by Jill Sorenson
Book 4 of Aftershock
When plans for a wilderness retreat with her teenage daughter Brooke go awry, Abby Hammond reluctantly pairs up with Brooke's stepbrother and his dad, Nathan Strom, for the week-long trek. The only thing Abby has in common with the bad-boy former pro athlete is that their exes cheated with each other. That…and a visceral attraction that's growing more complicated with every step through the picturesque woods.
Nathan's wild-card reputation lost him his career and his family. After years of regret, he's ready to fight for what truly matters—and that includes Abby's hard-won trust. When Brooke goes missing, Nathan knows he's her best and only hope of rescue. But the deeper into the rugged mountains they go, the more dangerous the territory will prove—for their safety and for their hearts.
I've been enjoying Jill Sorenson's Aftershock series for the past three books, and while they aren't necessarily my favorite reads, they are exciting and attention-hooking, to the point that the books become un-put-down-able. Sorenson always jumps right into the action, with an earthquake burying San Diego in the first book, a plane crash and a loose killer in the second, and a kidnapping of the main characters into the harsh California badlands in the third.
Backwoods felt kind of tame and mellow in comparison. Though to be fair, we DO get a glimpse of what's to come when Abby keeps dropping news article mentions about missing young girls and a dead body or two in the area she and her daughter and company will be hiking around.
And to be totally honest, I get that you shouldn't wrap yourself in a bubble just because some bad things happen in life, but shouldn't we also be a bit more cautious if young girls keep going missing in the same area within a certain time frame. I'm no advocate of coincidences, honestly, and so that just screams SERIAL KILLER RAPIST to me. But then again, I've maybe read one two many crime thrillers, and grew up with a very paranoid mother who makes sure to lock the doors all the time and calls you regularly when you're out with friends just to make sure you're not lying in a ditch somewhere.
Anyway, logic aside, that was only one of the reasons I didn't find Backwoods as enjoyable as the other three Aftershock books. To be totally honest, our entire crew of characters is just a walking TSTL team waiting to happen, and that's only because they are letting a socially and sexually unaware eighteen year old girl lead them. I'm not saying that eighteen year old girls aren't capable of leading a group into the wilderness for a nice few days of hiking--obviously Brooke knows what she's doing and can organize a mean hiking expedition with the best of them.
But when she stopped to talk to two strangers, completely ignorant of the leering looks one of them was giving her, and then proceeded to tell said strangers where she and crew were heading... Well, girl you might as well just throw yourself into their arms and ask to be kidnapped if you're going to outline your entire trip, including bathroom breaks to people you don't know.
Once again... A lot of young women have gone missing in this area. If Abby weren't so paranoid, and if Nathan hadn't cut Brooke's conversation off, I'm not sure Brooke would have made it very far in her hiking endeavors.
The book actually starts off pretty slow with a lot of family drama that seriously feels like a dysfunctional family soap. Nathan's wife Lydia cheated on him with Abby's husband; Abby walked in on her husband Ray going at it with Lydia. Now their two respective kids seem to be fighting an intense case of teenage hormones for each other... and then Abby and Nathan end up getting it on. Later on, we even find out that Ray cheated on Lydia and another divorce is in the works.
Meanwhile, our group spends their time trying to keep the peace while hiking around in the wilderness--a trip that is supposed to take at least three days with no contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, a lot of young women have gone missing from this location... Have I already mentioned that?
And Brooke is all, "Stop being so paranoid, Mom. Nothing is going to happen."
Famous last words.
Backwoods had a promising premise. I just wish I could scrounge up enough care for the characters to like this book more. The rest of the book really was pretty exciting and intense. And as per Jill Sorenson standards, the story was fast-paced; I rolled through it pretty quickly.
The characters, mainly, were the most frustrating and I had trouble relating with them. In fact, I don't even think I was able to like any of the characters, which, while isn't a first for me, is not exactly a very common thing. Sometimes, there's at least one or two characters I can find some like for. Unfortunately, Backwoods is not one of those books.
So... probably if not for the fact that the book was written well and the story was not bad, I probably would have given this book a much lower rating. Call me biased--I DO like Jill Sorenson and her books, and the Aftershock series is an overall enjoyable one.