Review: Dissident by Cecilia London

dissident by cecilia london alternate coverFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance, political thriller
Series: Bellator Saga #1
Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Principatum Publishing
Date Released: March 17, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.

In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.

Dissident is part contemporary romance and part political thriller, with elements of romantic suspense and speculative fiction. Told mostly in flashback, it details the budding romantic relationship between our heroine Caroline and Jack, the silver fox playboy who tries to win her heart.

My Review:

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Actually, the state of Pennsylvania, and apparently the rest of the U.S. Not that we find out nearly enough about what’s gone wrong in the first book of the Bellator Saga.

Most of this story is told in flashback. Actually, so much of it is flashback that it feels like the few bits that are in the main character’s “present” feel like flash forwards. This feels like the very beginning of how things got the way they are, but it is so far back that there are no hints of the awful future that will come to pass.

It’s not that the future in Caroline’s world isn’t awful – because the tiny bits of it we see definitely are. It’s that we see nothing of even the very beginning of the road to hell – we just find ourselves with Caroline in the handbasket.

A handbasket which is still dark and not well lighted with description. All we see of it are Caroline and her husband attempting to escape to Canada, a doctor murdered, and Texas and California seceding from a very shaky locked-down Union.

Caroline is in a medical coma in a hospital, after a sadistic beating by the soldiers of this new republic, where the former U.S. Representative has been declared a dissident, for reasons that the readers still do not know by the end of the book.

What we see in the past is Caroline’s rocky road to romance with her second husband, also a U.S. Representative. It is a heart-warming and occasionally heart-rending romance between two adults who both have some serious damage.

Caroline is a relatively young widow. Her first husband died in an automobile accident, skidding on black ice and totaling the car and himself. (After the end of the story in the present, one can’t help but wonder if it was really an accident, but without enough information yet to determine why it might not have been.)

Jack is a rich playboy who seems to have bought himself a House seat. While he does a good job as a freshman congressperson, he has spent his life with his eye on the next chance. He sees himself as completely shallow, but seems to have fallen in love, for reals, with the likable and anything but shallow Caroline.

Also she’s a Democrat and he’s a Republican, but they both have a history of reaching across the aisle. That by the end of the book he wants to lead her down an aisle is a bit more reaching than either of them expected.

First they will have to get past his betrayal of their trust. The entire length of their relationship, he’s been planning to run for Governor of Pennsylvania, and never bothered to tell her. When the flashbacks end, their relationship is on extremely shaky ground.

When the story ends in her present, she is waking up from her coma to the memory of exactly how severely she was beaten. But we, the readers, still don’t know why.

Escape Rating C+: While I enjoyed this while I was reading it, there wasn’t anything that compelled me to keep going. I’m not sure why that is, but it is.

The one thing that drove me bananas is that there is nothing in Caroline’s flashbacks, and no details in the present, to let me know how the hell things got so f’ed up. While the details may be premature in the way that the author is telling the story, I need to have clues about how things got the way they are, and I felt completely dissatisfied at the end that there wasn’t anything to help me out.

I have a nasty feeling that this is going to be like Babylon 5, where a repressive government takes control of Earth through a coup that appears legitimate, then insidiously uses quasi-legal means to ramp up fear, create secret organizations that spy on citizens in the guise of safety and peace, and then outright repress all resistance until rebellion breaks out and planets and peoples start seceding.

But I’m guessing because I don’t know. I didn’t find any hints and that frustrates me no end. Most of the time, I felt like I was reading a contemporary romance. A pretty decent contemporary romance at that.

However, I needed to see where the shadows come in to accept this book as anything more.  And I just didn’t find the signs and portents I needed for that.

I also recognize that what I am looking for is intended to appear in later volumes. This is a serial novel rather than a series, and Dissident is only part one. My frustrations with it make me realize that I just don’t care for the serial novel concept. I need my stories to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if, as with books in a series, the end is a pause rather than a complete finish. There is still some intentional closure in each book in a series, and I like my stories that way.

As always, YMMV.

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