I was fortunate enough to read DEARLY, BELOVED as an ARC a few months ago (which does not reflect my review), courtesy of NetGalley. I was so excited to read this book and devoured it in 2 days.
Taking place more than 100 years in the future, in a town called New London, DEARLY, BELOVED picks up a few months after DEARLY, DEPARTED (which, if you haven’t read yet, I highly recommend, especially before reading the sequel!) Tensions are higher than ever between humans and the undead. There are two distinct political factions: The Murder, a group of humans against all zombies, and The Changed, a zombie group fed up with humans and their unwillingness for accepting. Nora Dearly’s father is still hard at work on a cure for the Laz, the virus that swept through the nation and decimated a huge chunk of the population. Those who turn quickly after being infected, and seek help, are able to function pretty well. Point in case: Bram Griswold, a captain for Company Z, a mostly zombie filled military unit aimed to help protect the citizens of New London.
Back cover love: Bram!
I really enjoy the love story between Nora and Bram. In DEARLY, DEPARTED, (book 1) Nora, understandably, is initially repulsed by Bram. But his charm wins her over. Their love story is one to root for, even though you know the possibility of it truly working out is impossible, even though Nora is immune to the Laz. As Bram explains to Nora, every zombie will eventually succumb to their disease. At some point, he will cease being the chivalrous, dreamy (weird to say that about a zombie!) Bram and be something completely else. The thoughts are heartbreaking.
Another part I really enjoyed about DEARLY, BELOVED was the multiple point of views. While I love reading from the 2 main characters points of view, I do enjoying reading through the thoughts and emotions of the other characters. Pamela, Nora’s best friend, is much more fleshed-out in this book. She’s grown so much and I really enjoyed seeing her character development. Michael is more upset than ever about what happened to him by the end of DEARLY, DEPARTED, so In this book, he’s out for revenge at all costs. He’s one not to like or trust.
There was also more of the mysterious Patient Zero in this installment of the series. As the first patient to contract the Laz, many are after him, especially those who wish to use him as a weapon for their own heinous causes. It’s up to Company Z to protect him, and all others, from the groups who wish to capture him.
My favorite character development had to be Vespertine Mink. Sure, she’s spoiled and probably couldn’t survive a zombie attack, but she doesn’t pretend to be anything but who she really is. And there’s a family revelation she makes in DEARLY, BELOVED that I didn’t see coming and through me for a loop!
One of my favorite chapters of the book was Vespertine’s, when Renfield Merriweather (probably my favorite character in this series) visits her home. Now, Vespertine is not one to like zombies outright, as she hasn’t always had positive experiences around them, but Ren’s heart and charm just may (I hope!) warm her over ;-)
Overall, I thought DEARLY, BELOVED was a fantastic read! I enjoyed it just as much as I did DEARLY, DEPARTED and I’m incredibly eager to read the next book in this series. I give major kudos to author Lia Habel for writing a great mash-up of genres (post-apocalyptic, zombie/horror, romance, steampunk) and pull it off so well, with characters that I thoroughly enjoy reading (even Micheal, although he’s a total jerk.) If I could ask Ms. Habel anything, it’d be: What are the chances of a Vespertine and Renfield short story? As much as I adore the love story between Nora and Bram, there’s just something about the spunk of Vespertine matched with the old-world, gentlemanly charm of Ren that captures my complete attention. I would love to read more about them!