After Life Lessonsby L.C. Spoering, Laila Blake
Series: After Life Lessons #1
Published on April 8, 2014 by Lilt Literary
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal Romance
Hulking shadows emerge out of the chaotic flurries of the blizzard. Something is dying, and so they come, like vultures.
After months of struggling south to escape the zombie-infested remains of New York, a snowstorm traps 23-year old artist, Emily, and her son in an abandoned gas station. Starving and desperate, they encounter Aaron, an Army medic on a mission of his own, who offers them a ride to ease the journey.
The road is a long and dangerous place to travel, and every day brings a new threat. But fear and adrenaline also drive the two closer together; they find laughter and a budding attraction that starts to thaw at their numb and deadened feelings. And that’s when the pain really starts to hit, when places long thought lost prickle back to life. Eventually, they will have to fight not just for survival, but for a future together, or their broken world will swallow them whole.
Zombies and romance? An interesting combination, but hey, why not? That’s what Blake and Spoering mash together in After Life Lessons, following the life of Emily, her son, and another survivor of the infestation, Aaron. Zombies are plaguing this dystopian world, forcing these three people to flee for their lives. This novel focuses on their lives and how they handle this new world.
For my first zombie book, I thought After Life Lessons was a decent start. The authors provide an excellent hook to start off the first chapter (always a plus) and created a very dark world. As a avid fantasy reader, I love good world-building but this book didn’t have quite enough for my taste. I found myself more interested in what happened to bring the zombies about versus what the characters were doing. This made it hard to connect with the characters, causing a few…issues when the romance became the main plot point.
Now I certainly wouldn’t call this novel a romance, but it did make up a decent portion of the story. Thankfully, Blake and Spoering spared us from a hot cup of unexplained chemistry and spoonfuls of lust. Aaron and Emily took it easy, working their way into a relationship full of tension from an apocalyptic world and their own survival as well as that of Emily’s son. Granted, I wasn’t completely on-board with the love. Too much stilted dialogue and a regular stream of apologizes turned this sexual tension into watching paint dry. It’s a shame as I think this was one of the better-developed romances I’ve seen in a while.
As for the novel itself — writing, formatting, etc. — it took a little bit of adjustment time with the changing points-of-view. I’m an avid fantasy reader so having the story switch between characters isn’t by any means new to me, but it did take a while for me to get used to the way Blake and Spoering present it in After Life Lessons. Each author, or authors, writes in a different way so no two books are identical, so this wasn’t a big issue by any means. What did bother me was that the choice of PoV in third person, and the constant switching between characters, gave me the feeling of an outsider to the story, like watching a movie. I wasn’t involved with the story or characters; I was on the sidelines occasionally cheering them on. I think a more personal involvement with the novel would have made me like After more.
So if you’re looking for a zombie-apocalypse romance, this is the book for you. Be prepared for not enough zombies and maybe a little too much character relationships. For those of us who like a little more action in our zombie novels, you might want to hold out for a more action-packed story.