Jake's Redemption by Jamie Schulz
In doing genre research to find books similar to Guns & Smoke, I came across Jake's Redemption. While the main plot is very different from G&S, I was excited to find a romance story set in a similar western-inspired world. Of note, this was a prequel for a larger series, but it was just as long as a novel.
I was a little confused in the beginning of reading this one. While it's absolutely acceptable to thrust a reader directly into the action, this one was almost jolting with how face you were thrown into it.
Jake gets captured in this woman eats woman world after hiding. After the end of the world as we know it, gender roles have changed. Women, due to some genetic mutation?, are now the stronger sex. Men are captured and abused, used for their bodies for breeding and working.
Seems like a pretty good premise. This is the type of world that people think feminists want, which isn't true at all. Equality. Not dominion.
So, Jake is captured while his best friend manages to escape. The story snaps forward in time. How long, I'm not exactly sure. But Jake has been beaten and abused and used and he's basically in a black cell. Someone comes along to offer him a temporary reprieve from his cell, saying an agreement was made with another slave owner to give him an opportunity to do manual labor as a foreman on a new farm. Cool. The story really should have started here, in my opinion.
This one has a pretty standard romance between Jake and Monica, the slave owner. She handles things much differently than what he's used to. Schulz spends a lot of time showing how Jake has managed to heal and grow, even though there's a constant deadline looming over their heads for him to go back to his original owner.
There were a few things I didn't necessarily like.
While yes, the romance is the main plot point, we didn't get nearly enough world building. I wanted to know what triggered this dystopian world. What made women have this mutation? How and why was a fear serum developed to deploy on men? I had a lot of questions.
The author had a habit of jumping ahead by days and weeks, then immediately going back and giving you a play by play of what she jumped over, instead of actually just writing it in the moment. It was jarring.
This story was clearly meant to set up the Angel Eyes series, as it felt like Jake talked more about his friend that left him the beginning, Bret, than himself. I understand being excited about writing another story, but for me, its really important to explore current characters and plotlines instead of just building up the later ones.
By the time the characters got together and most of the plot resolved, there was still a bunch of the novel left. I was exhausted. So I just kind of skimmed the last handful of chapters.
I did enjoy getting to see another dystopian/western romance, but I'm not sure that I'll keep reading in the series. I didn't get invested enough in the main characters for the series to keep going.