There is a lot going on in this book, yet the amazingly succinct blurb summarizes pretty well. The only addition to note is that good portion of the story deals with the fallout on all levels once Joe and Kabe’s impromptu encounter is exposed. Honest and realistic actions, emotions and depiction of small town life within the LDS church combine to make this a great book on several levels. Add in a satisfying and well-written mystery subplot and this is a must read for not only climbing enthusiasts, but also romance lovers.
Told from Joe’s point of view, his voice imbues genuine honesty in his portrayal as a country hick. He makes no apologies for his love of his religion, conflict with himself over being gay, the lack of sophistication in his life, and most of all the man he is. Joe is entirely comfortable with himself, if struggling with the knowledge that his desires are against his religion. Joe shows incredible maturity and insight in believing that he still maintains Gods’ love in the face of his sexuality, believing in the truth of God made him this way and therefore must be good. This is an essential aspect to Joe’s progression in the book from deeply in the closet to living openly with the consequences of his actions.
Also equally important to understanding Joe’s desire and need to live where he is, even amongst the judgment and scorn of once friends. This small town in Utah is his home, his blood, and fits him down to the core. He may no longer be welcome in the Church he loves, but he practices his faith loyally within his life as much as possible and frankly won’t leave the area he feels so connected to. Kabe says it best towards the end of the book when he remarks on how Joe doesn’t need games to express who he is, he simply is. His voice charms from the onset, even with the kind of down home hick charm that has potential to be weary over the course of a longer novel like this one. With deft handling though, the narrative stays fresh and interesting dealing with a variety of emotional issues yet never denying the connection between the men. Joe’s strength in standing up for himself multiple times without resorting to petty antics and violence, while never turning away from Kabe, build the backbone of a wonderful romance.
Moving on from my waxing poetic about Joe, Kabe is a wonderfully complex character as a mixture of mischievous, caring, surly, playful, and kinky. His past makes him wary, yet he’s unashamed to stand up for Joe or be there to comfort him. His rock solid support and alternating playful manner made him shine as a character just as his instant chemistry and rapport with Joe created a sizzle within the pages early on. Kabe’s honesty about himself, his situation and his needs was refreshing without the need to tack on a false ending.
Similarly, secondary characters all had weight and importance, none just a name to pass along the story, but individual identities that added to the story. From the Sheriff Simple and Ranger Slokum to the Ward Bishop and Jessie, each character offered a unique perspective and purpose to the multi-layered and intricately crafted story. From a Mormon background myself, I was impressed with the incredibly genuine accounting of the highs and lows of the Mormon faith. There is certainly information given that delves into aspects the religion would rather not have highlighted but it only raises the level of authenticity in the telling.
Although a fan of Buchanan’s work, this particular offering gave a much more balanced story juggling all the different aspects of the book. The well crafted murder mystery was neither short sighted nor extended past implausibility, but given a thorough presence moving the plot quickly along without diverting attention for too long from other elements. The entirely believable resolution and introduction to the beauty of rock climbing added a cherry to a great story. Eventually, the rock climbing terms ran together for me and I was fatiguing on it towards the end but there was just enough balance that it didn’t tip over into too much for me. Although, I was one more scene of rock climbing away from my eyes crossing over. So rock climbers will no doubt get off on the intricate detail afforded the sport.
As I’ve rambled let me sum up – this is a fabulous story dealing with love, hate, religion, death, and acceptance. It’s wonderfully written with three dimensional characters and believable conflict. Personally, I think it’s one of the author’s better stories in a solid list of back titles. You can’t go wrong.
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