Josephine Myles's Reviews > Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder by Z.A. Maxfield
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's review
Mar 12, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary, m-m, romance
Read in March, 2011

For me Jacob’s Ladder felt like a return to form after my slight disappointment with Physical Therapy. It has connections with the previous two novels, in that the main character comes to St Nacho’s damaged and in need of healing, but it deals with issues of domestic abuse which made it a really compelling read. It could easily be read as a standalone as the connections between the different stories are only small details.

Jacob discovers St Nacho’s when he is en route to his brother’s after suffering a violent attack from his abusive lover. Suffering from a bad cold, he is thrown off the bus because of the other passengers’ paranoia about swine flu, landing in the forecourt of the Seaview Motel. Jacob meets his love interest, JT, while in the grip of a delirious fever when the young EMT carries him off to hospital. JT takes a real interest in Jacob, persuading him to attend the local meeting for survivors of domestic abuse, and Jacob soon starts to suspect the interest might be more than platonic. JT, however, is devoutly religious and so far back in the closet he is dubbed the “King of Narnia” at one point.

I’ve read other reader reviews of Jacob’s Ladder and have realised that my experience of the novel seems to be different to most people’s. A common complaint was that readers hated JT’s behaviour: sneaking in to Jacob’s motel room at night, then parading around with his latest female date in Nacho’s bar in the evening. Personally, I never had a problem with this and found JT’s actions easy to understand based on what he tells us. It could be a result of my own religious upbringing colouring my understanding of the situation, but I found Maxfield’s handling of the situation to be delicately nuanced and I was in awe of how much of JT’s inner struggle she was able to reveal through his actions while keeping Jacob as the narrator. I found JT a really appealing character, vulnerable, conflicted and needy, but with a kind heart and eventual bravery.

The domestic abuse angle is well handled, without too much angst and focusing on the strength and resilience of the characters who have been through it. Indeed, the group of women Jacob befriends and works with were a fascinating group of minor characters, all vivid despite their relative lack of page space.

I was totally gripped reading Jacob’s Ladder. Z.A. Maxfield has a gift for writing smooth prose that flows and carries you along, but then startles you with incredibly apt and beautiful imagery. There is much humour and light to be found in her work, even when tackling characters who have been damaged by life. The St Nacho’s series comes highly recommended, and I can’t wait to see if the two appealing characters she introduced in this novel become the stars of the next.

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