Shooter, by Dahlia West

11 Sep

ShooterShooter, by Dahlia West

Jane highlighted this one in one of Dear Author’s daily deals posts, saying that it was fun. Add fun to free, and if course I got it. For the first 300 pages or so, I found a lot to like in it, and then…oh, the rage. The. Rage! Therefore, reader beware: this here review? It’s full of spoilers.

You’ve been warned, proceed at your own risk.

The blurb (from amazon, as I could not find it in the author’s website):

Chris “Shooter” Sullivan has returned to his home town of Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up the pieces of his life shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He only wants to focus on holding what’s left of his old unit together, running his garage where he builds custom bikes and cars, and pretending that his murdered father’s motorcycle gang doesn’t exist.

Hayley Turner is a young woman with her own traumatic past. Fresh off the bus from Nowhere, USA, all she wants is a job and a place to live, until it’s time for her to leave again. She doesn’t want to make friends, or enemies, least of all the ex-Army Ranger who obviously doesn’t like her. She bristles under his watchful eye. He’s even got her convinced she’s bad news.

But circumstances force two people who don’t need anyone to need each other more and more. The more Chris gets to know Hayley, the harder it is to stay detached. And the more Hayley gets to know Chris, the more she realizes she’s been alone for so long she might never recover from it.

Someone commented in the Dear Author thread that the blurb didn’t indicate a fun book, and yet there is a lot of fun in the first half of the book or so. There are some truly funny exchanges between the different characters, not just the protagonists, that reminded me of when long standing friends meet. Their dynamics felt true to a close-knit, long standing group of friends.

During this first part of the story, there were a few instances of telling, most noticeable when Tex explains in some detail how power exchange relationships work, but I have a niggling suspicion that I noticed those bits of telling more than I would have otherwise because for most of the rest of the writing was all showing. In fact, I think that what irritated me stood out more because I liked the first half so much.

Despite the clichés–the world weary, outwardly gruff but in fact gold-hearted female bar owner who offers Haley a job, the grumpy regular customer who’s more friend than fixture, etc.–I fell into the story, and I liked the different characters we are introduced to, particularly Chris’ core group of friends.

I really liked that it took months for Chris and Hayley to become a couple, that Hayley’s trauma was not a fabrication or an exaggeration but an event that truly explained her behaviour and her reactions to what is happening on the page. I liked that the author allowed for enough time for Hayley to genuinely grow to trust Chris, and the other guys, spreading this “get to know you” process over a period of months (versus the much hated instantaneous, all-powerful, magical wang cure).

And so, at about oh, sixty, seventy percent of the story, I was all set to become a full-fledged fan of the author. And then…it all went down hill, fast.

First wee have a female character who’s a total bitch. Of course, because we do need a negative stereotype female character, even if for half a dozen pages, just to make sure we appreciate how totally awesome Haley is. And this woman, naturally, just happens to have a thing with and for Chris, and a possessive streak far beyond whatever that thing between them would rationally warrant. So, obviously, as you do, out of the blue she approaches Haley in the middle of a large reunion at one of Chris’s friends’ house and says some pretty vicious things to her.

Things happen–bitch had made some assumptions that did made her an ass on top of a dick, and so on and so forth–and the short of it is that Chris is ordered by the host to escort this woman off the premises at once. And then, as he’s kicking her out of his friend’s house, and out of his life, and while he’s supposedly mad as hell at her because she humiliated and hurt Hayley pretty badly, right then, Chris condescends to advise her to tone down on the clothes, the makeup and the heels, so that she at least “appears to age gracefully” (oh, by the by, she’s 30 or just over).

It annoyed me–a hell of a lot–that the this character had to be further vilified by comments on her clothes, her shoes, her makeup and her age. Seriously, honestly, was that necessary, in any way shape or form?

Did it feel like something Chris would say? Perhaps, yes–but it was not necessary, it didn’t serve the scene. It particularly doesn’t help that the author tells us that he’s being generous by giving her this advise. He’s not trying to hurt her, he means to help her.

What. The. Fuck!

But wait, that’s just the beginning of the rant.

Because then we have the repeated use of the morning after pill as a contraceptive. Of course, neither Haley nor Chris want any more condoms between the mighty wang and the magic hoohaa, and apparently, getting actual contraceptive pills does not occur as a viable, common sense alternative to anyone at any point. Because getting the morning after pill is so easy in the Dakotas–did I mention that’s where this is set up? It’s not like people there have to travel hundreds of miles to find a Planned Parenthood clinic or anything in there. But even if it truly was as easy to get emergency contraception as it is to get condoms, why would anyone use that as their regular, ongoing, form of contraception?

I repeat, what. the. actual. fuck.

But no, no, no, this is not the whole of it.

We also  have Chris and two of this friends participating in a gun/drug deal –because apparently that is the equivalent in favor-value to catching your woman when she’s leaving you and returning her to you (versus, I don’t know, keeping her? like a found dog or some such?).

And, in the course of doing this little favor, another character coldly shoots a twenty-something kid in the back of the head.

Chris’s reaction to this? To be concerned whether his two friends are mad at him or not because now they are witnesses to a murder on top of being involved in a gun/drug deal–not a thought devoted to the dead kid on the ground. Oh and when he realizes that, as soon as him and the MC he’s with at the moment leave the scene, a bloodbath between the members of the other MC is almost a certainty, his internal dialogue runs along the lines of, “well, it’s not like these are innocent people, they knew what they were getting into when they became members of the club, so who cares?”

If all the above weren’t enough to make me rage, then we have the TSTL behaviour and the sexual violence porn.

Because naturally, after five years of successfully avoiding her stalker, now that there’s big, strong wang in Haley’s life, it just so happens that they give the villain enough clues to successfully track her to Chris’ house. So when she’s alone overnight–even though they are afraid they might have been followed, even though she’s been told to call next door to her temporary bodyguard if anything unusual happens–of course she opens the door to a cop in the middle of the night without taking any common sense precautions.

Anyone surprised that the cop is not a cop? Yeah, me neither.

Then come some pretty nasty scenes with the crazy ass stalker–not going into that–and then Haley rescues herself.

I confess that by the time this happened I was getting ready to delete the book from my reader, so it didn’t come a moment too soon, and while I usually enjoy heroines who deal with their own shit and/or rescue themselves (witness Serena from Playing the Odds), in this case? Way too little, much too late.

So how do I grade this mess? It’s like there were two completely different books, written by two authors, that a third person just mashed together by making sure the name in one part matched the names in the other part. The first part was easily over 8.50, the second part…gah! perhaps a 1.00. I am feeling very, very angry that such a good book was ruined so thoroughly. And now I will not try anything else by this author, because what this book taught me is that I cannot trust her.

Therefore, Shooter ends with a 4.00 out of 10.


6 Responses to “Shooter, by Dahlia West”

  1. Lori 11/09/2014 at 2:20 PM #

    I’ll take a pass.

    • azteclady 11/09/2014 at 6:38 PM #

      I does make me mad that it went so far wrong in the second half, because up to the mid point I was so happy to have found another good author.

  2. Mad 11/09/2014 at 4:48 PM #

    I’ve got this on the Kindle but haven’t read it yet….lots of readers were gushing on how good it was but the more they gushed, the more I pushed it further down the TBR. :/

    • azteclady 11/09/2014 at 6:41 PM #

      I honestly don’t get the gushing.

      And see, Jane said “fun” and nothing more–and it was, both fun and engaging, until it truly wasn’t either of those things. I’m not sure how one can read the second half and still think the whole was fun…but again, perhaps the Hulk-smash-like rage I felt was due mostly to just how much I liked the first half.

  3. SuperWendy 11/09/2014 at 8:27 PM #

    There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more rage inducing than a book you start out really liking descending into a hot mess. Besides the “Really Good Until WTF?!” – by that point you’re far enough long that DNF’ing it is really pointless. So you keep reading every rage inducing word of the last 50 pages and then want to punch someone in the face.

    My sympathies.

    And OMG – that morning after pill thing would have sent me over the edge. Because, you know, they hand those out like Tic-Tacs! /end sarcasm

    • azteclady 11/09/2014 at 8:40 PM #

      Exactly! I mean, c’mon, I was over sixty percent into the story (going by my kindle app indicator thingie) before it started falling apart. I kept hoping it was a temporary aberration and that the author would manage to salvage what was left. Unfortunately, no dice.

      And yeah, exactly like Tic-Tacs.

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