Kassa's Reviews > The Hit List

The Hit List by Anne Brooke
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's review
Apr 04, 2010

really liked it

The Hit List came in for review described as an m/m romantic comedy, which suited my reading desires perfectly. The typically zany and quirky style I was expecting from the author – having read Pink Champagne and Apple Juice – is definitely in full force in The Hit List. Unfortunately it doesn’t really deliver as a romantic comedy since the humorous elements taper off early on and the story is really the main character’s struggle to understand his sexual identity while dealing with family crisis. The light touch to the writing and quick pace makes this lightening fast to read despite its almost 400 page length. While not entirely successful on every level, Hit List is nonetheless a warm, enjoyable, light read.

The story is about Jamie Chadwick, a twenty five year old young man living at home and taking care of his aging, ill father. He also works out of the home running his own business in a very small town in the country. He’s content with his somewhat lonely, isolated life but struggles with a deep well of resentment over his father’s obvious preference for an older, absent son named Mark. When Jamie’s old friend appears, his life is thrown into turmoil with several possible love interests, old family friends reappearing, sudden business deals, village responsibilities, and his aging father’s declining health. All of the stress forces Jamie to live out a fantasy hit list in his mind, but he can’t escape reality for long.

The plot is very character driven even as there is a lot of action that occurs. Jamie is the third person narrator as he struggles from one event to the next in a rather natural, if busy, progression. The story takes place over almost a year or so thus making the never ending stream of events seem more reasonable and that Jamie is just having a really rough year. There is nothing slow or boring about this plot. There are a few too many elements thrown in which dilutes a main purpose to the story and instead focusing of on Jamie, the story and reader watches as he struggles from one problem to the next with an eventual solution to everything that’s a bit too neat and wrapped up. It’s not over the top by any means, but I think sometimes all the action that keeps the story moving ends up sacrificing the romance and characterization of the book.

On the one hand, the various things that happen from Jamie’s attempt to woo first the vicar’s daughter and then his dad’s physical therapist to his struggle with being a sole caretaker with a very busy job and conflicting feelings for a family friend help show a complicated, busy life. There are also so many people in and out of scenes that beyond Jamie, none of the characters are well defined. There is a pretty large cast of people that are all important in some way and it’s a real testament to Brooke’s skill that all of the characters are memorable and not easily confused with each other. The flip side to that is that beyond their basic purpose, none of them are fully developed. There are Jamie’s female love interests in Carina and Lucy who are very different yet their motivations are completely hidden, especially Lucy’s. Some of their actions didn’t quite make sense especially the end resolution with Lucy, but there is little time or space to dwell on this with so much going on. There is the catalyst in Jamie’s friend David but his later changes are also not fully explained. Beyond the complicated, complex mess of Jamie, his maturity, and sexual identity, the others exist to prompt scenes and important discoveries.

Again this isn’t bad per se for the majority of characters since they are distinguished from one another except Jamie’s eventual gay love interest in Robert is perhaps the most mysterious. The two have a past interlude but this is kept secret from the reader for a short while and he is the impetus for Jamie to really explore his sexuality. Jamie is still very young and somewhat emotionally immature. He frequently lashes out at Robert out of fear and confusion. Turning his comfortable life inside out and exposing his true desires to a small village is terrifying for Jamie and he often reacts viciously. Robert responds to such attacks with calm understanding for the most part, but why they fall in love and more specifically why Robert likes Jamie is never really explained well given Robert’s older age and maturity. Especially given how afraid and confused Jamie is initially to embrace and understand his sexuality, Robert’s continual support and understanding never makes total sense.

While some of the story stumbles and the action is not really comedic in my opinion, the book does shine with some delight prose and a light handling of the matter. Given the dysfunctional relationship between Jamie and his father – one no doubt many readers can relate to – the story could have turned very intense and dark; instead the very British prose and interesting situations keep the story entertaining. While not especially funny for the most part, the language is easy to read and engaging as the book flies by incredibly fast despite its 400 pages. The hit list Jamie forms is a deft touch as a much needed stress reliever and very relatable. The various characters are all eminently likable and interesting. Although Jamie struggles with his sexuality and does date two women in the book, including having sex, there is no on page sex at all. There are a few very mild m/m scenes but nothing with female bits on page to turn away any hard core gay romance fans.

Overall Hit List focuses on complicated relationships – father/son, friends, romantic, brother/brother – and for the most part succeeds. It stumbles here and there and there is enough material to have been an entire series, but the delightful prose, great narrator, and fast past will keep you fully engaged in the book. The story feels effortless, a skill Brooke really exceeds at translating across the page, so be sure to pick this up. You’ll be glad you read it.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, Kassa - much appreciated! :)) Axxx

message 2: by Val (new)

Val Kovalin This sounds very unusual for the m/m genre (and unusual is often a very good thing!). Like you say, the whole thing about the aging, ill father who prefers the absent brother over the caretaker brother could have been really heavy and intense, but the author manages a light touch and comedy? I'm intrigued. She's very, very talented. I'm going to look into this!

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, Val - it is a little strange, I admit! Well, as you know, I've always been rather odd ... :)) It might make a bit more sense (only a bit!) if I say I based it on Jane Austen's Emma, with a little bit of Persuasion thrown in.


Happy Easter to you!


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