I like the feeling of ease I experienced when starting this book, in getting to know Joshua, his uncle Tucker, young Jesse, his mom Sarafina and Eli, the man who may be destined to help Joshua break through the pile of crap by which life has surrounded him, nearly swallowing him alive.
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
My Rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Three years undercover with one of the worst gangs in the country left FBI agent Joshua Chastain shattered. Battling nightmares and addiction, he leaves the concrete jungle for New Mexico horse country, hoping to start over on his uncle’s ranch.
Foreman Eli Kelly spends his life rehabilitating abused animals, and Joshua is just another lost soul. But as Joshua slowly begins to put his life back together, Eli realizes that Joshua is a lot more than his newest project.
Joshua’s plan seems to work—maybe a fresh start was just what he needed. Then, just when he has finally found a sense of peace, crime and hatred nearly destroy all his hard work, forcing him to reevaluate what he wants out his relationship with Eli and his own life.
Broken lives can be mended… if you let them…
I wouldn’t call this a romance in the way most of us would interpret one to be. Nothing romantic or sexual happens until far into the story. I won’t say when specifically, I don’t want to give anything away. This is, though, a piece of fiction about two men and the people in their lives as they all work to find their own ways. Can they figure them out so that they get to do this all together without losing anyone? With high points of prose and flaws in the flow, this isn’t a story meant to blow the roof off of the place. It will make you think, hopefully make you feel and do it all in a subdued, rather realistic manner.
When it comes to Josh and Eli, their first encounter did feel a little odd to me as I read it. It was quick and jumbled, but I don’t want to pass judgment, venturing a guess that nearly everyone has at least one not-so-spectacular first in their own history. I leave it to you to decide on this one. Also, to get it out of the way and on to better things, one pet peeve is the nearly immediate use of the word “lover” when it comes to people who have literally been together only once. This is most definitely my own cringe-worthy kind of thing, but I mention it to explain the few times I was taken out of the story.
Sometimes I felt a gap between intention and connection. The dialogue may have told me one thing but the action and emotion demonstrated didn’t always match up. This wasn’t the case all throughout but it did occur in relation to some major story points and dampened the emotional impact for me, especially what was supposed to be between Josh and Eli.
On the flipside of that, Josh and Eli haven’t known each other all that long and this lack of connection I felt between them, despite the dialogue, speaks to the fact that this isn’t a romance, per se. We all may say things, even in wishing them desperately to be so, that aren’t yet true. We’ve all done things that may appear to be without explanation, especially when attempting to get your life back on track. This is Joshua. He came as close to having his stripped from him as one can without it actually happening.
There is a lot of detail about ranching, horses and life on a large farm. I enjoyed this for what it was and it definitely helped inject much flavor into the setting for this book. However, sometimes it felt like this got in the way of really getting to know Josh and Eli as they were not always given the same level of attention. I did picture this dusty western set in modern times, with characters that felt real and to which we could all relate. To have had more balance between the ranching detail and the people detail may have catapulted this one to top shelf for me.
I will say that when I wasn’t able to read (i.e., being at work, boo hiss), I did think about these two, wondering what was going to happen next, that I wanted to get home and keep reading. Can’t really beat that, eh? What also can’t be beat are some of the themes in this book. They are honorable, important and relevant, even if presented with a bit of a heavy hand. Not only do I forgive for this but there is no need for forgiveness. Sometimes things are just too important to worry about being clever and do anything but put them right out there for everyone to not only see but be unavoidable.
Some of the clunky nature of the writing and the sudden turns that felt rather baseless within the story may have benefited from additional editing. Things could have been tightened up by removing some of the repetition and ways found to deepen the barely voiced but wildly evident need for each other that Josh and Eli feel. We get glimpses and I latched onto each one. Those elusive sunbursts of clarity.
There are some very heartfelt scenes between Josh and his uncle Tucker, as well as between Tucker and Eli, his right hand man. Tucker is probably the main force onto which the reader can grab and use as their vehicle for navigating through this story. He loves both of these young men and wants the best for them.
The ending feels realistic and hopeful, if not guaranteed. Not much in life is, so it works. This one worked for me more than it didn’t but it has its issues. Despite those, I would still recommend this book for whenever you’re reaching for something with a good story, light on romance and leaves you with that same hopeful feeling. 🙂
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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