The only path to happiness is freedom: the freedom to live—and love—as the heart wants. Claiming that freedom will take all the courage one young man has… but he won’t have to face it alone.
In small, conservative Sierra Pines, California, Reverend Gabriel is the law. His son, Willy, follows his dictates… until he meets a man in Sacramento, and then reunites with him in his hometown—right under his father’s nose.
Reggie is Sierra Pines’s newly appointed sheriff. His dedication to the job means not flaunting his sexuality, but when he sees Willy again, he can’t escape the feeling that they’re meant to be together. He’ll keep Willy’s secret until Willy is ready to let the world see who he really is. But if going up against the church and the townspeople isn’t enough, the perils of the work Reggie loves so much might mean the end of their romance before it even gets off the ground….
This book left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. It has a lot of the elements needed to make a great story and is skillfully written, but it didn’t really work for me.
I believe the author wants to educate his readers and create awareness regarding the troubles still faced today by people from the LGBTQ community. Though well-intentioned, he gets a bit heavy-handed in his execution, which is especially noticeable in Reggie, who does a lot of talking at Willy rather than to him, as if he’s standing in front of a classroom explaining the do’s and don’ts of coming out & relationships.
He does this at the most inopportune moments, and has a hard time letting go and enjoying the now.
He isn’t that much older than Willy, but acts as if he is decades further in life experience and wisdom. Willy, on the other hand, does sometimes behave a bit immature for his age. They don’t seem to be on an equal footing in that respect, so that makes it hard to understand how they would work as a couple.
Reggie is supposed to be a rising star in local law enforcement, but he shows little people management skills in the sheriff’s office when he threatens and baits one of his deputies. Admittedly the man turns out to be a crook, but Reggie has no evidence of that at that time. Bullying people, especially another bully, hardly seems the way to create a good work environment or to get people on your team to carry out their job the way you want them to.
Willy’s decision to confront his father about certain changes in their family life and to come out to him all at once, felt too sudden to me. He also really gets up in his father’s face, laying it all down in a very confrontational manner and not even trying to ease into the subject, which to me feels very out of character for him.
Willy’s father is a really ambivalent figure. I don’t feel as if grief for the loss of one child could make a loving dad turn into an abusive one to his other remaining children. And then just change back again, almost at the drop of a hat.
Other secondary characters bring more of a positive vibe to the story though, especially Willy’s mom (if a bit late in the game), Mr. Webster and Jamie.
Willy and Reggie’s relationship moves very fast, they hardly have the time to get to know and like each other or even gradually acknowledge their mutual attraction, before racing straight into a committed relationship. As a reader, I just didn’t feel it.
3 of 5 stars