FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Author's HQ.
Publisher: Samhain Publishing on February 3, 2015
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (NA)
Only the desert would know...
Dr. Malcolm Reid goes out on his seismology expeditions alone, and he likes it that way. The fewer warm bodies he’s responsible for bringing home alive, the better.
When the mentorship of a geology grad student is thrust upon him just as he’s leaving for Mexico’s Baja peninsula, he resigns himself to eight weeks of keeping her safe—from ATV-riding cattle rustlers, from a weather-worn mountain lion roaming the hills, and most of all from her accident-prone self.
Jenna Polaski has needed the canyon-sized chip on her shoulder to get ahead in the old boys’ education hierarchy. Now, needing samples to finish her thesis, she has no choice but to serve as the professor’s pack mule. And wonder if his limp is connected to rumors surrounding a long-ago incident that killed one of her predecessors.
Malcolm keeps a sharp eye out as they penetrate deep into the wilderness. But the one danger he forgets to watch for is the one that captures them both—an undeniable attraction that shatters all the rules.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Graduate student Jenna has heard all about Dr. Malcolm Reid. He’s silent, unapproachable, and keeps to himself. So when she’s assigned to assist him in the field for two months, and he doesn’t speak a word to her, she shouldn’t be surprised. Still, she’s determined to pull her weight, get her research done, and get back to her Master Plan, the one where she makes a success of her career and doesn’t end up abandoning her dreams like her mother did. Probably doesn’t help that rumors swirl about how he killed the last grad student that accompanied him.
It’s not unusual to isolate the two main characters in a romance novel. They get stuck in an elevator or begrudgingly share a hotel room or somehow find themselves alone and uninterrupted long enough for a romance to bloom. While it’s all integral to the plot, it often feels somewhat contrived. But in Quakes, the situation feels utterly normal, standard course of business, and while unusual, it’s absolutely fitting for the characters involved. It allows for relationship to develop without interference from outside characters to fill the gaps, and it creates an expected dependency in the lonely setting among possible dangers. It speaks to the quality of writing that it flows so smoothly as to sell the friendship that forms and leads to a relationship, without the need for meddling by others.
Dr. Reid has never gotten past the death of his graduate student assistant and friend the last time he took someone to Baja for research, which is why for the past several years, he’s always gone alone. When Jenna is thrust upon him, he’s none too happy, but he is determined to keep her safe until they can get back to campus.
Jenna’s used to the boys club that is typical of her chosen career path, and while she would have preferred to do her studying alongside her mentor, she’s resolved to carry her weight and prove to Dr. Reid that she’s just as good as any of the guys. But he’s always so gruff, pretending to sleep rather than make conversation, and she’ll be damned if she’s going to be relegated to making coffee simply because she’s a girl.
As a few days go by, though, they begin to find their flow, with Dr. Reid –Mal — opening up more and Jenna reluctantly relying on him for help when she can’t carry as much as he can or stumbles into the angry barbs of a cactus. There’s a subtle shift in their demeanor around each other, a fragile friendship that begins to form, and even when neither of them is willing to admit it, an attraction.
Their relationship is an achingly slow build, not typical of romance stories but absolutely perfect for this one. At one point I had to go back and read the synopsis, make sure I hadn’t mistakenly assumed the story was a romance when it wasn’t, but even if that had been the case, I was in too deep to stop reading. Their age difference (15 years) is touched upon but ultimately pushed aside as unimportant, though the same can’t be said for the secrecy required when a professor and a student — even if she’s not really his student — enter into a relationship. There’s the looming “What will happen when we return to civilization?” question, but even as it’s clear this is more than a summer fling, that part isn’t answered until they step back into the world of cell signals and street lights.
The only real problem I had with the story was the ending — not how it ended but rather how quickly it ended. The real conflict for Jenna and Mal wasn’t danger in the desert or either of their pasts; it was finding a way to make their relationship work when it simply wasn’t allowed without endangering either of their careers. When that all came to a head, Jenna’s emotional pain was practically tangible, and I was dying for them to figure things out. However, after all the introspection and conversations and gradual build to something incredible, it felt like happily ever after said hello and then closed the book. While Quakes was still an incredible read, and I can find little fault with anything else in the story, it was disappointing to become so invested and only get little more than a cryptic conversation to tie things up.