Why I read this book: I have always enjoyed Kate Sherwood’s stories, as she seems to be very much in touch with the human element and the basics of real relationships between people of different backgrounds and life experiences. I admit the idea of someone wanting to renovate a former church into a business for performing gay weddings in a beautiful and respectful environment was rather inspiring to me. And then toss a neighboring, somewhat small-town farmer/rancher/cowboy who just so happens to be somewhat ‘out’ but as far from the spectrum of the first main character as possible. Well, curiosity got the best of me!
Caution: This story is more of an HFN, with lots of family drama, so be prepared to follow up with the next in the series!
Cover: This cover has some gorgeous color combinations, and the simplicity of the embrace as well as the serenity of the nature scene makes it come together rather pleasantly. It has an almost dreamy quality to it. Nice!
Blurb: A Dreamspinner Press Publication
Every relationship leaves something behind. Dumped by his sugar daddy, part-time model Scott Mackenzie somehow ends up owning an abandoned church in rural Ontario. He dreams of using it for gay weddings, even if he’ll never have one of his own.
Joe Sutton is trying to keep his family together after his parents’ deaths. Between the family ranch, his brother’s construction company, and commitments around town, he doesn’t have time for a relationship. But Mackenzie is hard to ignore. As both men fight their growing attraction, challenges to Mackenzie’s business threaten their relationship. If he can’t make it work, he’ll have to crawl back to the city in defeat. But the only solution involves risking the ranch Joe loves, and each man has to decide how much he’ll sacrifice for the other.
Publication Date: December 16th, 2013
My thoughts: As I started reading this story, I found myself thinking that Mackenzie and his BFF Kristen read as very immature, shallow, ego-centric people. He just couldn’t imagine anyone, especially gay, not being bowled over by his model-good looks and irresistible charm. He is a ‘pretty-boy’ that has basically lived most of his adult life in the big city with a ‘sugar-daddy’. He only purchases the ‘gay chapel’ as a way to wile-away boredom while waiting for his older ‘boyfriend’ to need him for his parties, etc. as arm-candy. That all goes out the window when his patron ends up leaving him for a younger man. He ends up owning an empty-abandoned building with no clue whatsoever on how to run a business or how to fund it. He is completely clueless.
“If you come back now, you’ll be looking for work,” Kristen corrected. “You don’t have a sugar daddy anymore.”
“I paid my own way,’ Mackenzie protested. “I mean, I paid for the essentials. If Nathan chose to treat me to a few luxuries….”
“You haven’t paid for rent, utilities, or groceries in almost six years. Stealing clothes from your shoots does not count as you paying for the essentials.”
“I paid for some of those clothes. And the rest were gifts, not stolen. I can’t help it if people want me to be seen wearing their designs.”
“You finding much use for your wardrobe up there? Anyone appreciating your bold fashion choices?” Kristen was clearly back to laughing at him.
“My people will continue to appreciate me. And soon my people will be up here. They’ll be getting married in my beautiful church, celebrating in the wonderful gardens—“
“ And picking up donuts in town. Without driving through.”
Amazingly enough (and it really shouldn’t have surprised me with this author) Mackenzie grew on me as I proceeded into the following chapters. And, as for the ‘Cowboy’ twins, well, I was more drawn to contractor Will than to ‘rancher’ Joe initially. But, as soon as the POV changed, and I got inside Joe’s head, that changed for me. And his relationship with his brother had me laughing out loud! This is SUCH a brotherly-love moment. *smirk*
Are you sure you’re gay? Or maybe you’re… what’s it called? Asexual.”
“Yeah. I think maybe I am. So you should respect that and back the fuck off.”
“When’s the last time you got laid, Joe? Just how long’s it been?”
Jesus, this conversation was getting annoying. Joe smiled at his brother. “It’s been awhile. But that’s because the guy’s dick was so huge he kind of tore me open. Did some serious damage. And now my asshole’s all gaping and gross. I shit myself sometimes. I thought you would have noticed the smell. Actually, I think maybe I’ve got a bit of a load in my jeans right now.” He unbuckled his seat belt and shifted around. “Can you smell for me, tell me what’s in there?” He moved fast, grabbing Will’s head and pushing it down toward the seat. “Smell my ass for me, okay?”
Will resisted, of course, but he was laughing harder than Joe was, and that made him weak. Having the steering wheel in his lap probably didn’t help, either. Joe managed to get his brother pretty much horizontal before he hoisted himself up and started aiming his ass in the general direction of Will’s face. It was gross and immature, and Joe would never have done anything like it with anyone else in the world, not even the other member of his own family, but this was Will. He and Joe had shared the womb, a cradle, and practically everything else. A little ass-smelling between twins was nothing to get upset about.
“You’re fucking sick! “ Will yelled through his laughter.
“No, not a sickness, an injury. I knew I should tell him to stop, but it just felt so good….”
“Get off me!” Will struggled, and Joe fought back, and it wasn’t until they both stopped for breath that they heard the tapping on the driver’s side window.’
This glimpse of honest to goodness humor is an example that Ms. Sherwood knows how to get to the depth of her characters, and make them REAL. She uses these instances throughout her stories to show us the very human side of her characters, and to give them more depth and dimension. I love this in all her stories, and she always finds a way to pull me along for the ride. Something else that is highlighted in this particular series is the sense of how family and children seem to just work their way into your heart, as well as make the MC’s interactions with them feel natural and heart-warming:.
Joe gave Austin his sternest look. “You’ve got to wash your hands, buddy. Nobody wants to eat dirt.” He shifted his gaze toward Sarah. “Is there anything left for him to do?”
She shrugged. “I guess the salad could use some more veggies.”
“Hear that, buddy? The salad needs work! Let’s go wash up, and then we’ll make the salad special, okay? Maybe some extra… cucumbers?”
Austin was clearly torn between his no-washing philosophy and his desire to do important things with his uncle. “No cucumbers,” he finally said. “Peas.”
“Peas, huh? Okay, that sounds tasty, if we have any. Let’ wash up, and then we’ll look in the oven.”
Austin shook his head as Joe headed for the bathroom. “Not oven. We look in the fridge.”
“The fridge? For vegetables? No, I don’t think so. We should look under your pillow.” Joe turned on the faucet and lifted one leg so Austin could sit on his knee while they both ran their hands under the warm water.
“Not pillow! Fridge!”
Joe sudsed up his hands and wrapped them around Austin’s perfect, tender fingers. “Maybe in the barn?” he suggested.
Austin threw himself back into Joe’s chest, his giggles so deep and real his whole body vibrated. “No!” he shouted. “The fridge.”
“Wash, buddy,” Joe directed quietly. “Scrub those fingers, get all the dirt off.” As Austin leaned forward, Joe lowered his head until their cheeks were touching, and Austin pressed his soft face against Joe’s rough stubble for one moment of pure affection. Joe would never take this for granted, but he forced himself to record the memory and then push forward. “Good washing. Let’s dry those hands and then go find the vegetables in the clothes dryer.” “The friiiiidge!”
Joe held the towel while Austin mangled it. “Oh. The fridge.” He tucked the towel back into the rack and shifted Austin back up to his hip. “Yeah, I think we should look for puppies in the fridge!”
Austin’s eyes were wide with glee. “Not puppies! Vegetables!”
“If that kid puts dogs in the fridge, I’m blaming you,” Will said as they headed past him.
“There’s only one kind of dog that goes in the fridge,” Joe said seriously, his gaze locked with Austin’s. “What kind of dog is that?” He waited, got no answer, and added, “When they come out of the fridge, we might put them on a stick and roast them over a fire….”
“A hot dog!”
“Yeah! Hot dogs go in the fridge. Not real dogs. Right?”
And so the story goes. This author is able to pull me into the intricacies of real life and family dynamics, and does it seamlessly. By the time I complete one of her stories, I’m surprised by how much mileage she has covered in 200 pages or less! This isn’t what I would consider a light read, but it’s not overly angst-filled either. In fact, I can see it becoming a comfort read due to the many layers within the family dynamics, and the slow lead up to a relationship that takes a good portion of the book to come to fruition.
Within Ms. Sherwood’s ‘universe’, whether covering political intrigue, life on other planets, family life, or the unconventional ménage, there never seems to be an insta-love story. They just always tend to be a ‘real’ love story. And she gives the reader a chance to dig into the characters and sincerely relate. In fact, the emotions tend to sneak up on you, and you don’t realize when or why you finally start embracing her characters until you’ve already done so. Highly recommended. *smile*
9/10 pots of gold
Buy The Fall at Dreamspinner Press, B&N, Amazon, Kobo, ARe, Audible