In 2014, this author wrote my favourite book for the year - the brilliant Unrestrained. Well folks, she has done it again. I just devoured Rhyll Biest's latest book, Shelter, and it's gone with a bullet to my best book of 2017, and it's gonna take a bit of knocking to get it off there!
What did I love about Shelter?
The setting. This is rural romance with a difference, and the blurb does tell us so... there are no rolling valleys, vineyards, sweet-smelling hay bales, mountains, mists, forests, wide-open fields in this book... and if there ARE wide-open fields, they're probably growing marijuana; and if there ARE rolling valleys, there are probably several half-starved horses dying of thirst in them...
This is rural as in rural/regional ugly towns with all the problems of drugs, underemployment, guns and crime (but also with some positive parts of the community)... and our heroine works for the RSPCA and as the book begins, Kat's the new girl in town.
Rhyll Biest does scarred heroines like I've never really seen them in romance. In Unrestrained, the wonderful character of Holly is hiding a terrible physical secret. She's prickly and guarded, and it takes the hero Stein an eon to make Holly trust him enough to let this secret out.
In Shelter, Kat takes 'prickly' to a whole new level, including a secret inner self - the character of 'Galenka' who appears in Kat's thoughts, usually if she's ever in danger of doing something soft or trusting, or showing a speck of vulnerability.
Now, I have to be honest. I could take or leave Galenka. I liked this part of Shelter, but other reviews don't, and other readers won't. I doubt it would have changed my feelings one iota had the Galenka character not been written... I didn't feel she altered Kat that much, and she could be intrusive during the read. That said, I know why she's there - as a coping mechanism for the 'young' Kat. And it does work from that perspective.
There were wonderful scenes in this, and it felt really well researched without going over the top. In particular the scenes with Luka detailing de-escalation techniques and the de-escalation training; discussion of Kat's rather healthy fear of bugs and infection (she knows all the scientific names); and in Kat's customs background & career (animal welfare) expertise.
Yet it never felt 'preachy' to me.
The scene where Kat, Luka, Stacey and Nick all go wine-tasting - well that was just gold, especially some of their one-line descriptors of wine. In all the bleak realism - this was a scene that was pure snort-my-tea fun, and what follows later ... (well sorry, but that would be a spoiler!)
I loved the character trait of Kat that had her pegging people she came across based on what she figured she'd bust them with were they trying to steal something through customs. (e.g. he was the type who'd stuff lizards down his pants; she was the type who wouldn't declare plant-based material...)
This is really clever writing in the Ainslie Paton vein (another of my Aussie favourites)... but like Ainslie I find Rhyll Biest's is a voice you have to give a couple of chapters to. (In Shelter's case - 3 chapters). You need to let her warm you up, then you get carried away... usually by Germans (Stein in Unrestrained) or, in Shelter, it's Luka - a mountain of a filthy flirty Serb.
And did I mention, the sex is hot, cheeky, and banging good fun - but I don't expect anything else from this author.
I loved it big time and I can't wait for what Rhyll Biest does next.
- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 766 KB
- Print Length: 522 pages
- Publisher: Escape Publishing (1 February 2017)
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01N32BPA7
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 4 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #314,529 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)