(self-published e-book, 2014)
Wounded was billed as a romance on Amazon, but I thought I’d try it anyway because I really like Buroker’s writing, having enjoyed The Emperor’s Edge series of steampunk fantasy novels, and a couple of related novels, Encrypted and Decrypted, as well as her Flash Gold novellas set in an AU 19th century Yukon. At some point I will get round to reviewing some of these, since so far all I’ve managed was the first in the Emperor’s Edge series.
Tara works for an online business and has just arrived at Salmon Creek Eco village near the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington for a stint as an intern working there in exchange for blog posts about the village and its self-sufficient, back-to-nature ethos. As she arrives, however, she stumbles into a feud between the village’s inhabitants, and their neighbour, Malcolm Ashcroft: whenever their pigs get loose, they inevitably make a beeline for Ashcroft’s land, annoying him; and some of their livestock have been killed and mutilated, which annoys them, assuming that Malcolm is responsible.
Getting to know Malcolm, Tara becomes convinced that, despite circumstantial evidence, he’s not the night-time trespasser and chicken beheader that Sam Jackson, in charge of the community at Salmon Creek, thinks him. She puts her expertise in internet marketing to good use in helping Malcolm out with his grandmother’s notes on mushroom collecting, and they start investigating a case of fungus theft which turns into something much more serious.
It’s a testament to Buroker’s ability to spin a plot that none of this seems in the least contrived and is completely plausible. Tara and Malcolm and the other members of the eco village are nicely drawn, and there’s a bit of fun poked at the conventions of the romance novel:
The fitted gray T-shirt highlighted muscular back and shoulders, with arms to match. Why was it always the utter asshats that had such nice bodies?
Of course Malcolm turns out to be nicer than this terrible first impression, and his back story, and part explanation for why he’s been so un-neighbourly, is given in a realistic sort of way. I love the way that Tara googles him after their second meeting, finding out that he was a ‘smoke-jumper’, a sort of mobile fire-fighter, and that he survived a bush fire which claimed the lives of the rest of his team-mates. Their growing camaraderie and feelings for one another grow naturally and the conclusion to their adventure is rather sweet.
The fact that Malcolm’s grandmother was an expert on fungi becomes relevant later on, when they discover who’s actually been behind the attacks on the eco-village, and there’s a great action climax after a lot of running (or driving) around.
I really liked the setting, which Buroker realised nicely – I also liked the couple of digs at the Twilight phenomenon by Tara when realising that the lab they’ll visit with a sample of a particular fungus is in Forks. Altogether, it was more of a mystery or adventure novel kind of plot with a romance as a secondary element, which I liked. I also liked the little nod (maybe unintentional) to Buroker’s protagonist, Tikaya Komitopis, of the Encrypted and Decrypted books of the Latin name of the crucial fungus Fomitopsis officinalis.
This was a fun read, with plenty of action, and appealing characters.