– by Jody Klaire
At. Long. Last. After a long, torturous wait for the release of Book 6 of Jody Klaire‘s phenomenal Above & Beyond saga, “Black Ridge Falls,” (BRF) finally arrived, and I was beside meself with utter excitement!! And, obviously, I went through it at lightning speed! Saying that “BRF” was a page-turner is a major understatement! Crikey! I was practically panting for breath after the last page was turned (swiped) and realised that I’d been holding me breath the entire time I was reading the final act! Bloody hell! My adrenaline levels were still off the charts I was literally bouncing off the walls from all the excitement, the thrills, the crushing feels, the…too much to list!, hours after I finished reading it! I’m still reeling from it now! Needless to say, I was completely and utterly sated!
As mentioned, “Black Ridge Falls” is the 6th book, out of a total of 7, out of the Above & Beyond (A&B) series. So, the saga continues from Book 5, “Noble Heart.” It’d be most beneficial to start from Book 1, “The Empath,” first in order to familiarise yourself with the main characters and the plot, which expands into a major subplot from Book 2 onwards. If you’ve read J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter saga, the structure of Klaire’s A&B saga is similar. The story is serialised. So, it’s imperative, imo, to start from the beginning. If you’re a fan of HP saga’s, you’ll love A&B even more because…well….the trio consists of not one, but THREE badarse, kick-arse, powerful WOMEN…GLORIOUS QUEER WOMEN to be exact! What more can I ask for in lesfic, eh? And the action, the thrills, the STORY?!!! Beyond stupendous!! Instead of magic and witchcraft in HP, A&B is wrapped in an intoxicating air of the supernatural – solely based on special mental abilities and capacities of our characters. We all have the capacity to hone in “special” mental abilities if we only let go of fear and open our mind to possibilities. Believe. Anyway, Aeron, the saga’s main protagonist, is one with special mental abilities. She’s an empath. As the saga continued after Book 1, the other protagonist, Renee, has also been “blessed” with abilities, different than Aeron’s but she’s honed in her telepathic ability to communicate with Aeron without actually voicing it which has grown stronger and more potent, the closer her connection got with Aeron. This played out as the saga progressed throughout the previous 5 installments and now we see it even more evidently with utmost significance, thusfar, in “BRF!” Truly amazing! Thus, I really recommend people to read Book 1 – 5 first.
Ok, back to “BRF, ” it’s a continuation of how the story left off, with Aeron struggling with her abilities as a result of severely harrowing ride when Book 5 ended with Renee deciding to take Aeron to her mum’s in Colorado for a well-deserved vacation and recuperation. Book 6, “BRF,” began with Renee and Aeron in St. Luke, a place they were in back in Book 2, “Blind Trust,” with a case that haunted and deeply affected Renee, reconnecting with friends they made. Zack who’d struck a close relationship with Aeron and Renee in Book 2, played a vital role in this installment. Unfortunately, I can’t really elaborate much on the plot/story because it ties in to previous installments. So, no spoilers, obvs! All I can say is, just as Aeron and Renee were settling down to spend some R&R time in St. Luke before heading out to pay a visit to Renee’s mum in Black Ridge Cascades, unexpected events happened that threatened their safety including Zack’s. So, off they went toward Renee’s hometown.
“BRF” is an homage to Renee’s back story, which I truly appreciated because I’d always wondered how she started out, what her story was, growing up, what with her strong, physical abilities, her multiple physical and mental talents and chameleon-like persona (for her secret missions), naturally I was curious. So, Renee’s return to the home she grew up in, Black Ridge Ranch, where her mum still lived, brought back painful memories for her, specifically about the demise of her beloved father and brother and her contentious relationship with her mum. Klaire’s revelation of Renee’s past and memories were refreshingly crafted, depicted in various resonating ways, be it via flashbacks, memories (self-induced or shared), visions, or “other.” Speaking of Renee’s father and brother, I was surprised by what came out of her return to all the places she used to spend with them, particularly in the Black Ridge mountains, where they were found in the past. As usual, Klaire’s innate skill in weaving all the seemingly unrelated threads together, to produce yet another thrilling mystery that left me gobsmacked! I was absolutely enthralled with Renee’s struggles with her painful memories and the feeling of “unfinished business” when it came to her father and brother, whom she couldn’t let go of. So, when she ended up having to be back climbing on the Black Ridge Mountains, where she last spent time with her father and brother, it was kind of a catharsis, as she discovered what happened to them, whilst having to fight to stay alive climbing it, alongside the love of her life! The Mountains as a symbol of Renee’s truth and reconciliation was superbly depicted, the effect truly reverberated, to say the least. But ultimately, there was reconciliation. You’ll understand it when you read the book as I can’t divulge anything about it.
Oh, the action sequences! OMG! If you’ve read the previous installments of this saga, you’d know just how brilliant Klaire’s skill is in writing action sequences. Book 5 gave me one of the most unforgettable car chase scenes ever written. This book gave me yet another whopping memorable, highly charged, adrenaline-pumping experience reading a long, non-stop, detailed action sequence that left me utterly exhausted with the ups and downs, the climbing, the bullet-dodging, the slipping, the falling, the rowing, the rolling… all happening in the most dangerous mountain in the country – Black Ridge Mountains – as Renee, Aeron and Zack tried to escape from those after them in one of the most death-defying escapes ever written in fiction! The intensity, the tachycardic moves written in staccato pace, every word, every expression that Klaire brilliantly described ever so vividly, I felt like I was in the scene experiencing the same thing alongside Renee and Aeron. I literally felt the bullets flying all over me, hearing the whooshing sound when bullets missed us by the skin of our teeth! I felt every jolt, every fall, every scrape, every injury as Renee, Aeron and Zack struggled to get to safety. And the monstrosity of it all? The one that took the biscuit for me? The big drop and the rafting! OMG. It all happened in the final act. So you can just imagine the state I was in! Needless to say, I was left with me pulse racing, heart thumping and panting for breath even way after I finished reading the book! I realised that I was holding me breath the entire time the final act was unfolding before me eyes! The last time I felt this affected physically whilst reading a scene was HP7! Just this scene alone, you simply MUST pick up this book AND Books 1-5 immediately to experience one of the most superbly thrilling, awe-inspiring, splendid, utterly addictive web of a saga ever written in fiction, let alone lesbian fiction!! I’d mentioned this before and I’ll say it again here, Jody Klaire’s A&B series gives JK Rowling’s HP series a run for her money!!!
There were many other intense thrills throughout the story in this book apart from the action sequences. Klaire somehow managed to create edge-of-your-seat scenarios with her vividly described expressions that pounded into your psyche with short pulses of words to characterise the urgency of a particularly tense situation, i.e. medical conditions that needed prompt attention, etc.. Each scenario depicted felt so acutely authentic and realistic, I felt me presence in those scenes, watching every move! Left me literally dumbfounded in awe whilst me eyes and mind latched on to those richly visual words that made this story come to life before me mind’s eye at every turn!
Because this saga involves a big cast of characters, whilst Renee and Aeron were busy getting out of trouble, Frei, the other member of the Terrific Trio (Aeron, Renee, Frei), along with the others, had to deal with the other end of this major plot shift – including internal politics, hacking, spies, surveillance, counter-surveillance, avoiding captures, creating counter-measures, the whole nine yards! Ultimately, Frei and gang, in the absence of Aeron and Renee, discovered that they were all under siege and everything pointed back to the beginning. Aeron.
Amidst all the ruckus, the non-stop action sequences of the story, I was deeply moved by how Klaire moved Aeron and Renee’s relationship to yet another level, which had been slowly building since the beginning in Book 1. Don’t be alarmed or discouraged by the snail-paced, slow-burn romance between these two incredible souls, because first and foremost, they were best mates, fleshed out with solid, emotional depth at every juncture of their journey since they were introduced. There was definitely a connection there, a flicker of kindred spirit-like one from the start. But I felt that Klaire wanted to develop their relationship from the ground up. In every installment of the series, I got to experienced the next level of their relationship which slowly but surely began to transform into something deeper, heart-fluttering attraction as they spent more time together, either in private or when they were working missions together. Since Book 5 and now Book 6, their relationship reached a level where the yearning and the longing slowly turned into something that both of them could almost grab onto tightly with a definite assurance and total understanding of their soul-deepening love. Almost.
Ohhhh….poor Aeron, though. She was just such an innocent, absolutely adorable gentle teddy bear that you can’t help but wanna hug and hold her tightly reassuring her that the love she had for Renee was real, reciprocated and that she was deeply loved. Renee, on the other hand, already knew it from the bottom of her heart how she felt about Aeron. But because Aeron needed to come to the same conclusion on her own, Klaire effectively created this oh-so heart-wrenching, intensely yearning, achingly intoxicating bubble enwrapping every fibre of their being, mentally, physically and spiritually. So utterly powerful was their connection to each other, I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered anything like the emotional effect that Renee and Aeron’s relationship had on me psyche in fiction, thusfar! It’s mind-blowing just how powerful Klaire’s story-weaving of their romance has created. Again, Aeron and Renee are definitely one of me all-time favourite couples!
One of the most unforgettable, deeply emotional (to a point when I was choking back tears!) moment was the utterly crushing scene between Aeron and Renee before something happened. It was all non-verbal, two minds became one where they both connected spiritually with such depth I’m sure the energy level created out of it would have lighted the whole town! It was THAT sublimely potent. I could feel it in me bones when I was absorbed in every word Klaire wrote! Unbelievably poetic! I’m still reeling from the effect it’s had on me as I’m typing this! Yup, will be thinking about it for a while, that’s for sure! Bloody well done, Klaire! Gobsmacked!
There was another totally unexpected moment which had nothing to do with the main characters. In fact, it was side character featured in Book 5. What happened and the revelation about the particular character had me floored. Emotions filled up in me. The shift from feeling one way about them and then having it abruptly torn apart upon the reveal shook me. Well done, Klaire!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another development that Klaire deftly inserted into this installment, which I was absolutely elated when I saw it on the page! Susan! Yes, the doctor from Serenity Hills Maximum Security Institution (that Aeron was institutionalised in for many years as told in Book 1) briefly mentioned in Book 1!! Susan is a side character, but an utterly intriguing one, for me at least, who is featured in Klaire’s free web series, “The Whistleblower.” You can read all the episodes here. Anyway, back to this book – Susan finally made an appearance in the A&B series!! YES! I do hope Klaire will have her character immersed into the A&B cast even more in the final installment, “Full Circle.” I’m daring to believe that she will be especially after reading the teaser of Book 7 at the end of this installment! Yup, full circle, indeed. Now THAT’s motif! A tool that every series should adopt!! Always go back to the beginning. So, thank you, Ms. Klaire, for bringing Susan into the fold!!
The cliffhanger of “BRF” will have you praying for Book 7 “Full Circle” to be released immediately! OMG. There was no breather for Renee, Aeron, Frei and the rest of the unconventional family and friends! Just when you think you have it, it slips out of your grasp. That’s how I felt as this installment ended. But as Lilia, filled with light and warmth, said, “All things are possible to one who believes.” Too bloody right!
Klaire really turned up a notch in this installment when it came to the action, the intensity, the relationships particularly Aeron and Renee’s, the ever-shifting web of truth and deceit, as we reached the boiling point. The poetic lyric of every description, the ongoing symbolism blew me mind in this book. At the end of it all, LOVE, is everything.
“Love meant strength in weakness, like a mountain strong and tall yet humbled by the moods of nature. And, like mountains, there was something flowing through me like a stream. Like living water.” – Aeron Lorelei
In other words, “Black Ridge Falls” is a RESOUNDING, MUST-READ!!!!!! In fact, I cannot recommend the entire Above & Beyond series HIGH enough! ALL installments are MUST-READs and NOT TO BE MISSED!!! You will not regret one bit of it. It’s a gem of a saga! Once again, I reiterate that Klaire’s Above & Beyond series is my favourite series of its genre in fiction alongside Rowling’s Harry Potter series!! Better still, A&B series is headed by the most badarse Trio of powerful, kick-arse WOMEN who are LESBIANS & QUEER!!!! Bloody hell YES! REPRESENT!! Nothing makes me happier! YAY!
So, a million thanks, Ms. Klaire, for this magnificent saga of a series! Thank you for Renee. Thank you for Aeron. Thank you for Frei. And all the other absolutely fantastic cast of secondary characters that you’ve created in this incredible universe!
If you want to know how I felt after reading the previous installments, click on Above & Beyond Series (Book 1 – 5)
Meanwhile, hurry and get your copy of Book 6 from:
Bedazzled Book Peddlar (10% off)