squishy, loving heart and as the story unfolds, a reader starts to see those tiny cracks in his emotional fortress. I found it more romantic and fulfilling than if the romance was fast, in-your-face and easy. There’s nothing easy about the hero, but I can tell that when he commits, he’s all in, 100%. Definite hero material.

The practical problems of how to survive were explored in various degrees of depth. Obviously, the authors had to pinpoint specifics for the telling of the tale, but I am sure that at some points they must have been overwhelmed. There’s one scene where Sela discusses the process of coming up with solutions, and I absolutely agree with her assessment. After reading all the preparations that Sela and her family were able to do, and then reading all the things they later thought they should have done, it made me look around my own home, my own skills and I found them sadly lacking. My mom cans and does preserves, sews and gardens like a fiend. I’m a product of my generation – the stores and online shopping are my go-to places for necessities. I work outside the home and have no time for what was, even 60 years ago, a typical part of life- canning and gardening and doing things close to the land. Back then it was more common to know some farmers by name and get food directly from them instead of pre-packaged in an air-conditioned grocery store like today. All that to say – I feel like I’d be one of those people who didn’t survive the first month. Scary thought, right? But After Sundown focuses on the can-do attitude, the ingenious ways people come up with to work together and become a close-knit community that help each other. It was like that in the Old West, and at times, some scenes in the book were reminiscent of that.

Some readers might think that things were a little ‘too easy’ in some instances, but I don’t read romance books to be fed overly factual and ‘correct’ details. The authors provided enough to give readers the atmosphere of a crisis, the hope of humanity in seeing neighbor helping neighbor, enough realistic drama and suspense from the bad guys’ intentions and deeds, and the ultimate life-affirming reality that even in the worst times, people fall in love, make love, and look to the future. The authors accomplished all of it and gave me one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a while. It impressed me so much that I was compelled to give this story the highest rating I could.

After Sundown is a must read, a great read, and is one readers should add to their own collections of keepers. There is so much more to this novel, like, important secondary characters I haven’t touched upon, some of the humor, Ben’s relationship with a dog he didn’t want to want, and the sweet moments when the community comes together for both good and sad times. But above all, the happy ever after is wonderful, loving and so very satisfying that this book is an easy re-read. I heartily and enthusiastically recommend this thrilling romance story – it’s awesome in all the best of ways.

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