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Dark Retreat by Grace Hamilton

Dark Retreat (EMP Lodge Series Book 1) - Grace Hamilton

There was much I liked about this book. First, the world as we know it is no longer there with all it’s technology and governments and such. While everyone believes that a large powerful EMP is the reason, the details are left sketchy, which I found very believable in this new world of limited communications. While folks begin to explore and rely on herbal medicines, they also concede that they can’t cure everything and diagnosing without medical tests is very challenging. The stage is set well and now we just need a good plot and some interesting characters.

I liked Megan at first. She’s determined to find safety for her daughter and she stumbles upon a remote cabin. Pretty soon, she meets the family that lives there: Wyatt, his brother Chase, Chase’s wife Willow, the men’s mother Rosie, Willow’s young son, and also someone’s neighbor Albert. There’s also the guard dog, Duke. Each character brings some skill to the table and I was pleased that Megan was able to pull her weight from the beginning with her hunting and snaring skills.

Now I did get a little tired of Wyatt man-splaining so many things to Megan. Yes, he’s got skills she needs to learn and she’s a willing student, but after the first round or two, I really felt it was venturing into the ‘pat you on the head, you’re such a good student’ realm. We’re often shown, step-by-step, how Wyatt makes a water filter or a food dryer but when it comes Megan’s skills, we’re just told and it’s very brief. So I would have liked some balance there.

Meanwhile, the plot thickens as a shifty character enters the story: Kyle. He’s out for trouble and we know it from the start. Too bad these well meaning preppers want to think the best of everyone. I liked that Kyle brought so much tension and danger to the story. It’s not just about surviving the elements; it’s also about surviving other people.

Megan’s character does get a little whiny later on. She’s got big trust issues and those push her into making some silly and possibly deadly decisions. If I knew more about her background, this might have come off better but as it is, it felt mostly like drama for drama’s sake. Toss in the near insta-love and you have some cookie cutter plot mechanisms in play. Wyatt was falling for Megan by Day 2 and I felt, at that point, it was more about loneliness and perhaps lust than about love. It’s OK for characters to acknowledge that. Still, I was happy with how their friendship deepened towards the end of the book.

Setting aside my quibbles, I felt the pacing of the story was good. I was never bored and I liked that even as they solve one problem, or are planning for a future harsh winter or such, a new problem crops up. There’s also the varying personalities that everyone has to get along with. The setting/world building is what shined in this book for me. 4/5 stars.

The Narration: Andrew Tell did an excellent job with this narration. At first, I was a little concerned because our primary character is Megan and I wasn’t sure Tell could pull off a female voice for the majority of the book. He did just fine as Megan. In fact, all his female voices were feminine and each was distinct from the other. I did sometimes confuse Wyatt’s and Chase’s voices, but they are brothers and needed to sound similar. Tell makes a great grumpy Albert. 4.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Grace Hamilton. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.