Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Killing Sarai by J.A. Redmerski

 🦇 Read for the Unapologetic Romance Readers Halloween 2018 Reading Challenge for the category of: A romance novel with blood on the cover 🦇

I was not a fan of THE EDGE OF NEVER. To this day, it is one of the most irritating new adult books I have read. That said, I was still enthused about picking up KILLING SARAI. My friends on here kept recommending it to me, saying that it reminded them of my own work. I think that's one of the highest compliments you can get as an author, because you (ideally) write the stories that you wish you can read yourself, so when someone tells you that they've found a work similar to yours, it's like Christmas come early (and this is how I've discovered some of my favorite books incidentally, like THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME). Second, I'm a James Bond girl at heart (no, not that kind of Bond girl), so whenever I hear about a book with a dangerous mercenary with a gun, I get irrationally excited. #Nostalgia

I really wanted to like KILLING SARAI, but I didn't. To be fair, it is a much, much better book than THE EDGE OF NEVER. I hated THE EDGE OF NEVER and wanted to throw it at the wall. KILLING SARAI just made me sad because it had so much squandered potential. The heroine is the sex slave of a drug lord, and has been his prisoner since she was - gag - a young teenager. She has it better than some of her cohorts because she's his favorite, but life is still pretty miserable. That's why, when her captor, Javier, contracts a mysterious American hitman to kill one of his enemies, Sarai decides to try to persuade him to take her back with him. To both their surprise, he agrees, and she ends up accompanying him on his adventures.

There are several major problems with this book. One; I personally didn't feel that the characters were very well fleshed out. What made Victor, the hero, tick? I don't know. I know he's supposed to be mysterious but when his abs have more character than he does, there's a problem. (Seriously, I know he has abs. How many times must you tell me about his impressive musculature?) Sarai is not much better. She's an empty shell of a character, and not in the damaged way, but in the lack of character development way. "Damaged" is still a characterization. She did and said some very strange things, and I didn't understand why she was so quick to fall for Victor when she had no reason to trust him and by all accounts, should be suspicious of every man, especially men like Victor. She's also very hateful towards women, and said some incredibly disturbing things about rape, even implying at one point that being raped by Javier wasn't so bad because he was at least attractive. Um, what???? She was also very stupid, constantly running into danger and flashing a fan of $5000 in public. Dumb.

Two; the instant love in this book was ridiculous. I felt like they went from being wary allies to "I will die for you, my love" practically overnight. Both of these characters have ZERO reason to fall recklessly in love, and in fact, there are about a thousand reasons why they SHOULDN'T. It was very inconsistent with what little we knew about their motivations, and I don't think it did the narrative any favors.

Three; for a dark book, this felt very tame. I've read several books about sex trafficking, and so far I think my favorite is DELIVER by Pam Godwin. That book reveled in its darkness. KILLING SARAI tries to be unpleasant but feels surprisingly tame, to the point that when bad stuff does happen, you're like, "Whoa, what." I think Redmerski had some really good ideas and the showdown with the hotel magnate at the end was easily one of the best parts of the book (as well as the intense beginning), but it still felt very tame. I guess this is a pretty big departure from the author's first effort, so I get it, but that's no excuse for a bad story. It needed to be grittier, in my opinion, and more convincing.

Four; the writing was not great. The author misused a couple words (someone averted their eyes towards something, and I saw a couple typos). Again, I get the struggle of being self-published, but being a best-seller indie author puts you in a different class from your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, "this is my side-side hustle" indie authors like me. Her editor (she must have one, at this point) really should have picked up those sorts of mistakes. I also felt like there were a lot of sentences that just felt very oddly or awkwardly constructed, and things like that tend to pull me out of the narrative because I am compulsive like that. YMMV, and if you don't give two fits about grammar, then by all means, dive in and enjoy. I know some people really don't care about that sort of thing.

All in all, I can't say that I was very wowed by KILLING SARAI. It was just the thing I needed for my Halloween reading challenge (that blood on the cover, yo), but as a story itself, it was very disappointing. I'm glad I got it while it was free, that's all I'm going to say. But if you're into Anne Stuart's Ice series and don't mind the tics that surface in indie prose, I could see this becoming a favorite.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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