The Heart of Texas is one of those books that sit just a little bit higher than the rest for me, its story line and characters will remain with me long after the final page has been read. There is nothing overtly extraordinary within its pages; instead, its setting is quite dull in comparison to other more daring novels. RJ manages to engage me and enclose me within the plot using just five basic locations; that of a mansion, a backwoods bar, a high-rise workplace, a horse ranch and a hospital. RJ writes the locations to this story in a clever, roundabout way, never giving me a complete scene, but providing enough dialogue that my imagination is more than sufficed.
There are many characters held within the plot of this novel, too many to name, with the two main male characters being Riley and Jack, members of contesting families with long histories and even longer memories.
I thought it was good that RJ initially portrayed Riley as the weaker, younger, bi-curious brother. The one that daddy dearest would have wasted time investing in, only to have the tables turn when the truth is revealed and more than lust takes over. This impression is completely incorrect and only gave me more of an incentive to remain with Riley, as cookie crumbs of his true self are revealed as the story develops.
Jack is on the verge of being one of those larger than life characters, held back only by the realism RJ manages to impart through emotional outbursts. The distrust Jack feels for Riley at first is a living, breathing thing along with the contempt at the lengths he believes Riley will go to for money. Remaining true to himself and the love of his close family regardless of what they have been through, Jack does what he needs to do, and will keep doing whatever it takes for those in his immediate family.
This family connection is in direct contrast to Riley's home situation, where there are precious few in this lovely man's corner. As each man lets their guard down, slowly but surely home truths are revealed and not only does Riley realise what he might lose, Jack realises what he needs to do to keep the man he has managed to fall in love with. They will prove themselves to each other over again before they have the chance at their own happily ever after.
There are so many levels to this story, which is wonderfully lengthy in a luscious way. I feel I could read this book over just to pick up on all the little things I missed the first time around. For anyone who enjoys stories about men who just needed the right man to knock them over the gay fence, who enjoys stories that contain more than one romance or couple finding their happy ending, or for anyone who likes a bit of juicy family drama, this story, written in a contemporary style, is just the thing. Nx
Note: Reviewed for Queer Magazine Online.