Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle
Published by Metal Blonde Books
Published on February 24, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance, Horror, Romance, Suspense
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***A Standalone Horror Romance coming February 2014***
Jake McGraw was unlike anyone I’d ever known. He was brash, rude, unapologetic and arrogant; chauvinistic, close-minded, and terribly stubborn. He was built like a tree, tall with a hard chest and wide shoulders and hands that looked like they could wrestle a bear. He was a cigar-chomping, scruffy-faced, beast of a man. I was pretty sure I hated him. And I know he hated me. But among the flesh-eating monsters in these snow-capped mountains, he was the only thing keeping me alive
The year is 1851 and pioneers in search of California gold are still afraid to travel on the same route as the tragic Donner party did years before. When the last wagon train to go into the Sierra Nevada mountains fails to arrive at their destination, Eve Smith, an 18-year old half-native girl with immense tracking skills is brought along with the search party, headed by an enigmatic former Texas Ranger, Jake McGraw.
What they find deep in the dangerous snow-covered terrain is a terrifying consequence of cannibalism, giving new meaning to the term “monster.” While the search party is slowly picked off, one by one, Eve must learn to trust Jake, who harbors more than a few secrets of his own, in order to survive and prevent the monstrosities from reaching civilization.
***This is NOT New Adult***
We are so honored to be taking part in Karina Halle’s blog tour for her latest standalone novel: Donners of the Dead! Check out my review, and then don’t forget to enter the pretty epic giveaway at the bottom of the page!
“You must draw strength from fear or fear will make you weak.”
Imagine yourself back in a time where it’s just you, and the wild frontier. Small towns, small populations, limited resources. It’s 1851, and you’re somewhat of an outcast, as you’re half Native American, half White. This causes you to constantly grasp at straws when it comes to learning to figuring out your identity, and finding your place in the world. One day, you’re presented with an opportunity to possibly prove yourself and break away from the monotony of your existence. However, this opportunity doesn’t come without strings attached, and brings about trepidation about possible dangers and many unknowns. That is where we find 18-year-old Eve Smith. After the disappearance of her Native American father, Eve along with her mother are taken in by her Aunt and Uncle. Eve’s mother falls into a deep depressive state, and Eve is left to earn her keep through manual labor on her uncle’s farm. By this time, she dreams about escaping her current predicament, and getting away from the mean spirited townsfolk who view her to be below their stead, and unworthy of their notice.
Enter in a band of rugged, burly men, who ride into town seeking to recruit Eve for their search and rescue expedition. Their intent is to trek into the mountains, using Eve’s talents as a tracker, and hopefully find their kin. Among their ranks, is an over-bearing, cocksure, smug, and tenacious specimen of a man, named Jake McGraw. Though this Cowboy is not a man of many words, Eve finds that the words he does choose to speak tend to rub her the wrong way. Naturally, this, along with his brute strength and pompous demeanor, leads to many tension-filled moments, and to be honest, quite entertaining exchanges between both Jake, and Eve.
“Don’t worry, Eve, whatever we end up doing, I’m not leaving you. Not until I teach you how to fire a gun, anyway.” Jake snorted loudly. Avery lifted his head and gave him a dirty look. “Do you think that’s funny? Eve needs to know how to protect herself.” His smile twisted. “A woman with a gun is a bad idea, boy. You’d be putting all our lives at risk.” “Only your life,” I muttered under my breath. From the way his lips twitched further, I knew he had heard me.”
Despite Eve’s dismay, she ventures off with Jake and his companions on their quest deep into the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There, on the mountainside, Eve is forced to look within herself to find the strength she’ll need to survive unspeakable terrors (spoiler alert: ZOMBIES). She also learns that she has to trust in an unlikely ally: Jake. His determination, skillful knowledge and abilities are just what the doctor ordered.
“To get out of these mountains alive was all we could wish for. And yet, for some reason, I lay on the floor of that cabin and watched Jake sleep—wishing for more.”
Eve and Jake’s friendship evolves into something more than either one of them could’ve bargained for…
“I couldn’t find the words. Jake McGraw just kissed me. Not Avery as I’d always imagined, but Jake. A man. A Texan. A liar and a jackass”
“The son of a bitch had kissed me. It was quick and fast and nothing like I thought it would be, but he’d kissed me all the same. I was glad he couldn’t see the odd smile that found itself on my face.”
The growth and progression of Jake and Eve’s relationship went from barely tolerating one another, to friends, and developed into something more. Theirs was not an instance of love at first sight, or “instalove”, but yet a realistic depiction of how two people can find companionship, respect, and passion, during the most inopportune moments in life, and having it blossom into the stirrings of love.
“No, Eve,” he said. “It’s not silly. We’re still human even in the face of beasts, even with our lives at risk. When you’re close to death, love is sometimes the only thing that makes sense in life.
This book was a thrilling tale that transports you to a time where “Zombie Combat” was in some ways primitive. Your weapons of defense were more often than not: your strength, your wits, and your prayers. In some ways, that is exactly what made it so scary for me. To think, if I were holed up on a mountain surrounded by cannibalistic creatures, I would want the security of having more than a shoddy latch on a door…
“It was driving me mad. The scratching, those depraved moans and snaps from drooling mouths. Jake and I were trapped, completely surrounded, and we never knew when they were going to attack. Then finally something happened. The door to the cabin slowly swung open. We couldn’t see who or what had opened it. There was a thump. A pale, spindly arm reached through the open door, long clawlike nails dragging on the dirt floor.”
Yeah, no thank you. Give me my semi-automatic weapons, my fallout shelters, my hand grenades. Cause this book kept me in a constant state of trepidation, suspense, and consistently terrified. This was a “read-with-the-lights-on-with-the-television-blaring-as-background-noise” kind of reading experience. There was action, there was romance, and even an instance of steaminess, which helped round out the story. The pacing was spot on, and with all the zombie action, there was n’er a moment that wasn’t interesting. The story, the characters, the scenery, were all well written. It felt true to the time, and authentic. Bottom line, I loved it!