While the publicity for “After Sundown” by Linda Howard and Linda Jones emphasizes that it’s a love story, it’s also quite a tale of survival — how appropriate for right now. In this novel, there is a huge CME, or coronal mass ejection, that hits Earth, causing a massive disruption of the electrical grid. Sela Gordon and Ben Jernigan live in rural Tennessee, and have met infrequently at her gas station/general store when Ben has purchased gas. And while there was a mutual interest, neither of them actually did anything about it.
That changed when Ben found out about the CME that was imminent. When he went to Sela’s general store for gas and some extra food and toilet paper, he told her what was coming. While she didn’t completely believe him — there were some crazy preppers in the hills — she felt that just to be safe, she should get some extra supplies. She was happy she had done that when the CME happened just as Ben had predicted. Sela, her aunt Carol, and Carol’s granddaughter Olivia would be better prepared because of what Sela had done.
Sela is an interesting main character because of her introspection and her feelings of wanting to be left alone. Her marriage left her feeling inadequate and inferior, so she is shy and hesitant to speak out. Yet with her family, she’s strong and able to take charge. And in this disaster, Sela’s inner strength and fortitude become apparent.
Sela is part of the whole Cove Mountain community, and when all outside communication is down, and there is no police force or hospital, Sela realizes that the community needs to come together to ensure that people stay safe and have enough to survive on. Although Sela doesn’t want to be out in front and in charge, when her aunt is delegated to run things, Sela helps from the sidelines. Her organizational skills are a huge benefit to the people in her community.
It’s at this point that Ben decides to visit Sela and see how she is doing. This time their attraction is unmistakeable, and the only question is how long it will take them to act upon that attraction.
The first half of the book is filled with fascinating information about how the neighborhood gets ready for survival and how they come together. It’s also a character study of Sela and how, in spite of her shyness and her feelings of inadequacy, she knows what needs to be done and how to do it. But when she tries to protect the gasoline she has stored at her gas station from those who would steal it, she learns that when it comes to fighting, Ben is the expert.
I love Sela’s strength as she becomes more and more confident during this calamity, and I love how the authors don’t rush the love story. It’s a slow, natural progression, and it’s quite lovely. The other characters all make the story more real, as does one particular character who is not what he appears to be.
“After Sundown” is a story that will appeal to those looking for a romance that has a bite of reality or those looking for a survival story with a healthy dose of romance. In these times, with a pandemic in our reality, reading about someone else’s survival story is a wonderful luxury and pleasurable way to spend time at home.
Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by William Morrow, the publisher, for review purposes.