This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Riptide
Released on September 29, 2014
A soulful, gritty western romance that pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go until well past the moment I closed the cover. This was a magnificent blend of historical authenticity, deep characterization and solid plotwork offering so much more than I ever could have imagined when I started the story.
The main character, Elijah Carter is this young man with a disability on the edge of adulthood. He is made to feel shame for his deafness, but it is the shame for his secret proclivities that have him feeling undeserving and ripe for a jaded man’s use.
[quote]”Crane was too dangerous. Not just for the booze and the gambling and the whores he ran out of The Empire…but because Elijah had taken every stab of pain and every searing burn of humiliation that Crane had given him, and still would have taken more…because Crane had looked him in the face and seen him.
The world had tipped last night, and Elijah was afraid he was still falling.” Loc. 17% Elijah, Sweetwater[/quote]
Elijah was adopted as an orphaned child by Dr. Carter who recently lost his wife and daughter. Elijah knows he is no substitution and isn’t worthy of the man’s love and trust especially now that he is keeping his dirty secret.
[quote]”You can only play the cards you’re dealt,” Dr. Carter had said once, trying to teach Elijah faro. Elijah had got dealt a better hand than Dr. Carter when fate had thrown them together.” Loc. 17% Dr. Carter, Sweetwater[/quote]
But when Dr. Carter is murdered, Elijah’s vengeful spirit awakens. He will get the person that took this beautiful, gentle life and he will gladly hang for it. His anger needs an outlet so he returns to the rough and shameful handling of Crane and can only wonder at the kind and tender touches of the cattle rustler, Grady, who also wants to be with Elijah. Where Crane delivers the pain and humiliation Elijah craves because he feels it is all he deserves; Grady tries to show him there is another way with gentleness and care.
[quote]”Nobody, nobody had ever smiled at Elijah like that. Like he was sunlight. Air. Like he was everything. Grady kissed him.” Loc.59% Elijah, Sweetwater[/quote]
Elijah wants to turn from Grady’s touch because that sort of thing is too good for him and worse, it is fleeting and will leave him broken, lonely and wanting more when Grady is gone.
Grady accepted his different nature long ago and knows what it’s like to lose a parent and be abandoned by another. His life feels stagnant and his situation stifling the way his cousins just seem content to steal a few cows and sell them for short term gain instead of reaching toward the future they all dream of- having a ranch of their own. His dissatisfaction is distracted when he sets eyes on the youthful Elijah Carter with those pain-haunted eyes. He has never wanted anyone so much before in his life, but he knows that he must have a care. Elijah is claimed by the most powerful man in town who wouldn’t hesitate to use a bullet or a beating to protect what he claims as his and then there is Elijah himself that shies away from kinder words and touches.
[quote]”We. He laid that word on Elijah to see how he’d take it. Whether or not he’d buck under the unaccustomed weight of it.” Loc. 67% Grady, Sweetwater [/quote]
Grady usually takes what he needs and moves on, but for the first time, he has the urge to move on only if he can take Elijah with him. If only…
This story is deeply emotional, mildly disturbing, and sticks with one. Elijah’s plight and Grady’s redemption are told in this character-driven plot that isn’t lacking in action either. Both characters take turns telling the story. I really enjoyed getting both their perspectives and getting to know both men. Separate they were engaging, but together I could see how they really fit well. I liked how the author developed a relationship slowly. Elijah had a lot to work through both to grieve, but also figure out the difference in the way the two men were with him. He was so confused about stuff and it was sad to see that he felt he didn’t deserve what Grady was offering so he took the pain and humiliation that was selfishly delivered by Crane. Loved it when Elijah and Grady finally came together even though I was holding my breath because Elijah was so skittish that he was ready to run at a moment’s notice.
When I say disturbing, I should mention for those with a sensitivity that the situation between Crane and Elijah falls in the dubious consent area and pushes across the line into rape at one point. It’s definitely a situation of a young innocent being taken advantage of even if he asks for much of it and keeps coming back. There is also a D/s element that includes binding, humiliation, whipping, and rough sex along with other unmentioned pain elements particularly between Crane and Elijah, but Elijah needs it so Grady will also function as a dominant too though his motives are selfless and for Elijah’s care and need.
So, all in all, this was a well-written western historical romance with that something extra that took it beyond the usual and not just because its an m/m with D/s and dub-con elements. The writing, tone, characterization, pacing and plot are some of the best I’ve seen in a while and I look forward to more from this author.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Hi! I’m Lisa Henry, author of Sweetwater! I’m touring the web talking about my inspiration, my writing process, and giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Sweetwater. And of course there’s a giveaway! You could win a title from my back catalogue, as well as a $20 Riptide gift voucher! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for me to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because I won’t be able to see it otherwise! On October 8, I’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!
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