Title: Desert Blade
Author: Elle Drake
Publisher: Carina Press
May Contain Spoilers
In the post-apocalyptic Midwest, now a ravaged dust bowl, former guardsman Derek Covington must find help for a sick boy. With nothing but memories of all he lost, Derek crosses the desert alone in search of the doctor who saved his own life ten years ago. Drifter gangs who loot and pillage don’t dare come near, for Derek has a formidable weapon: a prosthetic arm with a deadly blade.
For a decade, Dr. Lidia Sullivan has fantasized about the handsome guardsman who’d been in her care. And now she can’t deny his dangerous request. But as they make the treacherous journey back to Old St. Louis, they must contend with much more than fierce desert winds and their unthinkable attraction. A fearless gang has spotted Lidia—a rare woman—and will fight Derek to the death to get her. And though he risks his life to save her for the sake of the child who needs her, she fears there’s one thing Derek will never risk: his heart.
I love post-apocalyptic stories, so when I saw this novella on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. The setting is a devastated Midwest, which has been turned into a lifeless desert. Small settlements scrabble to make a living amidst the desolation, preyed upon by vicious drifters who kill anyone unlucky enough to wander across their path.
The story starts with Lidia, a young doctor, helping to save the life of Derek, a Guardsman who has been wounded in the violent and fiery riots sweeping across Chicago. In an effort to improve crop yields, scientists instead unleashed a virus that killed most of the plant life, setting off riots as desperate people, starving and panic-stricken, lashed out in bloody uprisings that left death and destruction in their wake. When the staff from her hospital is evacuated, Lidia and Derek are separated during the ensuing chaos to stop the convoy and secure the valuable supplies being transported with the medical personnel.
Ten years later and now practicing her valuable medical skills in a small oasis amid the dust bowl that surrounds her small but thriving community, Lidia is shocked when Derek re-enters her life. Taking her from her safe haven and promising to protect her on a journey to his settlement, he needs her to help save the life of a friend’s young son. The resulting journey is both dangerous and exciting, as Lidia confronts the sizzling attraction that she still feels for the brooding, lethal man.
I love the premise for this story. The Midwest has been turned into a desert, murderous bands of roving killers menace anyone stupid enough to travel beyond the guarded walls of the small communities that are slowly rising up out of the ruins of society. Lidia actually lives a fairly comfortable life; she’s a doctor, and her life-saving skills are highly valued in her community. She has enough to eat, she is safe within the walls of Leavenworth, and she is content with her life. Right up until Derek re-enters her life, destroying her contentment and making her re-evaluate her present, and more importantly, her future. He is like a raging inferno, and she is helpless against the force of her attraction for him.
While I found Derek to be a complete jackass at first, his stubbornness did grow on me. He is aggressive, decisive, and once he sees Lidia again, he decides that he wants her. All to himself, even if it means putting her in danger as he escorts her to his outpost near what is left of St Louis. They have no doctors there, and they need one desperately. Everyone in this ruined America needs a trained healer, so I was appalled that Derek would put Lidia’s life in danger and attempt to take her through the desert all by himself. Ugh! Derek!! What were you thinking, other than that you wanted a chance to get into her pants? I really wanted to hate this guy because that behavior was about as selfish as it got, but, gosh darn it, I couldn’t! He’s so cocky and self-assured, and that held a certain amount of charm for me. But still! Dude! You almost got her KILLED!
Desert Blade is a fast paced romp through world on the brink of complete ruin. It’s a fun popcorn adventure, with lots of action, fighting, and Derek and Lidia running for their lives. The world is interesting, the attraction between the protagonists is red hot, but there is a lack of depth due in part to the short length of this story. If you enjoy sci-fi romance or stories with post-apocalyptic settings, you will like this quick read.
Review copy provided by publisher