Review: Strain by Amelia C. Gormley

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might confer immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. Which means that soon Darius might have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

This ain’t your mama’s love story!

This is dystopian fantasy at its finest.  It’s dark.  It’s intense.  It’s gruesome.  

It’s devastatingly beautiful.

The story is woven into a pattern that is complete fantasy yet somehow utterly believable. 

I was captivated.

I was stunned.

Such amazing depth to the characters, even the secondary ones.  Each one of them flawed, each distinct, each so incredibly real.

The storyline, the action sequences, the dialogue, they all held me in thrall.  I eagerly anticipated getting to the next scene yet I hesitated as I was afraid of what would come.  I didn’t know if I could take much more.  I spent the last quarter of the book smiling through my tears.

This story is about survival and the endless struggle just to live, not knowing if your next breath will be your last.  It’s about overcoming the sheer hopelessness in a bleak, unforgiving world.  Yet underneath all of the violence and tragedy there is a subtle feeling of hope and companionship and camaraderie.  And love.  Yeah, it’s there too if you look closely enough.  Because of it I was able to get through the entire story without once feeling depressed. 

This book is certainly not for everyone.  Please, please read the blurb carefully before you decide to pick this up.  If non-con, dub-con, exhibitionism, voyeurism, BDSM, blood play or multiple partners is not something you can handle then I beg you not to read this story.   I could not bear to see it get low marks because it hit someone’s trigger points.  The story is too beautiful to receive a low rating just because someone is misinformed or not informed enough.

The storyline flowed so well I felt a part of it, like I was there with them.  I was fighting alongside these men and women.  I laughed with them.  I cried with them.  I walked with them.  The writing is exquisite.  I want more.

I made a promise to myself that in the new year I would be more critical in my reviews and hand out four and five stars more sparingly after careful consideration.  Imagine my frustration (and my joy) after reading this damn near perfect book.  I would give this more than five stars if I could.  I’ve been so moved by this story that I feel sorry for whatever follows.  Everything else is going to pale in comparison for a while.

I applaud you Ms. Gormley.  Thank you for sharing such an amazing story with me.


ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



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