Strain by Amelia C. Gormley ~ Review by Lirtle Grafton

Ok, barely a dozen pages in, I was hooked and that thing was dug in deep. My. Kind. Of. Book.

By the beginning of chapter three, I had that ever present inner grin when fully engaged in what someone does with words like this. Even into a dying, nearly dead society, with survival almost as the punch line. This punch line, though, has some bite. His name is Rhys. His name is Darius.

strain cover 1 (200x300)Title: Strain

Author: Amelia C. Gormley

Publisher: Riptide

My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might provide immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. And that means that Darius might soon have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.


Working for a life in a dying world you’re trying to save…


X-Military — check

Zombie-pocalypse — check

Adrenaline — check

Diverse characters    check

Well written erotica — check

Drama/humor/blood — check

Here’s the thing: we humans are complex creatures. Unfortunately, we’re often not written as such. Here? Oh yeah, complex. Head-tilting confusion. Conflicting drives, mottled emotions. And it’s all laid out for our devouring with mighty fine writing. Are there a few familiar phrases? Yeah. A well-known trope of sorts? Yeah. But when they’re a part of a story written like this, they almost feel brand new. Yup.

Anger. Contentment. Anxiety. Fear. Disconnection. Joy. Relief. Loss. Surprises. Smiles.

For me, this was rather mild on the dub-con scale, but know that it’s undoubtedly there in case that is a trigger for you. Neither any character’s age nor circumstance went over the line or really came close to crossing it. It hit me that this is due in great part to how well this word is presented, sans most clichés at that. Therefore, the actions of survival make sense. It makes sense that, even in this world, some humanity between people still exists. That even when very difficult things need to be done, sometimes there is someone there to make it not so horrible. Imperfect life is lifetimes better than horrible, than death.

A shout-out to Xolani. Talk about a fantastic female character. Why is this so difficult and so rare??? And actually, most of these characters are more realistic that many I encounter these days. So if that’s important to you in particular types of books, you’re golden here. This goes back to that complexity factor. These are capable, smart, quiet, humorous, sad, cold, driven, gentle people trying to survive, trying to get their brains and bodies to accept the unacceptable.


And this doesn’t only come from the physical danger. It’s the combination of that with the humanity inside this book. Again: complexity. As unlike our current world as this one is, on the whole, there are many similarities. This recognition increases the intensity, as well. I understand their motivations. Though there is one who deserves to be dropped on his head, but there always has to be at least one.

Rhys and Darius. It is a relationship that is slowly forming. It lives in an entirely different society so the constructs are not the norm, there’s no way that they could be. But as two human men, with pasts and ideas and wants and misunderstandings, even in this extreme situation, they are trying to get to know each other. Their world is a world of basics, of obtaining them, fighting them, needing them. This feeling of being compelled to explore each other is as basic as it gets between two people.

Everybody is on a journey here, including the supporting characters. They’re each unique and carry their importance in the story. I never felt difficulty in keeping track of or believing their actions and words, nor in how they related to both Rhys and Darius. There are a few that are so important, that I blame them equally for leaving wide open gashes in my heart.

There are so many moments, gestures, glances that I want to tell you about. But just like they were each a meal for a starving man or a startling guffaw or a slow moving wave of heat, I want you to experience every delicious morsel for yourself.

There were a few points repeated throughout the book. They almost felt like mini-recaps, but were far enough apart so as not to really lessen what was happening during each occurrence.

Just know you’re in for a ride of quiet adrenaline, life, death, treachery, fear, tenderness, resignation, determination and, dare I say, hope. And tears. Wrecked, large, lumpy tears. Read on, my friends, please… read on.

Buy Links:


I would like to thank Riptide Publishing for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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18 thoughts on “Strain by Amelia C. Gormley ~ Review by Lirtle Grafton

  1. This was one that I have been looking at over at Riptide since it popped up on their site. Your post makes me want to just go and buy it!

    • Hopefully my review hit enough of your check marks to give you a good idea. If it did? Do not walk, run, go buy and read LOL

    • Hi Corey, I’m kind of the same way in that when I read a story that includes zombies, I want it to be much more about the people and how they are dealing with this new, or not so new, reality. If that’s you, too, then I think you’ll dig this story. It’s definitely about the people and not a bunch of scenes with zombies snacking away. 🙂

  2. This looks awesome!!! It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve read an almost dystopian-esk book. I’m anxious to read this

    • Hi Meredith, it’s not usually one of my top genres either. But when I saw some friends having such an emotional reaction to it, that’s what tipped the scales for me. I’m SO glad I read it!

    • Hi Emily, I don’t want to say I was pleasantly surprised when I read this, but… I was! I hadn’t read any of Ms Gormley’s stories before and now I’m completely spoiled, given the high emotional factor in this one. Big time brava to her.

    • Hi Shirley, I think you and I and Meredith may have been sitting in the same boat re: this one. But that emotional reaction other readers were having is what made me decide to go ahead and try. So glad that I did. If you decide to click that buy button and read it, I hope you like it, too.

  3. I had skipped over this book when shopping as not my thing but the review does make it sound more appealing I may have to pick it up!

    • Hi Sabrina, I may have done exactly the same as you! But it’s so much about the people, their interactions and everything they go through. And this author did such a great job in handling all of it. If you decide to give it a whirl, I hope you like it. 🙂

  4. Hi H.B., it’s pretty damn good. I usually wait until the end of any given year to pick the best of’s, but this one made me break my rule. It’s already on that list for 2104. It’s so character driven, you get sucked right in from the get go.

  5. This book looked really intriguing, but possibly a little too out there with the hole virus thing. Thanks for this review, now I feel like the writing should be good enough that even if the plot is a little different for me it will still be worth the read.

    • Hey Morgan, the writing probably will help a good bit in getting you through a story that may not be your usual type. And the emotional impact is worth the difficult ride. Trust the author in this one, she won’t let you down. Thanks for taking a look at the review and I’m glad it helped. 🙂

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