Sweetwater, Lisa Henry
Review from jeannie zelos book reviews
I hadn’t realised Lisa was one of the authors of the fabulous When All the World Sleeps which I loved. This book has the same gentle feel, married with a gritty and at times uncomfortable realism.
It’s set back in a time when life was harsh, death all too common. Families were looking for a better way of life, hoping to find if not riches at least somewhere they could work and live comfortably. In truth though many of them died before they even got to their destination. That’s what happened to Elijah’s family, died victims of the same disease that left him profoundly deaf while still on their journey. Taken in by a doctor who has lost his wife and daughter, he’s treated as a son and the doc teaches him to read and write and allows him to help with his work. Elijah is intelligent but is treated by many as stupid because of his deafness. He tries to keep out of the way of trouble, and to make his adopted father proud, but it’s tough when one of the biggest bulllies is his butcher employer. Elijah gets made to work nights with the butcher killing and dressing stolen cattle. He knows the doc wouldn’t approve but he’s stuck, he has to do what his employer wants…he knows too that the doc wouldn’t be happy about how Elijah looks and thinks about at other men – the doc is a religious man and the bible says what Elijah wants is a sin, an abomination. Then he gets caught up in Harlan Crane’s web, and he’s even more guilty about the things he wants and Harlan does to him – not guilty enough though to stop him next time…Poor Elijah, I felt for him. Apart from the doc he’s alone, no friends, no family, no one to talk his problems through with. It’s a tough life anyway for most people, and with his deafness its even tougher for him. He’s publicly ridiculed by so many, even by Harlan, who’s really an abusive bully, using Elijah for his own pleasure not for what Elijah wants. Elijah is actually more intelligent than so many of the townsfolk who treat hom as a simpleton, but he’s at the mercy of almost everyone it seems.
Then Grady comes along. He’s one of the cowboys bringing in the cattle. He and his family lost their ranch and are doing this to finance another…but it seems to him that’s a long way off and they are risking their lives with every trip. When he sees Elijah it makes him want more, he wants to help him, be with him but it all seems impossible.
It’s a soft, slow coming together of the two, hampered along the way by the violence of the times and the situations that are outside their control. I loved Elijah – felt so sorry for him, he’s a victim of circumstance and yet treated as though its within his control. Grady too – he’s accepted his role within the family and let his cousin lead but what they did went against his nature – he’s not a thief by nature, just wants a life where he can work and be happy. Then once he sees Elijah he wonders if he could be part of that too.
It’s a great read, I really enjoyed it. The time period was conveyed really well, with the grittiness of life where death was just a gunshot away for so many people, lost homes, jobs and starvation all too common. That for those who fit the norm. Add in anything that made one different and the chance of surviving, never mind being happy, was difficult.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite up to When All The World Sleeps for me, but a really good read.
ARC supplied via Netgalley and Riptide.
When All the World Sleeps, Lisa Henry, JA Rock
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
I’ve had several m/m romances now from Riptide and they all have a certain quality of writing about them. There’s no silliness, no fluff, no glaring plot holes or errors, and for those looking for a quality romance its a great place to start. Both these authors are new to me, and had the book not come from the Rip-tide outlet I may have held back as the plot sounds – well, hard to make work. But these two excellent writers did it. Made me believe in Daniel along with Bel, and Dav, Daniel’s probation officer.
To begin Dav is the only person who believes Daniel – the rest of the town think he’s just using an excuse to get away with a revenge killing. Then Bel picks up what seems like a drunk Daniel one evening, takes him home to prevent further fights with others, and on the way the car jerks and Daniel reacts as if he doesn’t know what’s just passed. Bel is still not convinced by then, but later sees the chains Daniel locks himself in each night to try to stop him sleepwalking…Talking to him he gets a bit more insight, and offers to stay with him each night to protect others in the town. Bel’s gay too, and as the two men spend more time together the attractions grows. I love that part of a romance, and here its superb, taking Bel from a cynical unbeliever into a sympathetic and understanding lover. Its creeps up slowly, events unfold, some of which Bel sees, some of which he doesn’t. Bel’s trying to help but feeling his way, there’s little advice available for this situation and of course he doesn’t always get it right. I loved Bel, quiet in his own way, trying to fit into a town where gays aren’t popular he’s just kept quiet about his sexuality. His family all live her, and they’re very close so moving away where he may be more accepted would mean losing that close contact and support he has with them. He’s been happy enough..until he falls for Daniel and life and the problems surrounding them jump in.
As always in a small town – and US is same as UK there…everyone knows everything – or at least they think they do, and they hold and aren’t afraid. to express strong opinions on Bel and Daniel’s relationship. There’ the usual mix of bigots and bullies who think they are above the law and happy to take things into their own hands when they feel justice hasn’t been served to their satisfaction. Sometimes I think people like that focus on others wrongdoings rather than look at the shortcomings of their own lives. There’s the psychosocial aspect too of Daniel’s problem – what caused it, why does it happen and how can it be resolved. Looking beyond the face forward problem to what’s behind it can change so much what we see about things and I find problems like this, motives and ways of resolution really interesting. Bel encourages Daniel to seek help, to go out into the town more with him, and of course for some of the local bigots that doesn’t go down well. All small towns seem to suffer from people like that, judgemental, convinced their way is the only way, even if they are being hypocritical. In this town add all that to the fact Daniel has caused someone to die, there’s the gay factor and the way they aren’t happy he’s involved local policeman Bel into his life, and you can see trouble brewing. Even Bel’s own family aren’t totally on board except for sister in law Dav. It’s a tough decisions for Bel, standing by Daniel could lose him his home and family.
I loved Bel and Daniel, they felt so real and we got to see aspects of their inner thoughts and understand their fears. Its a very emotional read…there is some sex, but mostly there’s more tender moments, the touches, glances, kisses that make up the bulk of a romance. Poor Daniel, I really felt for him, he had an awful problem to live through without any family support, and until Bel he was coping alone and losing the battle.
It’s priced at £4.94 and at over 326 pages its a lovely long book that really explores the characters and issues raised. I love these long books, they make the reader feel they are there in the situation.
ARC supplied by Netgalley