A lightweight but enjoyable anthology of hockey M/M, with proceeds going to a good cause. There are some good stories in here, notably Next Season byA lightweight but enjoyable anthology of hockey M/M, with proceeds going to a good cause. There are some good stories in here, notably Next Season by Avon Gale and I also enjoyed Even Strength by Cherylanne Corneille, with whom I was not previously familiar . I love when an anthology gives me a new author to check out. One story is a bit shallow, and another story is more of an excerpt, without a real ending, but over all, the collection forms a pleasant couple of hours' reading, if you enjoy watching hockey players falling in love. Which I do....more
4.5 stars, rounded up because I love the guys, the low-key build of the story, and the writing.
Enemies to lovers is a tough thing to write well, and4.5 stars, rounded up because I love the guys, the low-key build of the story, and the writing.
Enemies to lovers is a tough thing to write well, and particularly past childhood bully to lover. The scars of childhood bullying linger, set deep, often shaping behavior decades after they are past. It's a difficult balance to allow that to have its full impact, and yet to achieve a reconciliation that feels real. This book did a good job of having Fen pulled between his long-standing hurt and anger, and his appreciation for the man Alfie has become - a man who is trying to make amends.
I adored Alfie - he's rather clueless about people and social life (and his career success fit a bit oddly with the rest of how he is presented.) But he has a good heart, a hopeful, wistful quality to him that was believable as the thing that could win his past victim, Fen, over, eventually.
Alexis Hall writes so well, with a use of language that is flavorful and full of images. There are moments of humor, and the drama is for the most part low key, with nuanced secondary characters. A plot device near the end was not my favorite, but fit Alfie's character well enough to be workable in this case. A book I will no doubt reread. ...more
I enjoyed this addition to the range of M/M vampire and magic novels. Angel is a necromancer and wizard, who managed to come up with a spell to defeatI enjoyed this addition to the range of M/M vampire and magic novels. Angel is a necromancer and wizard, who managed to come up with a spell to defeat an army of enscorled vampires, years ago. He and his younger brother are the only members of his family to survive that battle, and the brother, Isaac, lives with his lover in an apartment across town now, prickly and distant with Angel. Angel remains solitary, teaching students and keeping his head down, and trying to mentor his brother from afar.
When events put him back into the circles of the vampire powers in the city, he discovers that one vampire in particular, Simeon, has been watching him. Not for revenge, or caution, but because Simeon is drawn to Angel's power and his snark and his solitary strength. When it turns out that someone else has far more sinister interest in Angel, Simeon becomes his support, and much more.
I enjoyed this version of vamps and magic, and liked the characters, particularly Angel, and the touch of humor. Simeon is a bit perfect, and falls for Angel very fast, but the paranormal underpinnings let that feel plausible enough. The magic parts of the story were well-described and resulted in fairly coherent world building. A larger than average number of editing errors, homonym confusions, etc, were only slightly distracting, and the story itself was rewarding enough for me to immediately pick up the sequel. ...more
Another book by Metzger with two believable, interesting young men. Tav and Luca are in love, and their friends have all gotten used to them as a coupAnother book by Metzger with two believable, interesting young men. Tav and Luca are in love, and their friends have all gotten used to them as a couple. They've also gotten used to being out at home and at school, and no one thinking twice about ragging on them just as easily, and almost as lightly, as any of the straight couples. The guys, their friends and family all interact with teasing and rough-and-tumble, and good-natured slanging matches abound (in flavorful language.)
Life is pretty good for the guys, with the biggest problem being Tav getting jealous over Luca's school play pretend-kiss. So when a new kid in school seems to have a real problem with seeing gay guys around him, they react in very different ways. Tav takes the problem on with his fists, while Luca tries to figure out what makes the new kid tick. I'm not sure Luca's forbearance quite rang true by the end. I was on Tav's side. But the story was fast moving and pulled me along, and there were some unpredictable moments. Not my favorite by this author, but a solid story....more
I really enjoyed this coming out story. James is a young man caught between his image of what everyone wants him to be (including himself) and who heI really enjoyed this coming out story. James is a young man caught between his image of what everyone wants him to be (including himself) and who he really is. He's known he was gay since he was twelve, and yet he keeps hoping he's bi, or it's a phase, or if he hides it enough and ignores it enough, he'll fall in love with the great girl he's kind of dating.
His parents are just ordinary people, who care about him, but his mother has a photo of him and Theresa on the refrigerator. She has hopes and dreams and they don't include a boyfriend for James. His friends are a mixed bag, but mostly pretty good people, other than Mark who has anger issues. They might be okay with James being gay, but he doesn't trust that, and he doesn't want to hurt Theresa, and he's trapped. A moment of connection with the one out gay guy he knows in school is immediately followed by that guy ending up in the hospital. James is stuck in his life.
To escape, and understand, he writes letters he'll never send. Letters to Aaron, the gay kid he admires for being out even as he wishes Aaron knew how to blend in better. Letters to Theresa and his parents and the guy he kind of has a crush on. He stores this record of his real feelings locked in a desk drawer, and tries to live as if they weren't true. But then Aaron is hurt, James meets Topher who is out at another school, and interested in him. And he begins to wonder about a quote he can't track down -
"If you ain't scared standing up for what's right, then you ain't standing up for much." He notes that it is "- Not Mark Twain" as he was told. And yet, it has resonance for him. In just going along trying to keep the peace, what is he really standing for?
This book is well-written and the teens were rounded individuals, not stereotypes. The romance wasn't as intense as some YA, and felt perhaps more a stepping stone than a long-term love, but that's not unreasonable at that age. The story's a bit slow-moving, and although I appreciated the times it didn't fall to the easy stereotype, the resolution is low-key. Still, a good solid addition to coming out stories, with some nice variations of reaction between family and friends to James's gradual reveal, and a refreshing lack of melodrama....more
This is a coming out story that gives the readers a sympathetic, believable, young MC and also a sideways view into the mind of the antagonist. As theThis is a coming out story that gives the readers a sympathetic, believable, young MC and also a sideways view into the mind of the antagonist. As the book opens, 16-year-old Shane has never told his career-military dad that he's gay, or that he's dating a boy, or anything personal about his life that doesn't fit with his father's plans for sons to follow in his footsteps. Shane and his older brother have been raised by his dad as a single parent, and Shane doesn't ever want to lose family approval or risk their love. But when his hard-won secret life with school friends and boyfriend is about to be gone a hundred miles away with his dad's new posting, he has to make some hard choices. Shane is caught between losing the relationship he has with his father, or abandoning the ones that keep him sane as an out gay boy with his group of friends. There are no easy answers.
The author gives us some nicely-judged hints at what is going on with Shane's dad - his thoughts not as simple as Shane imagines, as the father looks forward to a move to a new location and a closer relationship with his own girlfriend. Almost everyone in this book is in for a surprise at some point, and events may not work out as expected. I really enjoyed the characters, the emotions, and the play of expectations and stereotypes that turned into real people. Well done....more
A wonderful, realistic, well-written story about two guys figuring out their relationship, with several strikes against them. This book has solidly ceA wonderful, realistic, well-written story about two guys figuring out their relationship, with several strikes against them. This book has solidly cemented Matthew Metzger as an auto-buy author for me. I love his guys - their edge of attitude and snark, their realistic conversations, the warmth down under the person they show the world. His main characters are complex, imperfect, and highly relatable, and I just went out to buy all of his books I had not yet read. And I'm glad, in my confidence in his writing, that I didn't read any spoilery reviews for this before beginning, so the story opened out organically, with the small surprises and shifts unforseen, and fun to encounter.
In this book we meet Eli and Rob. Eli is just out of school and working a dead end job while still living at home. His parents are both police officers, and while they care about him, they don't really know or understand him. His father, in particular, has a very authoritarian view of parenting, not actively abusive, but not flexible. He never imagined he'd end up with a gay son who loves art, and he's not supportive.
And then there's Rob, whom Eli got together with by blowing him one night after meeting at a club. Rob is tall, tattooed, and an ex-con who did three years for assault. He's mostly going straight, but still uses weed and probably sells a little, and might nick a wallet or two. He's not the guy that Eli's dad can accept for his son's boyfriend (all the more so because Eli's sister had an abusive boyfriend, and the dad sees Rob as a threat to be just the same.)
Eli is still a work in progress, but he's pretty together for all that. The problem is, he loves Rob but he also wants to keep his family. Rob's rough past, as a kid who ended up in care, with family in trouble with the cops, and then in prison himself, means he's not a fan of cops, even Eli's family. He's rude, hostile and although he tries to compromise for Eli's sake, it's far too easy to mouth off when challenged. And violence is his ingrained response to being threatened or furious.
It looks like Eli may have to choose between his boyfriend and his parents. But he's going to give it one more try, to achieve enough peace to have both. There are things about Eli's life that make that an even harder row to hoe, but he is one stubborn guy with the mental toughness to maybe make it work.
One interesting aspect (but far from the only one) about this book is that Eli and Rob are into BDSM, but they are both switches. At any given time, one or the other of them may need to top, or to submit. This feels real and natural here, to my layman's eye. There is not the heavy D/s dynamic of some traditional BDSM, but a more flowing interaction where both guys have learned to read each other and to express their needs. It's sane, safe, and consensual, but also somewhat spontaneous and not heavily scripted. I really believed in the way this aspect fit the characters. And of course, it adds an edge to keeping secrets from Eli's dad, whose idea of abuse probably would have fits about some of what they do together.
The secondary characters are great as well, multifaceted and interesting. I highly recommend this one to readers looking for a fascinating contemporary with differences, that is still the story of two very real guys and a relationship with a sweet, loving heart under the challenges....more
Holden is a familiar and intriguing character from the Infected universe, and I was interested to see what the author would do with him. He's always bHolden is a familiar and intriguing character from the Infected universe, and I was interested to see what the author would do with him. He's always been dark, controlled, a bit bitter, and his protective instincts towards those weaker and damaged by life are strong. But so is his appetite for vengeance and meyhem. In this book he remains true to his character, without morphing into a hero overnight. It will be interesting to see him unfold though this series.
Many familiar faces get a look in on this story - it helps tie it in to the first series, but makes it feel a bit scattered with the plethora of secondary characters orbiting around Holden. A couple of new potential side-kicks appear. I had hoped that Scott would be there more centrally, as both a foil for Holden and as a ticket to a softer side of him. But clearly Holden has a ways to go before any kind of soft is allowed to emerge. Without either big-cat shifting or romance, this book had a different feel, a cooler, disaffected gay mystery. Those who are fans of Fox will enjoy watching him begin to redesign his life here, while remaining true to the cynical loner he has been so far.
This book has one of the most broken characters I've met in M/M, but the things that happened to Jonah as a child are not quite the standard abuse troThis book has one of the most broken characters I've met in M/M, but the things that happened to Jonah as a child are not quite the standard abuse tropes of M/M. Still, close enough that this needs a big trigger warning on it. Jonah survived his bad times, and has managed to reach adulthood, but he's deeply damaged and circumscribed by what he went through.
Twice a year, his panic attacks and hallucinations begin to crowd him, until he reaches the point where even his reclusive life as a writer is impossible. Then he checks himself into a local psychiatric inpatient hospital to weather the worst of it. But his past is also a reason, or perhaps an excuse, to refuse drugs and dodge therapy. Jonah is locked in a holding pattern, living half a life. He thinks that's probably the best he'll ever manage.
Cameron was a childhood TV and music star, whose controlling father has created a fictional perfect life for the family band. It wouldn't be so bad, except fictional Cameron is straight, and real Cameron is deep in the closet. He took to drinking, and one day he drank too much and crashed with a blood alcohol level that could not be ignored. His connections do get him a placement as both orderly and patient at the psychiatric facility, doing public service hours, and getting some counseling. Cameron's not an alcoholic, but he is at loose ends, cast out of his band, and unsure of his future.
These two young men meet, and have an instant connection, facilitated by Jonah's teenaged crush on Cameron's fictional character. But the obstacles to them having a real relationship are both internal and external. Jonah has a lot of healing to get through. And unless Cameron breaks free of his father's influence, and Jonah is able to leave the hospital, they're playing with fire that has nowhere to go.
I appreciated that this is another book which uses real, extended psychotherapy to treat a damaged character. It was also cool to see Jonah's perception of the doctors and their motives change. I liked the slow arc of his progress. The climactic events were not allowed to sink to melodrama (although the childhood trauma verged on it), and the ending was nicely but not impossibly warm. ...more
It can be tough to do a simple romance, without a second genre, without angst and pain, with guys who are just ordinary, appealing, interesting characIt can be tough to do a simple romance, without a second genre, without angst and pain, with guys who are just ordinary, appealing, interesting characters. Lane Hayes has succeeded admirably in giving us Zeke, a driven Wall Street exec whose motivations are both his own personal drive, and his deep need to prove himself to his father. Not so much his current father, as the shadows of the man from his childhood - the guy who didn't understand or appear to accept a gay son.
Benny is everything Zeke shies away from - too flamboyant, too soft, too gay in ways that can't be hidden or ignored. And yet, Benny has the courage of owning his identity, and a bubbly personality, and a warm heart. In the cold competitive world where Zeke excels, bubbles and warmth and that kind of courage are rare. Zeke can't help being just a little attracted. And a little taste of Benny only shows how special this guy is. Zeke got where he is to prove he was as good as any straight guy, despite his father's disdain. Now he has to discover the kind of man he wants to be, for himself.
This is a smooth, easy read with some laughs, some gentle warmth, and some heartache. It'll go on my comfort-reread shelf, and I will buy more from this author....more
4.5 stars. Dylan and Cam grew up together, came out to each other, fell a little in love too young to do much about it, shared hopes and dreams. But D4.5 stars. Dylan and Cam grew up together, came out to each other, fell a little in love too young to do much about it, shared hopes and dreams. But Dylan's mum died at his birth, his father before he was into his teens, and his grandmother when he was fourteen. Suddenly he had no family left, and everything changed.
From Cam's point of view, his best friend and boyhood crush vanished into the foster care system, unfindable, unreachable, as Cam went on with his life and his own warm family and his dreams of becoming a chef. From Dylan's point of view, he lost everything that mattered, suddenly shunted from home to home, clinging only to his father's old guitar and a couple of photographs. Whatever dreams he once had were drowned in the necessities of living another day.
Now many years later Cam is living his dream. He has his restaurant, he has great friends and employees, and although his boyfriend turned out to be a cheating bastard, he's pretty happy with his life. Until the day he finds Dylan waiting outside the door of his restaurant, alone and in need of... well, a place to stay, a job, and everything. What he doesn't figure out right away, despite his friend Paul's warnings, is that Dylan is a heroin addict. And whoever, whatever, an addict was in a past life, the drug now comes first for them, before old loyalties or honesty or health or life itself.
Dylan has almost hit bottom. He tried to do better, after aging out of foster care. He started working with a friend, had a small place of his own. But failure and loss dogged him, and one day the seductive beauty of forgetting, of not caring for just a moment, hooked him on the needle in his arm. Now he turns tricks for the money to score his next high, spiraling down.
In a last ditch effort to turn it around, he seeks out his childhood friend. But even his feelings for Cam, and his need for Cam's respect, aren't as strong as his need for the drug. He tries to keep those two things separate - to let himself have Cam's friendship and a job and a place to stay, and hold his habit away from that life, in dark hidden corners. But heroin isn't something that is content to be a little hobby on the side. He's wrecking the one chance he has at love and life. Somehow, things have to change.
This book is a very well-done look at addiction and a troubled past. There are no easy answers, no healing with the power of love. I really appreciated some of those deliberately-realistic aspects, the clear understanding that for the rest of his life Dylan will be an addict. Recovering, hopefully, but never "cured". I liked the vivid reminder that loving someone who is an addict isn't easy, and that there's a line between supporting and enabling that's hard to see from the inside. I didn't fall in love with these two guys as much as my very favorites of the characters I read, but I did care about them, wanted the best for them, and was invested in their hard-won successes and painful failures.
The secondary characters were also well done, and since this book lists as a book #1, I'm hoping we'll see a story for a couple of them, down the road. I will definitely pick up the sequel, whomever it features....more
This is an upbeat, smoothly-written story of a trans woman accidentally meeting the man who will look at her and see her as a person, not a set of phyThis is an upbeat, smoothly-written story of a trans woman accidentally meeting the man who will look at her and see her as a person, not a set of physical attributes.
Lexi isn't looking for a relationship. In fact, since she had one bad experience, she's actively avoiding any romantic entanglement. Although she passes as a cis-woman, she hasn't physically transitioned. Getting romantic with a guy would mean exposing her secrets, both physical and emotional. She has no expectation that it would go well. She's already been rejected by her parents, who cannot accept a daughter. She's not planning to set herself up for that kind of heartache again. But she starts a friendship with the skier she's been admiring from afar - just casual, platonic, until they both begin to feel something more.
John has a freak mishap on the slopes while training for the Olympics. The person who helps him out is one of the most interesting and attractive women he's ever seen. John is fascinated by Lexi, and eager to get closer to her. But although he finds her, and they become friends, she keeps holding him at a distance. He can't help wondering why. He tries not to push, but he can't imagine anything they can't work through together.
As a cis person, I don't always catch the nuances, but this book seems to avoid some of the traps of the genre. Lexi isn't some object of pity, drowning in the angst of her family's rejection. She's making a new life, and if it's sometimes tough, still she has hopes and goals. She hasn't transitioned physically, and is still dealing with the physical realities of a male anatomy. That seemed to be done respectfully, neither dwelling on dysphoria, nor ignoring it.
My biggest reason not to give this 5 stars is a bit of lack of range and nuance. Characters were either opponents or allies. John in particular seemed a bit too good.
He isn't completely perfect, and has at least one moment of doubt about dating a transwoman, but I thought that for someone who had no previous contact with LGBTQ folk - who had to Google to know the term was transgender and not "transvestite" - he seemed too comfortable. It was lovely that he would think a question and then answer himself mentally with "but of course it didn't really matter." Perfect. Implausible.
His comfort with her anatomy as they approached intimacy, from someone previously staunchly het, was also too smooth and unfumbling. I loved that there was on-page sex that was neither censored, not sensationalized, but it didn't feel quite real. And some parts of the process of becoming a couple that might have been tougher and deeper to explore were not present. (view spoiler)[I'd like to have seen John introducing her to his friends and family, especially after the news story. Him having to mediate between the woman he loves and ignorance or misunderstanding in his own world, would have allowed for a more nuanced range of attitudes. Here there was little in between John, roommate Tammy and Tammy's family's total acceptance, and Lexi's family's rejection. I wanted to see that middle ground dealt with, especially by John. (hide spoiler)]
So I liked this a lot, appreciated the way it was approached with very few sensitivity issues that I myself noticed (beyond one time Lexi talks about prejudice toward her sexuality, as opposed to her gender identity - a slip of the tongue moment, not a sign of misunderstanding, IMO). I appreciated that it was essentially a sweet skiing M/F romance, with Lexi's particular concerns important to, but not deeply changing, the progression of the story. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is a journey through the history of two men, looking back from their old age, over recent eras in American life. Smoothly and clearly writteThis book is a journey through the history of two men, looking back from their old age, over recent eras in American life. Smoothly and clearly written, in steps through time, we learn how two guys from the south of the sixties, one white and one black, became allies, school friends, attracted, lovers, and eventually more. The Vietnam war era is a vivid piece of the puzzle, impacting their lives from several directions. Family expectations, social pressures, homophobia, racism, and fear of rejection keep these two men orbiting around each other without fully connecting for a long time.
I truly enjoyed the realistic feel of this - the fact that it wasn't all smooth sailing, and also the fact that the guys, in finding their way to be together, made mistakes. They took other paths, and learned about themselves. They didn't pine in virginal self-denial, but moved through realistic lives, until they came to the conclusion that each was what the other needed to be whole, forever.
For all of the deeply-hard issues that arise through the book, it still has more of a warm feel than an angsty one. Perhaps because it is always framed as flash-backs, we are reassured before and after each episode that these guys made it through. Some of those around them, some they cared about, didn't. But those are not the times that appear in depth on the page, and what is present is sometimes poignant, sometimes frustrating, and often sweet and lovely. There were things I'd have loved to see on page and didn't, but any story covering a lifetime has to pick and choose, and the author's choices here give us a tale of hope, and a warm HEA. ...more
Heidi Cullinan is an auto-buy author for me. Her characters resonate with me, and her writing flows so well. I loved Dance With Me, and I'm happy to gHeidi Cullinan is an auto-buy author for me. Her characters resonate with me, and her writing flows so well. I loved Dance With Me, and I'm happy to get this related story.
This book follows Tomás, a young dance instructor (among his three or four jobs) whom we met in book 1. He lives with his immigrant parents, across the hall from kindergarten teacher Spenser. When a 15 year old dance student of Tomás's shows up, after being kicked out of his home for being gay, Spenser's immediate opening of his home to the boy brings him to Tomás's attention.
Tomás is the epitome of the good guy trying to take care of everyone - his parents, his sister's two kids, the dance students. He's the main wage earner for multiple people, and he's working so many jobs that he has really no time to live his own life. But it's not like he can just quit and let them fend for themselves. These are people he loves, so he's trapped. His growing interest in Spenser has to be fit in around a few free minutes here and there.
Spenser is a quiet guy who's been keeping his head down at the Catholic school where he teaches, and spending his free time in solitary pursuits. He never contemplated taking in a foster child, let alone a battered teen. But from the moment Duon shows up bruised and lost, Spenser can do nothing less than his best. The fact that taking care of Duon also means time with Tomás is a confusing bonus, as Spenser's habit of keeping to himself and Tomás's schedule have them dancing around their attraction in a nice, slow burn.
This book has a lot of serious topics in it - the foster care system, LGBTQ teen homelessness, immigration and deportation, child welfare, the MN vote for a constitutional marriage amendment. These are things the author clearly feels very strongly about, and she writes eloquently about the pain and fear and risks of being on the wrong side of a poorly run and underfunded bureaucracy. The Avenues for Homeless Youth that she describes is a great Minnesota organization that I also support. I had a "Vote No" bumper sticker and cheered the results. And the issues of undocumented immigrants, whose lives and families can turn to disaster on a dime, are also important and topical. But it's a lot of intense topics.
The story perhaps suffers a little from the need to get good info about all of these issues into one tale of fiction. There were times when I wanted to get back to the characters in a more mundane way. I also kind of wanted (view spoiler)[a little less positivity at the end, because the wrap felt a little universally sweet, although I appreciated missing some of the potentially stereotypical drama with Spenser's job. (hide spoiler)]
We only catch glimpses of Ed and Laurie, although it's fun to see them again. Ed's injury and lack of healing do have a moment or two on the page, but the guys are seen from the outside, so we miss the vulnerability and complexity we know they have. The new main characters are great, though. Duon almost steals the show here and there, and Tomás's family are fun to be around. All in all, I enjoyed the read. And if it inspired me to send Avenues another donation, that's not a bad thing either.
This book gives us Kavon and Darren as a committed couple. They are learning how to work together, despite clashes of style, and their guides are alsoThis book gives us Kavon and Darren as a committed couple. They are learning how to work together, despite clashes of style, and their guides are also pretty much of a team now. The guys are under a lot of stress (of which Darren carries more than his share), and they have to push back against resistance from both the mundane and the magical sides, as they pursue their unfinished cases - both O'Brien, and the trafficking case. The team as a whole makes some strides toward remembering how to function together, since the betrayal by Traci shook them all. And the new guy - Boyd - was a great addition.
There is a fair bit of world-building that helps explain some of the magical questions from the first two books, although I still felt a bit shaky on some details as the story ended. The character of Salma al-Ghamdi added an interesting flavor and an authority on some aspects of the magical past. She was self-effacing enough that I didn't get a good feel for the person underneath her role as facilitator, but that fit with the way she was trained and commanded by her Egyptian leaders.
The end to the O'Brien case was more straightforward and faster than I expected, and a bit less dramatic (although props for realism maybe - (view spoiler)[we don't always get to blow the bad guy to smithereens, however satisfying it would be) (hide spoiler)]. The second case, and the local cops were actually more engaging to me when we got to that scene. The second action climax was more immediate and effective than the first. And a couple of great new characters appear.
I felt like there was a fair bit left hanging at the end of this book, (especially in terms of the power struggles, and the possibly looming evil - issues that have underlain the stories. There remains the whole reason for Bennu's interest in Kavon and willingness to take part, yet to appear on the page), so I'm going to assume that this is not the end of the series. This book was less tightly written than the previous two, but still a fun read. I plan to pick up the next one.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This bittersweet historical has a smooth, slightly unique writing style that fits with the era and characters. The definition of slow burn, it moves tThis bittersweet historical has a smooth, slightly unique writing style that fits with the era and characters. The definition of slow burn, it moves the main character through a long process of finding himself, and coming out of his shell, just a little, to the man who is at first his only friend, and then more. But in this age of church-centered life and class-distinctions, two men together fight a very uphill and risky battle, and their own fears may be their worst enemies.
Sad and sweet, this caught my heart and then broke it. I would definitely read more from this author....more
Caleb is a werewolf, but he lives a solitary existence far from his home pack. He's isolated himself, because ever since he was a teen, he's been attrCaleb is a werewolf, but he lives a solitary existence far from his home pack. He's isolated himself, because ever since he was a teen, he's been attracted to other male Alpha wolves. And that's forbidden. He left home abruptly, and went off to the Civil War, not following the man he wanted, but in some kind of hopeless echo. He still has nightmares from it. The man he might have loved died there, not in his arms, but on some other battlefield, already the wife of a woman back home. And what Caleb did, so as not to die himself, haunts him.
For a long time he's been the only local werewolf, tolerated by most, sometimes employed for his strength and scenting abilities, but mostly living on his isolated homestead, alone except for occasional letters from his older sister. Then the sheriff, who is as close to a friend as he has, shows up with a horrifically injured werewolf in his wagon. Caleb doesn't want to share his space, least of all with another unfamiliar male Alpha, but there's really no place else for the guy to go that he would survive. So Caleb takes Jacob in and tends him as he heals. And discovers that what he thought he knew might be incomplete.
There is interesting world-building in this story. Werewolves are known, sometimes tolerated, sometimes abused (in a bit of an odd mix, given the stated wealth and aggressive potential of werewolf packs.) They have a power structure built on birthright. They seem to tolerate more power for their women than the parallel human society, although we don't meet many of them here. Otherwise the world parallels that of 1870's US.
I enjoyed this book - both Caleb's slow (sometimes very slow) fight to change what he'd believed to be his limits, and the various other characters who come into it. Jacob is a cool guy, although we are still waiting to see what makes him an Alpha since that's not his aspect when around Caleb. There are two kids who are not overly cute, with a plausible backstory. The little bit at the end was perhaps a bit convenient and cutesy, thrown in to give us an extra warm sigh as it finished. I hope in a sequel it will induce some complications and real plot to justify it, and I did smile on that last page. I'll probably read the next one to see how this interesting worldbuilding looks in the more complicated setting of an urban pack, rather than a solitary rural homestead.