Afterburn by Amy Knupp
Afterburn is the fifth book in the series and I loved this one! It's a story of opposites and contrasts, of pain, loss and resentments, and of growth, fulfillment and redemption. Definitely a five-star read, as I explain in my review.
Mercedes has a long history of taking care of the people in her life – her mother, her sister, her ailing grandmother and the women who come to the shelter where she volunteers. When a pregnant teenager, Gemma, comes to the full shelter, Mercedes offers a bed at her home with her grandmother and cats, but Gemma is allergic to cats. The only option is to try to convince Gemma's step-brother, Scott, to let Gemma stay with him. You would think, being a paramedic and in the business of helping people, that Scott would open his home willingly. But the grumpy EMT has a decade long resentment against his father and the secret family that destroyed Scott's family shortly before his high school graduation, so it takes all of Mercedes' persuasive powers to convince him. Of course, Scott's unwanted attraction to her may make him more agreeable.
The previous book in this Island Fire series, Firestorm, was my first introduction to this author and I was excited to be able to read an advance copy of this book. From a technical standpoint, her work is a joy to read. With a well crafted story, complex and believable characters and nearly flawless editing, the story flows smoothly and flies by. I was immediately drawn into this book, devouring it so quickly it was finished before I knew it.
This author really had her work cut out for her, trying to redeem Scott's character. He had so much darkness and anger that he had harbored for so many years, it was hard to believe he could ever get out of the emotional hole he was in. But when he had his lightbulb moment, it was nearly as profound as Edison's lightbulb shining for the first time. If there’s a message in this book, it’s that the anger, bitterness and resentment a person holds on to only serves to destroy the one refusing to let them go. For someone in a healing, helping profession, Scott had so much bleak emptiness and the benevolent, kind-hearted part of him had been buried deep. It seems he was really only fooling himself though, because Mercedes, Gemma and his coworkers saw the goodness in him.
Afterburn is quite the emotional roller coaster ride. There’s pain, loss and relationships that need healing for both Scott and Mercedes, a teenage pregnancy, some poignant and difficult EMT calls, and all of the emotion involved in an ill-advised, poorly timed romance. Mercedes and Scott can’t seem to help falling in love but even love doesn’t change the outcome. If you’ve ever had your heart broken (and really, who hasn’t?) you’ll be reminded of all the angst you experienced. And right in the midst of Mercedes's heartbreak, we get comic relief in the form of Gram's words of wisdom, “Men are slow.” Yes, Scott was a little slow but he got his head on straight so they could finally get to the happily ever after part.
Knupp has quickly become a must-read author for me with her talented writing, easy, readable style, loveable characters and compelling storylines. The setting of San Amaro Island is so vivid and detailed it feels like a real place, and the recurring, supporting characters make me want more of this place and its people. As I have the chance, I plan to read the other books in the series and eagerly anticipate new material from this author. These books stand alone so you can easily start with this book or any in the series. Plan to be captivated, because once you start this series you won’t be satisfied with just one book.
Much love between the covers,
See more of my reviews here.