Review of ‘Against All Odds’ by Kris Bryant, Maggie Cummings & M. Ullrich, narrated by Melissa Sternenberg
I didn’t read this book when it came out, even though I wanted to, as I like all three authors and was curious about them writing together. The audiobook coming out recently gave me a second chance. Because I trust all three authors and remembered my trusted reviewers had reviewed this story favourably, I didn’t read the blurb. I would still have listened (and probably enjoyed just as much) if I had read it, but I would also have known what to expect.
The funny thing with triggers is that they don’t always take the same form. And they don’t always trigger. Or not with the same consequences. Triggers are insidious and polymorphic.
One of my triggers – sometimes, not always – is mass shootings, whether linked to terrorism or disgruntled masculinist jerks.
Take Bradley Richter for example. His ex-fiancée is about to get married to another guy, and he’s made it his mission to save her from what he sees as a huge mistake, which he blames on the people around her. A dress fitting at Angelina’s Bridal Boutique is the perfect opportunity to make his point. With his gun. Peyton Clarke and Tory Stevens, two other clients of the shop, met just before Bradley walked and began shooting. In those precious minutes before all hell broke loose, the chemistry between them was palpable and they had just enough time to exchange phone numbers. As fate would have it, the two women are the only survivors of Bradley’s carnage. When Tory visits Peyton in the hospital, the connection they felt earlier is still obvious. But while Peyton, a police officer, is obsessed with catching the killer, Tory doesn’t want to give him any more of her time.
It’s taken me long enough to get to this fundamental part of the review: I loved this book. I am impressed at how well each author’s writing meshes with the others’. They each have their own voice and yet they work wonderfully together. It felt like I was getting the best of each (even though that’s not really fair to M. Ullrich), hearing each of their voices distinctly while completely forgetting there was more than one writer. They work seamlessly together. Each author wrote a character – Tory, Peyton, Bradley – and the story is told from each character’s point of view, as M. Ullrich explained in this video (each author reads from the first chapter of the character they wrote, if you’re want to know who wrote who).
The reason I mentioned triggers earlier is that what Tory and Peyton went through and the ensuing PTSD made them all the more relatable to me. I won’t compare our experiences but I know that strange feeling that something wonderful came out of an event that killed and maimed so many and traumatized even more. Not that they wouldn’t have been relatable otherwise. They’re lovely in a normal, not-Hollywood way. They have normal people flaws and qualities. Tory, for example, can be quite judgemental, especially when it comes to bridesmaids dresses. Both Peyton and Tory are endearing and they feel very approachable and caring. I loved them both, I felt their fears but also their joy and wonder at finding love in the strangest circumstances. I also liked that the authors kept the PTSD to a minimum. It’s there, everywhere, always, but it’s not the story being told and it doesn’t overshadow the romance.
My only issue is that I wish the authors hadn’t written Bradley as deranged. It wasn’t necessary (not all mass shooters are crazy) and it plays unnecessarily into mental health stereotypes. I’m also not a fan of being in the bad guy’s head but with three authors writing, it makes sense. Apart from that, I loved everything, except Bradley, of course, whom I hated. I also like Melissa Sternenberg’s narration a lot. She doesn’t have the most distinctive voices for the different characters, but honestly, I’d rather have a well-read story than bad acting and Melissa Sternenberg’s reading is perfect: the intonations, the rhythm, the breathing, the small touches of vulnerability… It serves the book impeccably.