Published by Escape Publishing on February 15th 2017
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Kat Daily is excited to trade her Sydney airport quarantine uniform for an RSPCA inspector’s uniform and a job in the rural town of Walgarra. A fresh start in a new place, where she can make a real difference in the lives of the animals that she loves.
But Walgarra doesn’t offer a peaceful, bucolic existence. Like many small towns, the distance from urban settings — and urban law enforcement — has allowed a criminal element to set in. Kat may only be looking after animals, but that doesn’t mean she will be immune to people with sinister agendas.
The previous RSCPCA inspector was murdered, and Officer Luka Belovuk is determined to keep the new inspector from the same fate. He may have very broad shoulders, but carrying the safety of the law-abiding community just trying to live their lives has weighed him down, and one more death might be more than he can take.
Not all small towns are quaint and quiet, but they all have one thing in common: a community of people willing to protect their population with everything they have.
Devirginised from my first Rhyll Biest’s read, “Shelter” quite frankly, raced past the quirky and slid straight into the bizarre for me, even though it was an interesting setup that showcased the menacing, broken down part of rural Australia with equally broken characters littering the pages. But my struggle with this book lay mostly with the characters and the writing style, which do run contrary to my personal tastes.
On their own, Kat and Luka are characters that at best, could function as single protagonists but not together. I found their chemistry non-existent, built only on a frustrating one-sided chase where Kat pushes Luka away because of her complete fear of relationships, then turns that energy instead into taking on reckless tasks in her work to punish/atone.
But Kat wasn’t the most likeable character to begin with: deceptive, defensive and immaturely prickly, whose own issues somehow made her go around petulantly with a chip on her shoulder in a small-minded and emotionally vindictive way, especially with Luka. The constant insistence that she wasn’t made for relationships and the constant running away simply wore thin as the story wore on, escalating my own frustration level until I was ready to give up on the pairing. Throw in the alter-ego of an imaginary fairy called Galenka (or some strange voice that dictates what her subconscious really wants) that dictated her mental thoughts made me want to go mental myself sooner rather than later.
The snarky commentary—part Galenka and part Kat—felt overdone, as though every single thought needed to be catalogue and revealed, even during sex which sort of broke those hot moments somewhat. The caveat here is that the writing isn’t bad—Rhyll Biest can write up a storm—but her hyperbolic, anthropomorphising style (“her car, lurking by the kerb, gave her a sympathetic look”, “his hand, big as a frisbee”, “arms outstretched like a zombie hungry for brains”) is distracting enough to make me do several sentence re-reads just to try to get the metaphors or similes the right way up.
Or maybe I’m just slow. Or call it my inability to appreciate this sort of quirk enough.
Whatever it may be, “Shelter” isn’t quite my brand of humour nor my cup of tea, sadly.