Series: Off the Grid #1
Published by Carina Press Genres: Science Fiction
No one expects the apocalypse.
Arden Highmore was living your average postgrad life in Rochester, New York, when someone flipped the "off" switch on the world. No cell phones, no power, no running water—and no one knows why. All she and her roommate, John, know for sure is that they have to get out, stat. His family's cabin near the Canadian border seemed like the safest choice.
It turns out isolation doesn't necessarily equal safety.
When scavengers attack, it's John's ridiculously handsome brother, Gabriel, who comes to the rescue. He saves Arden's life, so he can't be all bad…but he's also a controlling jerk who treats her like an idiot. Now their parents are missing and it seems John, Gabriel, their kid sister, Maggie, and Arden are the only people left alive who aren't blood-thirsty maniacs.
No one knows when—or if—the lights will come back on and, in the midst of all that, Arden and Gabriel are finding that there's a fine line indeed between love and hate. How long can they expect to last in this terrifying new world, be it together or apart?
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It is no secret that I have a love of all things fantasy and sci-fi. At one point I binged on dystopian fiction like it was the last cupcake in a room full of sugar crazed six-year olds. I was willing to tackle a child if they stood between me and a good end of days read. Unfortunately, the last few years has seen a flood of dystopian books that honestly, exhausted me. For the last few months, the idea of reading another book that involved zombies, a killer virus or some all-powerful city complex left me bored and uninterested.
Radio Silence sat unread in my kindle for several months. I purchased the book because the cover and premise intrigued me, but I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to read it. However, when I finally did sit down to read it I was pleasantly surprised.
Radio Silence is not your typical dystopian read. There are no zombies, no vampires or weird government agencies causing mayhem (at least not in this book). Instead, Ms. Cole provides the reader with the unknown, and it is perfect. The characters in this world don’t know what has happened. They have no information regarding why all communications have halted. They don’t know what has happened or why. All that is revealed is that one day everything went silent. Electricity shut down, cell towers stopped emitting signals and all form of communication has stopped. America is left paralyzed and no one knows why. This creates a level of danger and suspense that competes (and in many moments) wins against the commonly used zombies or military complex plot. The unknown has been scaring the pants off of the human psyche from the beginning of time, and I have to give the author kudos for employing something so simple to create a constant backdrop of tension.
A hazy memory floated to the surface of my semi-lucid mind: John and I lounging in the living room of our apartment. We clutched mugs of eggnog and watched the saber rattling on the nightly news, where they recapped the now-routine Russian threats against the West. The lightbulbs flared out with a pop! and the image on our sleek TV flattened to a thin white line, leaving us in total darkness. The glow of two signalless cell phones illuminated our confused faces. We cranked the hand-operated emergency radio John had insisted we buy, but it only produced an eerie white noise more chilling than a panicked announcement of impending attack would’ve been.
There are even moments that the characters joke about the possibility of brain eating zombies or being unwilling cast members in Red Dawn 2.
Despite the frightening circumstances, when Arden and Gabriel first meet, there is a moment of attraction, a distant spark that filters through Arden’s fear. In many cases this type of insta-like would turn me off, but Ms. Cole handled the moment well by making it less about sexual attraction and more about Arden’s reaction to being touched after so many weeks without contact with someone other than her best friend.
He swept his hands over my cheeks and then prodded my jaw. The pressure of his cold fingertips felt good against my battered face. I knew it was completely inappropriate, given the circumstances, but still—I couldn’t help that his touch sent little frissons of pleasure through me. Maybe lack of human contact besides John for weeks had done something to me. Without thinking, I pressed my face into his hand, seeking the innate comfort of his touch.
I admit to breathing a small sigh of relief after I read this. It gave me hope that the story’s premise wasn’t a poor excuse to have two characters meet and have sex in the woods for the next 300 pages. I was correct.
The romance unfolds at just the right pace. The seclusion of their surroundings, the conflict of the unknown, and we soon learn the disappearnce of Gabriel’s parents, as well as the knowledge of just how far some people are willing to go to survive in this new world, are believable accelerants to Arden’s and Gabriel’s romance.
Living in a cabin with Gabriel, her friend John and their little sister Maggie, provides for a cramped and tricky atmosphere for the author to navigate and make room for sexy times. But sexy times are indeed had 😉 . There is a hide-and-seek scene (yes, hide-and-seek) that is all sorts of sizzling goodness. And this is where this book moves passed the level of a five star review and enters top rated territory.
The chemistry between Arden and Gabriel is kept at a low burn that flares into some really well written sexual scenes. This is another aspect of the story that kept me invested in these two characters. Their chemistry never felt forced or clumsy. The sexual and intimate moments were coupled with Arden and Gabriel experiencing insights into each other’s characters that made their romance believable, considering the short time frame.
Aside from the unknown cause of the “radio silence”, Arden and Gabriel must deal with the mysterious disappearance of Gabriel’s parents, and the possibility that someone may be watching them from afar. These additional elements of “unknown” help add action to an otherwise fixed setting.
This external conflict plays well with the internal conflicts that both Arden and Gabriel struggle with, both of then wrestling with their place and responsibility in this new world.
Gabriel, as the eldest sibling, unsurprisingly feels the need to protect and care for what is left of his family. His internal conflict includes learning to give up some of his innate need for control and allow others to be involved in the decisions made to keep them safe. Arden’s conflict involves her uneasiness in getting involved with her best friend’s brother, and whether making romantic attachments make any sense in the life she now has. She also struggles with worries of what has happened with her own family.
Radio Silence is the first in Ms. Cole’s Off the Grid series, but can be read as a standalone since there is a resolution to Arden and Gabriel’s romance. Most of the questions that arise from the conflicts in the book are answered, and enough is left open to make me want to read the rest of this series. The relationship between Arden and Gabriel is wrapped up well and I wasn’t left with a sense of an unrealistic conclusion to their story.
Laurel Cremant is an opinionated author and reader of romance with a wicked sense of humor. RNIC was smart (or crazy) to bring her on as a blogger. In 2016 she took over the management of this site and relishes her new title of “Overlord of Awesome”