Today, I had book hangover from staying up too late to finish Caitlin Crews’s Sniper’s Pride. Given it was a back-to-work Monday morning, it took a heck of a lot of coffee to keep me amiable and functional . Was it worth it? Did I love it? I’m not sure.
Sometimes, I read a romance novel not to have to think about those plague-y things that wake you up in the night and leave you with heart palpitations and morning-after disquiet — if you ever do manage to fall back asleep.
In the cooler light of day, wolfing down Crews’s romance left me the way overindulgence in Haagen-Dazs’s Espresso Chocolate Cookie Crumble does, vaguely nauseated with questionable self-respect. Sometimes though, a feral spinster needs to leave the world behind and Crews’s novel hit the sweet spot. With a day’s work done, a dinner-full stomach and some halfway decent rosé, I can think about my response to Sniper’s Pride with more dispassion. Crews is a talented writer; she has a smooth, quick, moving way with words and tropish twists along the way that surprise and delight. I disliked some of Sniper’s Pride‘s content and yet loved the sheer heroine-vindication and HEA-fulfilling development of its core relationship.
The novel opens with the heroine surviving a second attempt by her soon-to-be ex-husband to kill her by planting anaphylactic-inducing seafood in her food. After ten years, Mariah McKenna has left her psychologically abusive husband; the murder attempts see her running from Atlanta, circuitously, to Alaska, where Alaska Force’s ubermen lend their ex-military expertise to protecting the vulnerable. Mariah needs help and she needs their ubermen help especially. Her hero is gruff, icy, “I feel nothing” former Marine, Griffin Cisneros. The set-up is familiar: bodyguard hero, vulnerable heroine who grows to confidence and self-assertion, lots o’ baddies, and a hero who gives all to the mission and nothing to himself, who feels nothing except for what is too much to bear, that is, what he feels for the heroine.
On some level, this was ugh; on another, because the world isn’t a nice or safe place, the uberman fantasy Griffin offers, aloof, protective, icy sniper, man without a heart, a calculating machine who operates solely on loyalty to his “band of brothers” and honour, is emotionally satisfying. I kind of hated the glorification of the military “loved I not honour more” code, but I was sucked in. I enjoyed how Mariah went from victim to hear-me-roar woman, to a sense of self-worth and purpose. And throughout, even when Mariah was at her weakest, I loved her wry sense of humour. Even Griffin eventually won me over, if only for his more conventional ice-man-melts because of what the heroine makes him feel. And the feels, they were thick. The suspense was wicked suspenseful; the baddies were positively evil and I was gleeful when they got their comeuppance. I thought Crews did this clever twist with the notion of pride: as Mariah gains hers, it’s a good thing; and, as Griffin concedes his, it’s a good thing: and that is the stuff of which their HEA is made.
Military glorification aside, it’s a page-turner. The heroine is aces and her vindication is feminist, class-associated, and personal. She defeats her husband, his betrayals and humiliations of her as “white trash”; she gains strength, purpose, a career, and a devoted, sexy hunk. (There’s also an eye-rolling reversal to her fertility issues, which goes with the military glorification ugh-a-thon.) Miss Austen and I, spinster-sisters, enjoyed it. If you can overlook the problematic bits, you will too. Sniper’s Pride is part of my stretching-to-the-doom-of-time ARC TBR, so I’m glad I’ve reviewed it.
Caitlin Crews’s Sniper’s Pride is published by Jove Books (Berkley). It was released on May 7th and you can enjoy it from your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Jove (Berkley) via Netgalley.
(For those to whom these things might be of interest, the fingerless gloves were unravelled and restarted. My tension is better and they’re looking a tad less, um, misshapen and voluminous. Maybe.)