Dispatch from the Freewilds
by Karina Kantas
The past has its hooks in Gemma, and history seems destined to repeat itself. However, this tough, determined woman has not merely survived life. She has been honed by her experiences. Her scars may leave her lamenting the lost splendor of her youth, but in Karina Kantas’s cleverly written, breakneck-paced Road Rage, we soon learn that the true beauty of a woman like Gemma is beneath the surface, laying in wait for the right opportunity, the right man, and the right family to come along.
Road Rage is the fourth in a series of stand-alone MC (Motorcycle Club) dark-romance novels written by Karina Kantas. It was released in January of 2022, making it only a few months old at the time I was fortunate enough to read this short, tightly paced novel. It follows Gemma, a woman with a past tied to the world of track racing, MCs, and the rough, visceral lifestyle that comes along with them. A chance, unexpected encounter with a handsome gent leads her back down a long, dark road she thought she had left behind her.
Gem is not exactly thriving as we meet her. She is coasting through a mediocre life; she was bored, but at least that kept her safe, for the moment, from the shadows of her chequered past. When she least expects it, she comes face to face with a man whose very presence tantalizes her beyond reason. She is taken with the man, immediately. He is everything she has been missing in her life, and as luck would have it, he seems every bit as interested in her.
Tossing caution to the wind to chase happiness and fulfillment once again, Gem finds herself traveling those old, familiar roads from which she barely escaped in one relatively whole piece, last time. She does not shy away from a challenge, though.
That’s not Gemma’s style.
This is not the kind of book I usually read. In fact, truth be told, if it wasn’t for the fact that I have come to know and respect the author so much, I might not have picked this up and given it a chance, at all.
I am glad that I did, however, and not only because it is a great story. And it is, that.
Karina Kantas does not mess around when it comes to moving the story forward, and much like the characters in this book, as a reader it sometimes feels like I am barely holding onto the handlebars, careening within a hair’s breadth of losing control and ditching this ride she has me on. It never happens, though. The thrill is getting right to that edge, where the pace of the novel demands your undivided attention, then whips you off in a new direction.
Gemma must feel it, too… this sensation that if she doesn’t assert herself and hold on tight, she won’t be able to salvage things and find her happily ever after.
There is no confining structure to this story. It is a relatively short story, and a very quick read, but it is also pretty much one big chapter, so it feels like you and Gemma have been through a lot by the time you get to ‘The End.’
Yeah. I can see the appeal of modern dark-romance stories, now. It took Karina Kantas to get me there, but I can appreciate this genre a lot more having experienced it through her keen eye and deftly crafted words.
There isn’t really anything in this book that would be impossible to imagine happening in real life, and that verisimilitude lends it a relatability that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. I wouldn’t say I am a convert, but if anyone is going to entice me to read another story of this kind, again, it’s going to be this author.
On a scale of 1-5, I am giving Road Rage a FIVE out of FIVE, though that is rounding up. It is no indictment of the book, itself, or of its author. The quality and craft are on full display, here. It is simply not the kind of story that a fantasy/sci-fi nerd like me would ever be able to consider perfect or ideal in my eyes. Bump that scale up to 1-10, and it’s a NINE out of TEN, for me. It is not merely competent, but cleverly constructed, exhilaratingly paced, and enticing enough to win over a D&D dweeb like yours truly. I can’t give a book much higher praise than that.
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