The Time Before Now - Missouri Vaun
The Time Before Now is labeled as a FF&P (Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal -- I had to Google that :)) so I spent most of the book waiting for the FF&P stuff...that never actually happens. :( Which also means good news for lesbian romance lovers cause what this book really is, is a standard, slow-burn romance set amidst a road trip in the wild, wild (mid)west :).
Sometime in the 22nd century, Earth was hit by a triple whammy of the worst catastrophes: exhaustion of fossil fuels, an unfortunate tilt of the earth's axis that threw off weather patterns causing widespread famine and drought, and a killer flu epidemic that literally "wiped out whole communities". Amid the chaos, the elite of mankind ("the richest 1%") have snuck away to floating cities suspended high up in the sky, leaving the rest of the less fortunate folk stranded on poor old energy-depleted and mostly-barren earth. All that drama was covered in just a couple of paragraphs-worth of text though. And that's pretty much all the FF&P there is in the book.
The book's version of post-apocalyptic America is actually rather idyllic and not the dusty, chaotic Mad Max version. Probably because it's been a while since everything went to hell and things have simmered down? Or maybe because so many people died that there's now more resources to go around? cause there doesn't seem to be a mad scramble for that all-important water, or other life-sustaining resources. Anyway...
There is no longer any functioning formal government so it's a relative free-for-all. Small pockets of survivors here and there form small self-sufficient communities, farms, travelling merchants or marauding groups. No fossil fuels to burn means a return to a pre-Industrial, pre-electricity society almost exactly (and conveniently) like 17th century America. (Though it does beg the question, why didn't anyone think to use Steam Power? ;) but then of course, that would turn the book into a steampunk romance instead of FF&P. But I digress.) And this is where we find our protagonists Vivien and Ida. Each of them trying to survive the day-to-day hardships and dangers of life in the new world.
Vivien and Ida find themselves heading in the same destination, the Blue Mountains, which Ida calls home and where Vivien's Cherokee ancestors hail from. They travel together for protection and companionship. First attraction, and then deeper feelings start to develop along the way. But Vivien had just come off a really bad relationship and isn't ready to jump into another, especially one where the other party might be expecting more than a road-trip romance.
The slow-burn romance was done well. It'd better be, because the whole book depended on it. I liked how Vivien resolved her internal dilemma. It wasn't rushed (though it was a bit drawn out). A few brushes with danger and death helped out too. What I found wanting was that bit of drama towards the end the accident and it's aftermath was so rushed I didn't feel anything at all for the victims. It felt like just a plot device to get Cole into their hands. Also, despite all the to-do about Vivien's grandpa wanting her to get to the Blue Mountains where her ancestors are, it seems that there really isn't anything there except the Blue Mountains. Or actually, Ida. Hmmm, come to think of it....I think this is the paranormal part that I totally missed. Until now, that is. The wonders you discover about a book when writing reviews, lol.
I would have liked to know more about the other side of this post-apocalyptic world. Like what is it like up there in the cloud cities? How is it powered? How do they sustain it? Don't they even care about what's happening down here? Are they ever coming back? Isn't any technology at all being developed in the cloud cities to take the place of fossil fuels? Maybe there was more info in the first two books of the series, but this is a prequel so I assumed I didn't have to read those first. I suppose if you're not too fastidious about these things, this book is perfectly fine as a stand-alone read.
Vivien and Ida's very distinct butch/femme dynamic and the whole road trip/western vibe reminded me of a popular lesfic favorite, Backwards to Oregon by Jae. If you enjoyed that, then this book is worth a try. The only difference is in the 22nd century, there is no more homophobia.
ARC provided by Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books
P.S. Is it just me or does the cover make the book look more like a graphic novel than a lesbian romance.