Red Queen by Honey Brown

red queenLove, lust and rivalry…

😀 😀 😀 🙂

The time feels much like the present, but society has been destroyed by a lethal virus. The narrator, Shannon, is a young man living in isolation with his older brother, Rohan, in a well-stocked house prepared by their now-dead father for just such a contingency, since he always feared that one day disaster would strike humanity. It’s been months since they saw another person, but one day a young woman, Denny, appears at the farm and throws herself on their mercy. Suspicious at first, both men soon find themselves attracted to her, but it still seems as if Denny may be hiding a secret…

Shannon and Rohan have little in common except their fraternal love for each other. Shannon is trusting and sensitive while, on the exterior at least, Rohan is tougher and meaner. Denny is nicely ambiguous – while Shannon falls quickly in love with her, the reader is left never quite sure of her honesty and motivations. The story moves at a fair pace and leads up to an exciting and well-executed thriller ending.

I was a little disappointed that Brown raised a couple of interesting questions and then rather failed to follow them through. Early on, there’s some discussion as to where the virus originated, with the suggestion that it may have been some kind of biological warfare. This strand is then totally dropped – just never mentioned again as if the author had forgotten about it. She does exactly the same with religion – Shannon is an atheist, while Rohan is apparently a strict Christian. This is made much of at the beginning as if Brown may be going to develop how their approach to the disaster affects or is affected by their beliefs…but very soon it’s just allowed to fizzle out into nothingness.

The ambiguous Denny is very well-drawn, and her character really holds the book together. Her actions stretch credulity at points, but not beyond breaking point. The men are more problematic. The first-person narrative via Shannon read to me throughout as if it was a woman speaking (not helped by the fact that I think of Shannon as a female name), and I kept having to remind myself that he was a man. Rohan is a bully and a tyrant, but apparently beloved by all? Hard to convince me of that, I fear, and Brown didn’t.

Honey Brown
Honey Brown

The plot revolves around lust and sex, so there are a lot of fairly graphic sex scenes – occasionally edging towards rape scenes. Too much for my taste, to be honest. The men are universally portrayed as slavering sexual predators whose moral and ethical standards are dropped at the first sight of a female. But then Denny is no slouch in the sexual predator stakes herself. The sexual manipulation that goes on amongst all the ‘goodies’ rather dulls the impact of the behaviour of the ‘baddies’, I feel. The suggestion seems to be that some forms of sexual predation are worse than others – true, but that doesn’t make me feel like saying the less bad kinds are OK then.

In the end, the book has less depth than the early chapters promised, but overall it’s a well-written and readable tale of love, lust and rivalry in an isolated post-apocalyptic setting.