Jamie Chadwick is straight. Determinedly straight. Or so he keeps telling himself. His small conference business is doing okay and, even though he looks after his ailing father, he loves living in the countryside and life is good. Sort of. But the arrival of old college friend, David Fenchurch, who’s just come out on the distinctly camp side of camp, together with Lucy Reid, his father’s sexy new physiotherapist, sets Jamie on a path he’d never dreamed of taking. On top of all that, the unexpected return of long-lost family friend, Robert Trevelyan, himself openly gay, means that Jamie can no longer ignore the past he’s kept hidden for six years. When Robert and David get together, Jamie’s feelings begin to surface in surprising ways. Who, amongst the crowd of people set to blow his life apart, will make it onto his fantasy hit list? And in the midst of Jamie’s own emotional battlefield, how can he keep things together at all?
Until I was asked to review this book by Anne Brooke I hadn’t heard of the author or the books she’s written. I did a light search on her, and avoided any reviews on the novel I agreed to review. Jeff was lucky enough to review Anne’s book, Give and Take not too long ago, you can read his review here: Give and Take. I was excited that I was able to share in the talent of Ms. Brooke.
The Hit List is about a twenty five year old man, Jamie Chadwick, who works and lives from his home so he can take care of his elderly father who is laden with various ailments one of those being arthritis. (I really had no idea that loud music was bad for arthritis.) I don’t know if it is or isn’t, but it’s bad for his dad because his dad says it is. HAHA.
At the start of the book Jamie seems content with his lonely, isolated life, but soon we find that he struggles with a bit of resentment over his half brother Mark who lives in Japan, leaving the responsibility of taking care of their dad all in his lap. Believe me, I know the feeling well. Due to the burden of his father, his brother, and the bartender, Jamie creates a “Hit List.” On this list are the people he’d like to knock off. As in…Kill. Of course it’s a fantasy list, the whole of it is a fantasy but it helps Jamie deal with life as it is. Depending on what happens to him, he either adds or removes a name from it and it actually does get funny.
Jamie’s old friend, David appears and Jamie’s life is changed over night. Oddly enough Jamie lives in a fantasy world, I suppose he needs to so he can cope with life as it is for him. Throughout the year this book covers he has a few love interests, all female, he has an old family friend show up after missing for six years, his business begins to really take off and his father is very demanding and demeaning at the same time. I think I’d live in a fantasy world too with all that pressure.
Anne Brooke did a good job with the plot. She drives it forward very smoothly, though at times I found myself almost flipping a page without reading it fully. Jamie, whose head we’re in throughout the story, sometimes did get a little mundane for me. He spent so much time making sure he was straight that I wanted to slap him and tell him, get over it! I did think that there are a few sub-plots going on with this book. Take David for instance, he didn’t know if he was straight or gay, he appears at the start of the story dressed like a parrot, and goes through about half of the story dressed in bright, flashy colors. Then he, out of nowhere, blends in with the rest of the community. Turns out something is cooking in the wings with him and another member of this cast, yet because we are stuck in Jamie’s head all the time we don’t really know what until the end. I’m not saying it’s hard to follow but it just seems that Jamie had more than his hands full that I lost sight of the message. The message being love and Jamie spent so much time worried about being gay, straight or whatever he was, that I started looking at the page numbers hoping he’d wake up sometime soon.
The romance in this book wasn’t really there, not till the end anyway. The comedy was there, in some parts but mostly it was a serious year in the life of a hard working young man struggling with his sexuality. He finds himself wanting the vicar’s daughter one day then he wants Lucy, his father’s therapist the next. He is convinced that he’s straight and if he has sex with a woman he’ll be just fine. Being gay is not okay with him. Too bad he has no control over this.
There were times that I had a hard time connecting with Jamie. I had a hard time feeling for him, especially when he battled how he felt about a certain member of the cast. I was given small clues on how he felt about the other character, but nothing big. He seemed to run from his feelings and that included his inner thoughts. Almost as if the author had a hard time connecting with him as well. I wanted to get to know a few of the other characters better, but because we spent the whole book in Jamie’s head, which then should have been written in the first person, I didn’t. I wanted to know more about Robert, the long time family friend who’d been missing for six years, I wanted to know his thoughts and feelings. I wanted to know Mark too, how he felt and thought of the situation with his dad and if he felt as if he ran to Japan to get away or? I wanted to know David too, why he was straight, gay, and then straight again. I understand sexuality is confusing at times but I wanted in that head to know how and why’s. Perhaps if the characters were better drawn out in this almost 400-page story I could have gotten to know them better.
Over all the story was well done and I think Anne did a great job. It’s worth the price and I do recommend it.
Review by Michele