Rafe And Sheila
by Shiloh Walker, fantasy (2005)
Ellora's Cave, $5.95, ISBN 1-4199-0165-6

The cover of Rafe And Sheila, the sixth book in Shiloh Walker's series The Hunters, distracts me because I keep going back to the cover while reading to study it. I know that thing at the bottom right is most likely a candle, but I can't help thinking that it looks like a penis with the tip amputated off and - ouch - someone has shoved a length of wire through the urethral canal. I keep looking at it because I really can't believe that the cover artist didn't notice how macabre the thing is. Or maybe it's just my own perverted imagination at work here, heh.

Anyway, the story. Sorry, folks, but I hate Rafe's guts. Perhaps that is why the more I turn to gaze at the cover in reluctant fascination, the more I am convinced that the cover artist shares my feeling about Rafe and that... thing... at the bottom right of the cover is the best thing that can happen to Rafe.

Rafe and Sheila are two Hunters who are also sleeping together. They live with Erika, an unnaturally creepy young girl who is happy that Rafe is having sex with Sheila. I hope the two Hunters have checked their bedroom for hidden cameras. Anyway, Rafe feels that his lust for Sheila is weakening him, so he mostly ignores her unless he wants to get some, and then he resumes treating her coldly after he's done. Sheila has had enough of being treated in this way so she tells him to get out of his bedroom one day. Rafe is the kind of fellow who just doesn't get it, however. Sheila dumps him and walks away the next day and the silly dolt still doesn't get it.

Six months later, Rafe decides that he's been away from Sheila long enough and it's time she lets him back into her life and, more importantly, her bed. He finds her in bed with a bloke called Dominic and that's when things get ugly. There is a subplot about some villain running around causing trouble, but in this story Rafe acts like a complete psychopath on the loose that I'm not sure if he's the bigger threat in the story. There are alpha males and there are complete nutjobs. In real life, Rafe would be that crazy ex-husband who wouldn't leave and instead stalk the woman to make her life utterly miserable. He's not abusive, but he is often on the verge of violence, sometimes even towards Sheila, that it disturbs me. He disturbs me, especially when he's supposed to be this ancient vampire Hunter charged with the authority to enforce the law on creepy kind everywhere.

I'm sorry, really, but Rafe is just too much for me to take. I'm afraid that I'm just not the reader who can appreciate the more extreme kind of domineering alpha males that Rafe embodies. On the bright side, I'm pleased to see that Ms Walker is definitely working on improving her craft because the story here is coherent and tightly focused, a marked improvement from earlier books in the series. Believe it or not, I actually have a pretty fun time hating on Rafe as a result of the quality of the writing. I don't know what Sheila is thinking to get back with Rafe, but for the most part, I like how Ms Walker manages to portray her emotions very well to the point that Sheila becomes a well-developed character with some depths. Oh, and that annoying distracting fool Malachi shows up again, ugh. I'm really starting to hate that fellow.

But not as much as I can't stand Rafe though. So here's to amputated penises on the cover with a wire shoved into the shaft. A violent and gory notion, sure, but that's the cover that is most appropriate for Rafe's story. The cover artist must be a genius after all.

Rating: 57

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