Anna M reviews Jolt by Kris Bryant


Jolt is the first novel by Kris Bryant and will be published in September by Bold Strokes Books. I read a review copy courtesy of Netgalley.

Mystery author Bethany Lange hasn’t recovered from a bad breakup three years ago, when her closeted partner abruptly left her to be with someone else. Since then, Bethany has lived a solitary existence, kept company by the dead poets (Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and William Shakespeare) that she talks to in her mind. Bethany spends the summers volunteering at a camp for children of lesbian and gay families, which is where she meets the beautiful–and out–musician Ali Hart.

Ali is a popular folk singer taking a break from her tour to help out at the camp. For Bethany, the chemistry between them is instantaneous and intriguing, especially after she’s felt nothing for so long. However, a little injudicious googling leads Bethany to understand that Ali has a girlfriend and is therefore unavailable. After they straighten out that misunderstanding, the pair has one day with which to get to know each other and figure out if they want to embark on a long-distance relationship.

After their first date, the road to happiness is not particularly easy for Bethany and Ali; Bethany is plagued by doubt and finds it difficult to open herself up to love. Ali is on the road for long stretches of time, and has strong ties to her Massachusetts family. After another misunderstanding between them leads to separation and angst, it’s not clear if the topic of love will ever be broached, or if the two are doomed to remain estranged forever. However, it is a romance, so everything is resolved in the end.

Jolt is written entirely from Bethany’s perspective, which means that the reader gets the benefit(?) of understanding her every hesitant and self-doubting foray toward Ali. Bethany spends a great deal of time in her head, some of it conversing with her imaginary friends in a strangely intimate way. The book might have benefited from a balanced number of scenes from Ali’s perspective, or from more well-rounded secondary characters, or perhaps from a more condensed denouement as Ali and Bethany struggled to define their relationship. These flaws were somewhat redeemed by the well-written sex scenes, but by the end I found it difficult to care whether Bethany got it together or not. For a great story of long distance romance, try Emma Donoghue’s Landing instead.