Rating: 4.75 stars
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Rhys Cooper has nothing to live for but his sister and nephew and he would do anything to save them, even sacrifice himself. Accepting that fate, Rhys never expected to be saved by a military rescue team. But his days are numbered. After being exposed to the virus that created the revenants, the not-quite-zombie creatures, Rhys would rather be killed than to infect anyone else.
But the Delta team has a secret. They are immune to the virus and they quite possibly have a cure, but Rhys would have to have sex with the Delta team in order to be infected with the Alpha strain that would save him. Rhys is not opposed to the idea. He doesn’t want to die, after all. But he’s been sheltered and abused most of his life, and yet again he is faced with a situation in which he has no choice.
Sergeant Darius Murrell was against turning Rhys to begin with. The pull for power that comes from the Alpha strain is dangerous, but in the end Darius couldn’t say no. He wants to give Rhys the chance he deserves to live his life. But Darius finds himself wanting things he shouldn’t want with Rhys, things he can’t want. Jealousy and possessiveness have no place in their situation, yet Darius finds himself experiencing both. And after Darius pushes Rhys too far, he finds it hard to even forgive himself.
While waiting for the Alpha strain to manifest in Rhys, Darius finds himself growing more attached to the younger man. Experiencing more than he ever thought possible and finding his way in life, Rhys can’t help but want more with Darius, even though he knows it’s impossible. Rhys still lives in fear. Fear of losing his life to the Rot. And fear of his past.
And when one of Rhys’s fears turns into a reality, Darius and the Delta company set out to right wrongs. But Rhys will stop at nothing to save the innocent lives involved, even risking his life to save others.
I love this book. I’ve not been one to jump on the zombie apocalypse train, but wow, this author does it right. There is a twist to the not-so-zombies that is unique to this story. The world that Gormley has created is fascinating. A dystopian society with little hope, full of fear and uncertainty. What little hope is given is still laced with hopelessness. This is a world in which happiness is rare; they have to take it where they can get.
I’m not even sure how to tell you about Rhys and Darius. These men are complicated characters if I ever saw one, or two as it may be. Rhys has been sheltered, beaten, and mentally abused for years and suddenly he’s put in a situation where everything he was sure to be true is tried and tested. He’s forced to find a place in a society that he’s not sure he wants to be a part of. He’s stubborn and headstrong in a way that shows his fight for life. He’s discovering newness. I love Rhys. He’s so confused, so strong willed, and yet so innocent. He’s the small amount of beauty that remains in this world.
Darius is a hardass. I’m not sure there’s another way to put it. He is expected to be tough, unwavering. And in most aspects he is. He is so focused on his team, on the mission that he brings that hardness into his care of Rhys. He pushes too hard at times, or thinks he does. On the outside he is unbreakable, but on the inside, he wants nothing more than to save Rhys. He has fears of his own, uncertainties that haunt him. His rocky exterior is cracked by Rhys, making him more human. I loved that about him.
The dynamics between Darius and Rhys are intense and frustrating at times, which only makes this book that much better. These men, for all I love about them, are imperfect. The contact between them is rough, best labeled as BDSM. It’s definitely kinky – Rhys finding what turns him on and Darius giving it hard and powerful. The story hits on some pain/pleasure points, even some humiliation, although that isn’t really with Rhys or Darius. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but mostly it’s damn sexy. There are scenes of dubious consent that made me flinch a little, but this author has a way of smoothing the rough edges making them easier to handle. And seriously, this story wouldn’t have been the same without the rough edges.
I absolutely love this story. I was captivated, entrenched by the creativity. It’s intense from beginning to end. I’m not sure I have the words for the awesomeness of this story. The emotions are palpable. The action and intensity is heart-pounding. There are times that it feels like conflict is the name of the game in this world. Rhys and Darius face one conflict after another throughout this book. But I loved it all. It’s a well-written, well-planned story.
There’s so much to this story and I’m sure I’m leaving something out. But the bottom line is I love this book. It’s beyond entertaining and I want more. I am addicted. Strain is listed as a standalone, but I would not hate seeing more of this world. It’s fabulous and fascinating. This story far exceeded my expectations and may have opened my eyes a little to the whole fascinations with the zombie apocalypse. I highly recommend Strain by Amelia C. Gormley.
Note: There is some drug use in this book, and as I mentioned earlier, there are a few scenes of dubious consent.