Review: Palpitations: The Highway To Never After

Palpitations: The Highway To Never AfterPalpitations: The Highway To Never After by S.K. Munt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book gets a few extra points from me for taking place in Australia. All too often we get zombie/vamp tales taking place in the USA, England, or Europe (in that order). In fact, the only other apocalyptic Australian book I can remember reading is Jam.

Anyone who’s read my reviews for a while now knows the following:
– I have lots of books I didn’t specifically buy – they came from Humble Bundles, Story Bundles, or free books from Barnes and Noble or Amazon
– I create my Digital To-Read bookshelf every 1-2 years, setting my reading order

So by the time I got to this book, I had no idea what it was about or where it came from. But I get a bit of a thrill by not reading the equivalent of the back of the book before reading it. It’s like going in to a movie without having seen the trailer. Anyway, most authors write the first few chapters of any book as if you haven’t read the back, so I have more fun that way. From looking at the cover I had no idea what I was in for.

Turns out this is a romance at the end of the world. I’ve been telling my wife about the book as I read it and she was asking me yesterday if I thought it was more romance or more zombie/vamp (more about that in a second). She’s the one who’s into horror, so after talking it out for a while, we came to the conclusion that just like there are comedy horrors (like Shawn of the Dead or that zombie movie with Bill Murray), this one is a romance horror. So it’s got all the usual* romance tropes: will they/won’t they, lots of physical descriptions, eventual graphic sex. (* I say the usual, but I think I’ve read about 3 romance books…so what do I know?) It’s also got all the usual zombie/vamp tropes – namely the enemy always seems to be right around the corner. How well does this combo work? Well, I kept debating with myself just how horny I could be at the end of the world. On the one hand….might as well before you die? On the other hand, can’t focus? And a couple times our main characters get a hold of the idiot ball and decide to make out or more while surrounded by the undead.

OK, let’s get to the undead. Ms. Munt got a couple more points from me here from being creative. I guess SLIGHT spoiler for something that happens in the first two chapters – her monsters in this book act like the usual shambling zombies when they’re first turned or after some time has passed. But if they’ve recently fed, they’re something more akin to a combination of fast zombies/vampires.

Also, in a year in which I keep reading books that seem to be tailor made for 2020/2021 even if they were written a while ago – the zombie virus comes from a purposely tainted HPV vaccine. For future readers, there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy right now around the COVID-19 vaccines. (With a couple brands causing extremely rare, but devastating if you’re one of the unlucky, blood clots) So, yeah!

We’re in our main character’s head during this story and it’s a mess in there. Her thought processes constantly threatened to derail the story for me and almost knocked things back to 2 stars. I want to say that I’ve had a pretty lucky/blessed life. I haven’t had to deal with abuse of any kind (verbal, physical, emotional, sexual). While acknowledging that men can be victims, it’s not something that goes through my mind like it (may) for women. So keep that in mind when I say that it was distracting to eventually learn that our main character has basically suffered from ALL those categories of abuse. I’m sure there are folks like that. Maybe it rings true for Ms. Munt or someone she knows. But as a reader – it was a lot. And it contributed to an exceptionally fraught will they/won’t they when combined with my least favorite trope –… – very often seen in comics when characters punch first and ask questions later. There were also more twists and turns to the stories our main characters told each other than if it were a 1940s noir story.

Would I recommend it? That’s a tough one.
What’s it got going for it?
– Unique location: Australia
– Unique Monsters: zombie/vamps
– Sexy-time scenes – if that’s what you’re into

– hard to pin down characters’ motivations because they’re all over the place
– probably every single trigger warning needed for this book.

At the end I found out there’s a sequel. I’m done with these characters, so I’m not going on. But I didn’t hate reading this story. It was often quite entertaining. When the main character isn’t oscillating between her two choices of what to do, her inner monologue is sassy and fun to read. The two main characters trade some fun barbs. I think if you’d like to try out some zombie apocalypse romance, give it a shot.

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