This post includes reviews of the books in the Aftermath series:
- Aftermath (#1)
- Outcome (#2)
Aftermath (Book 1)
Dee once again emotionally wrecks her readers in all the best ways with this story about two men who never would have met under “normal” circumstances. Instead, they are thrown together as cellmates when kidnapped by a truly insane man and come to rely on each other physically and mentally through the ordeal. They find that this need to be close continues after they reach freedom, and what starts as a typical trauma bond resulting from their experience turns into something more.
We meet Austin and Cam after their kidnapping experience is over, but flashbacks (usually in conjunction with their PTSD-related flashbacks) cut into the story show glimpses of their prior experience together. In the present day, it seems like everyone around them is doing all the right things and that Austin especially has a perfect life to get back to. It turns out that his life might not have been so perfect after all, which makes how he gets closer to Cam relatively understandable compared to what the book description implies.
The focus of this story is very much on Austin and Cam and their relationship and not about their experiences while kidnapped. Any curiosity I felt in that regard was put on the back-burner in the face of the excellent romance arc. While I would never have wished their experience on them or anyone, at least they found each other in the aftermath.
Outcome (Book 2)
Aftermath is a book that doesn’t need a sequel, but I loved how Dee gives a check-in with how Cam and Austin are faring three years later while also giving closure to another man who shared their experience. Chase did not bond with his cellmate during the kidnapping, but he’s doing well enough in life, finally opening his own bar. But the past slams back into his life when he encounters Remy. Remy was not a kidnapping victim but was still a victim, of a sort, of the same man (Remy’s older half-brother) who took Austin, Cam, and Chase. Though unwarranted, Remy burdens himself with a share of the guilt for what the men went through. When that guilt is compounded with another personal tragedy, his downward spiral is nothing short of spectacular.
Luckily, he has good friends who do their best for him, and circumstance leads Chase to also desire to help the younger man. There is a slight self-serving purpose to it, as Chase is still seeking certain answers about his abduction. But he and Remy bond nonetheless, both emotionally and physically. They share complementary, if not similar, roads to recovery and both men struggle with understanding that they don’t need to bear their burdens alone.
Dee is a master at emotional ties, whether romantic or in the found family sense. As usual, her characters are dynamic and strong, even those relegated to more supporting roles. This is not a world that needs to be revisited a third time, but I highly recommend this duology to other fans of Dee’s writing and those looking for an excellent example of the “hurt/comfort” trope done right.