In the months following a plague that leaves Australia teeming with zombies, a woman struggles to survive and negotiate her attraction to two very different men.
I’m a big fan of Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive rock romance series. You can read my reviews of Lick, Play, Lead and Deep. When I saw that she’d ventured into romance with a horror twist, I was intrigued and gave it a try. And I’m really glad I did.
Flesh offers a wonderful blend of horror and romance. When the book opens, Ali has been living in an attic for three weeks. The suburban world she knows has disintegrated into a lawless wasteland. It’s a survival-of-the-fittest reality where zombies are only marginally more dangerous than roving gangs of bent on murder and rape.
Ali ventures out of her hideaway searching for food and that’s when she runs into Daniel, who has a devil of a time convincing her that he’s no threat. His warmth and humor shine from the moment we meet him. Snippy and short tempered, Ali takes longer to appreciate his appeal. But they do finally join up and flee into the back country, which is where they meet Finn, who tracks them for some time before making his presence known.
Finn is a former law enforcement officer. We get to witness his stellar fighting skills on several occasions. But he’s also seriously scarred from some of the events he witnessed when the plague first started. His brash and arrogant attitude is a nice foil for Daniel’s more easy going ways.
What develops between these three isn’t your average “torn between two lovers” situation. There’s attraction and desire, sure. But it’s also a matter of practicality. The chances of long-term survival in this insane new reality are slim under the best of circumstances. If you’re fortunate enough to fall in with people you can trust, you don’t discard them easily. You find yourself making accommodations that you never might have considered under normal circumstances. Scott does a good job showing the reservations and ambivalence of the characters as they try to come to some workable solution to their relationship issues.
“Therein lay the root of the problem. Sharing was not in his nature, but nature would have to adapt. Ali needed this kid. Finn was a modern day gunslinger. Deep down he (Daniel) fucking hated it, but his girl needed this one nice and close. Preferably wrapped around her finger and deeply concerned about her health and happiness.”
There is a lot of sex in the book. It’s emotionally as well as physically intense. And yet it fits this situation Scott has created, where you don’t know if you’ll be alive when dawn breaks, so barriers come down quickly, and there’s not a lot of time for considering consequences.
The chapters at the Blackstone compound move too fast. The jarring pace is at odds with the first 2/3 of the book and siphons off some of the tension. And the role the former army soldiers play near the end, while hinted at earlier, still seems to come out of nowhere.
Overall, though, FLESH is sexy, scary fun.