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The Hit List Paperback – October 21, 2015
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Jamie is straight, really really straight, so straight that he has his eyes set on the vicar's daughter and then his father's physiotherapist. Jamie is straight when family friend whom he did not see for six years comes back. Is Jamie really straight?
Despite the existence of the infamous hit list (and it changes all the time), this is probably the lightest novel I have read so far by Anne Brooke and I loved it.
Jamie really does undergo a journey of self discovery throughout the book and the writer leads him through this journey with subtle humor and sympathy.
His problems are very relatable, I really liked this character and was very pleased with how this book ended.
However, I wish I could be as enthusiastic about this book, "The Hit List". Somehow, I get the impression that Ms. Brooke moved out of her comfort zone on this one, and, in my opinion, she didn't fare well.
This is a book about coming out (or not coming out) that takes place in rural England outside of Colchester. The protagonist, Jamie Chadwick, is a young man who's gone home to look after his ailing dad who, it appears, hates his son's guts, even to the point of declaring that he wishes Jamie's older brother, Mark, were there, so that things could be happy again, the way they were before Jamie was born. Personally, this nasty old fart would be at the top of my hit list, too.
And then there is Robert, the gorgeous, successful businessman who shared a past with both Jamie and his brother (he was Mark's boss in a Web development company), now living in Japan and gone lo these last six years.
Much of the book is about Jamie's problems with his thankless dad, the gossips that seem to populate all of his little village, and the two girlfriends he's not very good at juggling. One, Carina, is the young Vicar's daughter, the other, Lucy, is the too-hot-for-words physiotherapist who comes, several times a week, to care for Jamie's father.
And then things get murky. His old friend, David, shows up, dressed like a queen and declaring that he's now totally gay. So what does Jamie do? Snub him and tell him off, of course.
Which brings me to my problem with the book. Maybe it's just a different culture, and a British thing, but men moving back-and-forth from gay to straight, at will, is simply mind-boggling to me. Of course, it's not possible. Someone can be bisexual, of course, and just pick different-gendered partners at different points (or together), but that's not what this book is about - it's about the straight guy "going gay" and vice-versa. Sorry, but the whole thing is just lacking in any kind of credibility, whatsoever. It's just not how gay men are. Perhaps, if this were a fantasy, I'd be more forgiving but, despite the fact that some reviewers here have claimed "The Hit List" is both "light" and "full of humor", I suspect they weren't reading the same book I did. Either that, or my sense of humor is seriously deficient.
I also found the lead character, Jamie, both annoying and, at times, despicable. He prepares a hit list of all those people who, in dying, would make his life much more bearable. It is his solace and, at least on two occasions, he actually makes fleeting and abortive attempts at following through. Perhaps others find it "humorous" or "charming" to see David throwing up violently after ingesting a concoction Jamie put together to harm his father, so sick that the others wanted to call an ambulance. I didn't.
In his cowardice and insensitivity, Jamie manages to get both women - one of whom is left, crushed, when he walks away from her, and the other, though he sleeps with her passionately, senses something is off and secretly cheats with someone else - who was supposed to be gay, but isn't.
And the only person Jamie ever really loved (although their relationship remains unconsummated) is Robert, who, when he kisses him (which Jamie is quite caught up by), ends up, more often than not, being punched in the gut or thrown to the floor. Ah, ain't love grand.
To be honest, I really, really disliked Jamie. Talk about a lack of empathy and/or sympathy for a character. At no point did he either make me smile or pull at my heartstrings. The only emotion I experienced through most of this book was annoyance. Every time Jamie picks up a phone to call someone, to tell him or her the truth, or to apologize, the words just won't come, and he can't (or won't) say a thing, and then hangs up, in frustration. I couldn't decide if Jamie was aphasic, autistic, or just a complete and total imbecile. I'm leaning toward the latter.
The ending is just as wrong as most of the rest of the book. Jamie first decides he's "gay for you", only ever feeling attraction to Robert, otherwise straight (he certainly does get physically aroused by the very thought of women throughout the rest of the book), then decides he likes a hotel executive who helps him organize one of his conferences. A few weeks later, he's driving to gay bars and dancing and kissing all the men he can find. Whoops, I guess I'm gay, after all - completely ignoring all the hot sex he had with women for more than 200 pages.
And we can't wrap this up without some commentary of the least-satisfying happily-ever-after I've ever read in a book about gay men. Robert and Jamie decide that Robert will come back from Japan to live closer to Jamie because, well... they love each other and want to be together. Except that they both agree they'll have to stay in the closet.... and work around that tiny, inconsequential limitation. Welcome to the 21st Century, in which true love between gay men means living in the closet?
I love when Ms. Brooke writes one of her great action/thriller novels with characters that just happen to be gay. It is where she shines. But writing about gay men's relationships and the coming-out process? Not so much. What you have here is a view from the outside, and not a particularly accurate one.
I gave this book three stars for the brilliant writing. But because of the content and the characters, I cannot, in all honesty, recommend it.
Author: Anne Brooke
Published: Amber Quill Press
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
"The Hit List" by Anne Brooke good contemporary read. You will find that this novel of the main character is trying to 'understand his sexual identity and also dealing with family crisis.' "The Hit List is a fast pace even though it is rather long. We find Jamie Chadwick is living a home taking care of his 'ill father' and also working from home. Things come to head when Jamie's friend from college announces he is gay. What all will come of this? Even though by the end of the book Jamie still hasn't told his ill father about his issues. Has Jamie really come 'out? And then we have David changing his mind about being gay. Wow, this was some read of change or was it? As I kept reading I saw that Jamie lacked 'social skills, not particularly handsome, desperately wanted to marry someone...then he writes 'The Hit List' which was people he wanted to kill. Now, why was this? I really didn't see "The Hit List" as a true romance. I felt like this was more of the 'comedy of life.' Now what does this mean? I got this from a quote: "The choices people make (or don’t make), the consequences thereof, and the inherent complications and confusions that come of relationships." To me that says it all. To get your thoughts you must pick up this read and see for yourself. It may start out somewhat slow but keep reading and you will see which way this author is leading the reader.
The characters were all pretty well drawn like Jamie, his father, David, Robert, the vicar and his daughter, the village fete, to the nosy landlord, but all in all I found most of these characters were a very interesting group of people. This story gives off the presents of being so very 'true, heartbreaking and very sentimental.' So, if you don't mind gay issues and above all 'The Hit List' then I would recommend this touching read for you.