Erryn reviews Braving The Rapids by Brandon Witt (Published by Dreamspinner Press, November 13, 2017, 282 pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: Brandon Witt’s books are emotional and challenging. I had to pick this one up.
Estes Park native Todd Fleece works hard to honor his obligations to family and the businesses he inherited, but only his friends and the horses at his ranch brighten Todd’s life. In fighting his attraction to his best friend’s ex-boyfriend, Todd has focused solely on his work, leaving little room in his life for finding love.
Matt Abel’s reckless youth put him on a path to a self-destructive life—his most painful failure was being a horrible father. He excels at extreme sports and living on the edge. Now back in Estes Park and teaching white-water rafting, Matt tries to reconnect with his mother and his grown daughter. When he runs into his ex’s friend Todd, Matt longs for more than a fling.
But achieving happiness isn’t simple, not with Todd’s family conflicts and Matt struggling not to slide back into alcoholism. With hurdles threatening to drive them apart, Todd and Matt try to find the courage to brave the rapids and face a future together….
No, it was all Matt’s fault, as ever. He was the one who’d doomed himself.
And everyone around him.
This is the second book in the Rocky Mountain Boys series. I haven’t read the first one, so I can assure you that is no impediment to enjoying this one. The book begins just before the tourist season in Estes Park, a small Colorado town whose population swells every summer.
Todd Fleece inherited an amusement park and horse ranch from his late father. Neither that nor his coming out of the closet endeared him to his strictly religious mother or his sisters, no matter what steps he took. Todd has found peace with the religion, but it is never that simple.
Brandon Witt often tackles the dichotomy of the religious who vilify homosexuality while claiming to follow the teachings of the Church that says to love thy neighbour.
Todd has moved on and has a group of close friends – the Rocky Mountain Boys – all of whom are gay. The men have settled into his life and he’s content.
But there are two problems.
His increasingly erratic mother and the man he has a massive crush on.
Matt Abel returns Todd’s crush, but would never admit it because he had a disastrous relationship with Steve, Todd’s best friend. Matt assumes Todd has taken Steve’s side. Although Matt is back in town, he has low expectations and continues to pursue his adrenaline junkie activities and live his life like he’s got a death wish.
He believes he’s screwed up everything he’s touched. Ruined his relationship with all the people he loves. His mother, Rosalind, is understanding, but his grown-up daughter Jordan is not forgiving. Understandably, she doesn’t believe her father can change. He has never been around when she needed him, so why should this time be any different?
And it might not have been – if not for Todd. Both men have good reason to hesitate at getting involved, but sometimes physical attraction, and something less tangible but equally powerful, draws you into a relationship.
But there are secrets. Both men have painful pasts. Too easily, they slip into those past roles.
Given all this, it wasn’t a surprise there is some angst in this book. The two forty-something men have histories and baggage they bring into the relationship. They have friends and family who range from encouraging to openly hostile. It’s tough to find a happy ending…but they finally decide it’s worth fighting for.
As with all of Brandon’s books, I really enjoyed this one and look forward to the others. I am seriously considering going back and reading Book 1.
One thing. It’s not so much a complaint as an interesting quirk. Todd’s POV is first person, Matt’s is third. Apparently the first book was written the same way and although the chapters are labeled and alternate between Todd and Matt, it took me a bit of time at the beginning of each chapter to orient myself. I wasn’t sure why it was set up this way until I realized that the Rocky Mountain Boys (Gabe in Book 1 and Todd in this one) are first person while the ‘outsiders’ like Matt are third person.
I’ve only seen this done once before and although it’s jarring for me, it in no way detracts from the story. I’m really glad I read this book and look forward to more from Brandon.
Brandon Witt’s outlook on life is greatly influenced by his first eighteen years of growing up gay in a small town in the Ozarks, as well as fifteen years as a counselor and special education teacher for students with severe emotional disabilities. Add to that his obsession with corgis and mermaids, then factor in an unhealthy love affair with cheeseburgers, and you realize that with all those issues, he’s got plenty to write about…