I’ve been feeling some series fatigue lately, so I was surprised by how much I really wanted to see sequels to Aftershock. It was a fabulous read, and I just had to know what happened to the other earthquake survivors. Those who read Aftershock will be aware that Sam Rutherford is something of a mysterious character given that he was unconscious for most of that book. I looked forward to uncovering some of his secrets in Freefall, but while the book was full of action, the love story left me a little cold.
As the story begins, park ranger Hope Banning has planned a rafting trip with her younger sister Faith, but plans get changed as Hope is called into work at the last moment. A small plane has crashed in a remote section of the park, and Hope must get to that plane in order to organize aid for any survivors. No other rangers are available to help, so she recluctantly heads out with Sam. We learn early on that Hope spent a night with Sam which ended in him basically kicking her out, so she understandably feels a bit wary working with him.
Sam isn’t any more thrilled to be out climbing with Hope. In fact, he really doesn’t want to climb with anyone. It’s obvious that Sam has struggled with inner demons after losing his fiancee, and he engages in dangerous behavior with little regard for his life. Even so, Sam feels very strongly that he does not want to hold another climber’s life in his hands; he doesn’t want to run the risk of possibly harming someone else. Yet as he and Hope work together, he finds himself admiring her and starting – albeit reluctantly at first – to feel very protective of her. And when they reach the crash site and find not only a plane crash but a homicide, things turn suspenseful very quickly.
Hope and Sam’s story alternates with that of Hope’s sister, Faith. When Hope got called back to work, she sent her sister off on the rafting trip without her. As it turns out, there are some very dangerous characters in the park and while Hope and Sam try to solve a mystery, Faith ends up having some adventures of her own.
In terms of the suspense story, Freefall is pretty tightly plotted and some of the action scenes in the park kept me flying through the book. The author does a good job of giving readers a feel for both the rough terrain and the inner workings of her fictional park, and so one will often feel as if dropped into the middle of the action. In addition, the various mysterious doings in the park take a number of wild twists and turns, so as a thriller, this one works quite well.
The romance just didn’t catch fire in the same way. While it was in part overshadowed by the high action of the story, Hope and Sam just didn’t seem headed for a convincing HEA. I could believe in lust between them (they have a history of that, after all) and even perhaps in a promising start to something between them. However, something about their interactions just didn’t draw the reader deeply into their emotional world and so the changes in their relationship with one another often felt a little abrupt. In addition, the story just did not give them sufficient time to establish a deep, serious relationship and move past all their baggage. Heck, Sam’s alone would fill multiple steamer trunks!
Given that Sam obviously mourns his lost fiancee deeply and has struggled so intensely, he has a lot of healing to do. And it’s hard for a reader to believe in that amount of healing in a story primarily focused on suspense and action. There’s also an unusal secondary romance woven through the story that I enjoyed quite a bit even if it also strained believability somewhat. While the main romance wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, the action and suspense in Freefall work very well and pushed it over the top into the category of books I can recommend.