how much I loved Aftershock, the first book in Jill Sorenson's trilogy about survivors of a massive earthquake in San Diego. So to say I was more than a little eager to get my hands on the second book, Freefall, that features Sam Rutherford, a man who spent the vast majority of the first book lying in a coma? Yeah, understatement of the century. Sadly, while I thought the main romance had oodles of potential, and the suspense was compelling - the secondary elements in this story were less than thrilling.
Every year, Sierra Nevada park ranger Hope Banning and her sister, Faith, take a vacation together. Faith's idea of a vacation is lounging by a pool at a fancy hotel. Sadly, for her, Hope plans their trip this year, which means whitewater rafting at the national park where she works. Just as they're nearing the site to meet their rafting group, Hope gets a call on her radio. Yeah, she's technically supposed to be "off duty" - but emergencies are a different ball of wax. A climber spotted a small engine airplane crash in a remote area. Hope goes to talk to the witness, only to realize it's Sam Rutherford. Ok, sure - the sex was off-the-chain, but that's the best thing she can say about the doomed one-night-stand they shared some months prior.
Sam survived the San Diego earthquake with his body intact, just not his memory. His amnesia only really pertains to the events in his life before the earthquake - when his fiancee died in a climbing accident. They were climbing together, and Sam feels guilt over the incident even though he can't actually recall said incident. So yeah, our boy is screwed up. The one-night-stand with Hope was his way of running from his problems - but instead he ran straight into a whole new set of them. He likes Hope. He really, really likes her. And that just will not do. He finds himself taking her to the crash site, only to be further thrown into her company when it turns out the plane crash is really a murder scene.
I'll be honest, before I even started this story it felt like placeholder until I get the book I really want (Penny & Owen! January 2014! Squee!!1!1!!!). But you know what? Sorenson does some interesting things with this romance. I suspect some readers will find it lacking given the depth of Sam's grief over The Dead Fiancee - but I liked that both Sam and Hope are damaged in their own ways. They both have serious baggage. And I like the fact that they both recognize that the other is "different" and holy crap keeping their emotional distance from each other is going to be a challenge.
What didn't work as well for me? Hope's sister, Faith - who naturally falls into trouble once Hope runs off to investigate the plane crash. Naturally a guy linked with that crash stumbles across the rafting group, and naturally decides to infiltrate them as his "cover," and naturally Bimbo Faith falls for him hook, line and sinker. Now Sorenson does do a good job of laying out Faith's character. She's not really a bimbo. It's more like being a bimbo is a defense mechanism. And OK, so she has hot, sweaty sex with a member of a drug cartel but hey! It's OK since he's really not a Bad Man, and he's trying to extricate himself from said cartel, I mean, so what? So he brings danger right at Faith's doorstep and the girl is dragged through the ringer for the entire book. That's no big deal, right? Ugh. It just didn't work for me, at all. Which I know sounds hypocritical since the "challenging characters" in Aftershock worked just dandy for me. But here? Yeah, not so much. The Faith storyline pretty well annoyed me for 3/4 of the book and the ending of said plot line kinda pushed me over the edge.
Honestly, I strongly feel the reader's enjoyment of Freefall will be in direct correlation to how much they enjoyed Aftershock. I loved Aftershock. So yeah, I was pretty well juiced in to liking Freefall - even with all my quibbles. I wanted to be back in the world that Sorenson created, and I wanted to be back with these characters (plus we get more Owen in this book! Squeee!!1!!1!!!). But if I had read this book without having read Aftershock first? I can honestly say I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much, or been as forgiving. I mean, the whole Faith thing really annoyed me for a big chunk of the book. I kept hoping she would....fall off a cliff or something. Except, you know, that would have made Hope more screwed up and that just wouldn't have worked. Final verdict? Mileage is going to vary considerably. But for me?
Final Grade = B-