Sweetwater by Lisa Henry, Narrated by Dorian Bane #AudioReview

Sweetwater by Lisa Henry, Narrated by Dorian Bane #AudioReviewSweetwater by Dorian Bane, Lisa Henry

Genres: Historical Romance, M/M Romance, Western Romance
Published by Riptide on August 5, 2016
Length: 7 hours 39 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars      four-half-flames

This is my second encounter with the story.  I read it a few years back and now I had the chance to experience the audio version.  Having it read by an incredibly talented and well-matched narrator, Dorian Bane was a decidedly fantastic way to experience my ‘re-read’ of this book.

Sweetwater is a sleeper story in many ways.  On the surface, it can feel like a slow moving almost boring and even a tad depressing story about a boy.  But this is a deceptive one.  The writer wrote a well-layered story.  Like many a sluggish river, if one goes beneath the surface there is a strong, raging current.  Sweetwater is Western in setting and era which gives it a gritty tone, but it also digs deep into the life of a young man coming of age and an older young man who is also somewhat lost.

Elijah is confused, hurting, and looking for a sense of self and his place in the world.  He feels the differences in him from the other town folk because he is an orphan adopted by the town doctor, he’s deaf, and he is attracted to men.  Elijah carries around guilt and confusion that allows him to be convinced that he only deserves to crawl and beg and feel pain and degradation for his sexual needs from the saloon owner.  With the murder of his beloved Dr. Carter, Elijah is left angry and adrift.

But then Grady comes along.  Grady is also an orphan who was taken in by his uncle and the family.  His uncle gambled away the family ranch and now he and his cousins are left scratching out a living stealing small herds of cows and living off the largess of the man who got the ranch from his uncle.  Grady hates the life they lead and sees it ending with a hangman’s rope.

His interest in the young Elijah leads him along a new path.  Maybe Grady can think of a way to help them both.

The story in engaging and I appreciated it all over again with this latest encounter.  Again, I was awed by the creation of each character including the controversial, Harlan Crane.  He’s not exactly the bad guy, but he is very much a character who is all for self.  He’s led a hard life and it tempered him of any gentleness or real goodness.  He uses Elijah, but there are also brief glimpses of his sympathy, too.  I found his place in the story as pivotal as Grady or Elijah even though he didn’t get a narrative part.

Beyond, the ambivalent Harlan Crane, Elijah and Grady were both endearing characters.  I easily rooted them on as they figured things out and came into their own.  Grady is almost there as he comes to realize he has to step out from the only family he has known and go it alone if he wants to have any chance at a future.  Elijah is younger and his grief is new and raw as is his figuring out who he is and accepting it so much of the story is him growing and changing and feeling.  Raw feeling defined Elijah.

In his search to discover himself, Elijah has some rough, erotic experiences.  I wouldn’t call this true BDSM though there are elements of it.  Crane likes to dominate and discipline, sure, and he likes kink, but it’s for himself and not a partnering.  Elijah wants to be hurt and feel pain to gain resolution.

There is action and hard, gritty, and even brutal scenes that are set well into this Western story.  The authentic tone and feel was right on the money.

The narrator added something to the story as always.  Elijah’s pain and frustration particularly because of his deafness and how it made people perceive him really shone through as a result.  Each character had a distinct accent that told a story in and of itself.  Dr. Carter was cultured, polite, a little distant.  Crane was southern overlaid with western and had a slimy snake-oil salesman feel.  Grady was clean, cool plains.  And Elijah, unable to hear his own voice struggles to be articulate and understandable, but so expressive.  The surrounding cast were handled well, too.

All in all, I was thrilled to delve back into the Sweetwater story again and experience it anew.  I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy gently paced character driven gritty m/m western romance.

My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #280 LGBT
Audio #33

About Lisa Henry

Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I’m glad that it was an even better experience years later. Narrators can make or break an audiobook for me, which is why I don’t listen to them a lot. I have gotten better over the years, but I’ve been listening to one now for 13 days and counting. I think the voice is so wrong for the main character.

    These sound like some interesting characters. Elijah wanting to feel pain is very realistic, and I’ve never read something like this in a Western setting. So that in itself is unique. Awesome review!

    • Yes, first it was a gamble to do a ‘re-read’ after a few years just in case it lost its luster for me, but then you’re right, a narrator can make or break a book- I’ve listened to Dorian Bane’s westerns before so I had a strong inkling he would do great. 🙂

      Oh ouch, 13 days? Yeah, sometimes it’s just not a good match up.

  • I don’t think I’ve read a western that had bdsm elements to it. Interesting.

    • Yes, I thought it was an interesting choice, too. But the blend felt organic to the story once I was in the middle of reading it. The author really tied in the motives for why people needed and acted the way they did.

  • Oo on him being deaf. I’d be curious about that an the audio. It’s always interesting when the characters are dealing with something like that.

    • He spent a lot of time in his own head, but the narrator did well with his slightly warped speech. Yes, it was interesting to see how people around him treated him. It’s one of the reasons he picked to be with the harsh Harlan- Harlan didn’t treat him badly because of the deafness.

    • Dorian Bane

      I was curious when I took the project! Lol. It was a unique challenge trying to vocally convey all the emotions while keeping in mind that Elijah could not hear himself!

  • I love re-reads in audio. I actually listen to a lot of books that I have already read. Its a different experience. This one sounds completely different than anything I have ever read. Great review!

    • Yes, it is neat to get an enhancement when I get it in audio. Yes, this was a very different story and nice for a change-up.

  • It sounds interesting mainli in this kind of setting, it’s different. The boys looks well done too. I’m not a big audio girl I confess I’m not that focused it’s always a bit complicated and well it’s long too

    • I understand about struggling to focus when listening to a story. Many times I’ve had to go back and listen to a section again when I got distract.

      Yes, the setting and the characters were well-written and the story had a lot of emotion underlying it.

  • A western like this needs to be dark and gritty..lol I love how audio enhances your experience 🙂

    • I agree. I don’t look for fluff when I pick up a western. I want my danger and shoot ’em ups. 🙂

      I have come to really trust this narrator so I know I’ll get a good listening experience.

      • Dorian Bane

        You are always so kind Sophia Rose. Thank you yet again!

        • Hey! Thanks for dropping by, Dorian. 🙂

          • Dorian Bane

            Anytime Sophia. 🙂