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Shelter Kindle Edition
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"Depth of Lies" by E. C. Diskin
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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.
Lots of humor keeps this gritty, raw view of small town country life, yes, country life, from seeming too desolate. Being so far away from big city law enforcement allows the criminal elements to flourish. And they do. Our h, Kat, moves from Sydney to Walgarra to be an RSPCA Inspector protecting the animals she loves. Criminals like to ship those animals or parts of those animals off to other places for money or use them in illegal sports (get the picture). Kat has come to town to replace the murdered inspector. Our H, Luka, best friends with the previous inspector wants to prevent the same thing from happening to Kat. And he gets interested in Kat and vice versa. Their snarky comments are lively fun. Enjoy!
I have to say overall I liked the romance and even the strong female lead of this book BUT…I didn’t like her having an inner voice named Galenka as that was a little frustrating and odd.
I love how Luka and Kat met and how they both described each other in their heads. You could tell they thought the other was attractive but it didn’t scream I WANT THEM. I liked that it was slower and yet you always saw that attraction. Sexual innuendos are always fun and add a little humor to the book.
I just felt it started out a little slow, even with it being about the death of the previous agent.
Animal lover Kat Daily wants a fresh start and a new beginning, so she eagerly packs in her job at Sydney airport and heads off to the small rural town of Walgarra, where she is looking forward to her new job as an RSPCA inspector. Protecting the animals she loves is something that is of the utmost importance to Kat and she is looking forward to her new role, however, Kat quickly realises that her new home, far from being a rural idyll, is a hotbed of crime, deception…and murder!
Sinister agendas seem to reign supreme in Walgarra, and after the previous RSPCA inspector had ended up murdered, Officer Luka Belovuk had vowed to protect Kat from a similar fate. Walgarra might not be a bustling metropolis, but the abundance of crime has been getting to the broad-shouldered officer and another murder might just push him over the edge. As he begins to spend more and more time with Kat, Luka soon realises that his interest in the new RSPCA inspector is not merely professional and as the heat between them compels them to take their attraction to another level, they find themselves wondering whether they should grab this unexpected chance at happiness with both hands…or whether they are ready to knock down the defenses which they had built around themselves and take a leap of faith.
Readers be warned: if you are expecting a cutesy small-town romance, then this is not the book for you. Shelter is a gripping, gritty and affecting tale of secrets, danger and pathos that cleverly juxtaposes nail-biting suspense and heart-pounding jeopardy with humour, emotion and heart. Rhyll Biest certainly does not shy away from dealing with hard-hitting issues such as domestic violence and abuse in her novel, however, Shelter is by no means a melancholic or dispiriting read, but an uplifting, sexy, funny and riveting romantic read that you will find absolutely impossible to resist.