Zombies, zombies everywhere and not a bite to eat.
Hello again, my lovelies! Time for another look at the blending of romance and the walking dead. Kelly Ryan's Salvation, released by Breathless Press, has scrambled its way through the quarantine zones and onto my blog for review.Salvation starts off just like you might expect, for a romance: girl meets boy, girl wants boy. Meet Kol (a rather sexy little nickname for Nicole) and her dashing neighbor Nick. It looks like these two might be in for a tasty little date... at least until they are rather rudely interrupted by those pesky zombie hordes!
Kol and Nick find themselves fleeing an infection spreading across the East Coast. Here's the first thing I quite enjoyed about Salvation: the sense of confusion, fear and yet determined hope in a gathering group of heroes seeking shelter when their world is falling apart. In this way, the book reminded me of one of my very favorite novels: The Stand, by Stephen King. There's a wonderful bond we make with survivors, watching them trek their way to those places they feel implicitly safe, and developing ties with other survivors. Leaders emerge; basic skills and tools become precious. There's a heroic desperation to it, and of course as readers, we want to see them succeed.
Salvation takes some unique liberties with the genre of zombie horror. One of my favorite little twists forms the hook pulling Kol and Nick across the country in hopes of a cure: Kol herself may be the salvation of all, if she can reconcile the horrors of her past, the knowledge she carries within her, and the hope that she can reconcile with her estranged father for the sake of everyone living. Kelly Ryan has created a very special character in Kol, and though I won't spoil you with the reasons why she's so special, I will say I found it to be a very promising twist against the norm.
Romance in Salvation is a relief from the frantic scramble from the oncoming virus; Nick and Kol turn to each other for deep comfort in passionate moments, carving out time to cling to their humanity. It's clear there is something very precious between them: they are meant to be together.
If there's one thing in Salvation that could be expanded on, it's a want of balance between the tale of the lovers and the spread of the zombies. And I have to say, I feel this stems from expectations of the romance and erotica genre that I personally find restrictive and diluting: too often romance authors are cautioned against breaking or threatening the pure fantasy of the reader to be able to "jump into" the lead's head. This results in us authors restricted from "head hopping", and too often I think that binds us and sacrifices the chance to use literary devices like dramatic irony (where the reader is aware of plot elements that the characters are not, which is a great way of developing suspense). In Salvation, I feel there's a narrowed point of view which means the zombies get little screen time. The romance between Kol and Nick serves to be a pleasant and compelling story all its own, which makes Salvation a passionate and pleasurable read nonetheless. Though we see little of the zombies, we know they are serving to drive the two lovers closer and closer together, and in that way we can appreciate the survival horror element for what it brings to the driving romance.
Salvation is a sweet taste of your classic zombie infection. Longer than a short but sprinkled with satisfying sex throughout, it'll stand up to more than one night for a needy reader.
You can find Salvation on Breathless Press here. An interview with Kelly Ryan can also be found on the Breathless Press Blog, where you can get to know the lady behind this book.