Rating: 5 stars
When ex con Jeremy Stillson ends up begging for money on a street corner in Boulder, Colorado, he has no idea that his life is about to change when he spies the looming figure of Rance Crawford heading towards him from the nearby yarn shop. Instead of money, Rance offers him a job that comes with a small room to call his own in the alpaca barn and fiber mill that Rance owns. Here is the chance Jeremy has wanted, a way to be honest and to go straight, leaving the illegal lifestyle behind that he learned from his conman of a father, a father who died when a con went bad.
But living a honest life doesn’t necessarily mean Jeremy’s past is gone with the old lifestyle. Rance turns Jeremy’s training over to a young gorgeous man named Aiden, a master at colors and yarn dyes even as a teenager. Aiden is everything Jeremy has always wanted to be and Jeremy idolizes the teenager from the first moment they meet. Year after year, Jeremy slowly adjusts. He learns to love his new life, he learns how to knit and gains a family with the people he works with at the alpaca ranch. And most importantly he falls in love with Aiden as Aiden ages and matures into a wonderful young man.
Jeremy’s feelings of insecurity and low self esteem have never gone away and when Aiden starts to return his affection, Jeremy is petrified. Jeremy’s first instincts are to run, rabbit away but Aiden has Jeremy figured out. When Aiden first met Jeremy, one of the things he taught him was how to hold a angora rabbit, to make it feel secure so it can be petted and brushed. So when Jeremy shows signs of rabbiting away, Aiden knows exactly what he has to do to keep the one man he has wanted from running away and make him trust in Aiden.
What a wonderful story. I will be the first to admit that Amy Lane is a “go to” author for me. An Amy Lane book to me means an outpouring of human emotions from characters so real I expect to meet them on the streets. An Amy Lane story means that the situations and events her characters find themselves entangled in comes across so authentic, so genuine that not only my empathy but my heart is engaged from the very beginning. If they weep, then I find myself sobbing along as well. And when they find joy, then my heart feels replete with happiness.
How To Raise An Honest Rabbit (Knitting #3) brings back the characters we learned to love in The Winter Courtship Rituals of Fur-Bearing Critters (Knitting, # 1) . Present and accounted for are Rance Crawford, owner of the alpaca farm and yarn mill, Ben McCutcheon (Rance’s lover and neighbor), Aiden fabric designer extraordinaire and Ariadne shop manager and spinner, and of course, Jeremy. The first story in the Knitting series gave us Rance and Ben’s courtship from their POV, with the other characters circling around like satellites, albeit family member satellites. And as much as we learned to love Ariadne and Rory her husband, it was Jeremy and Aiden we kept returning to and we wanted to know their stories too. And thankfully, Amy Lane gives us that and more in How To Raise An Honest Rabbit.
It was hysterical to see Rance and Ben’s meeting and courtship from the other side, so to speak as Rance’s meeting with Jeremy predates Ben moving in next door. But the heart of this story is Jeremy, his pain born out of his past and his slow emergence into the man he wanted to be but never thought possible. Jeremy’s history is heartbreaking in that Amy Lane way, which means the angst of his past is brought vividly home to the reader but in small subtle ways that build over the length of the story into a horrific portrait of a young boy lost to society at the earliest of ages. We learn in tiny increments about the jars of peanut butter Jeremy has stashed so he always has something to eat, and the true reason he talks so much yet values silence and the awful fact that Jeremy doesn’t even know his real name. The story is told from Jeremy’s POV which is so important as we hear his thoughts about his life, his panic attacks, his growing affection for Aiden and everyone else around him.
And as we learn about Jeremy, we are also creating a strong picture of Aiden as well. From Aiden’s interaction with Rance (overheard conversations) and his talks with Jeremy, we watch a young fiber genius mature into a man who realizes that patience and perhaps ear plugs are the way to capture the skittish man he has fallen in love with. It was Aiden’s careful, loving interactions with Jeremy that made me fall in love with Aiden completely. And with Ariadne as well. Really, there is just an endless stream of gems that I could be quoting from the story but that would take away some of the magic to be found from discovering them on your own as I did.
And finally as a knitter myself, I loved every aspect of knitting that appears here, from the carding machine’s noise to the method Ariadne used to teach Jeremy to knit (and his own rhyme he made up). There are the dye vats, color cards, and descriptions of how the same colored strands can be spun in different manner, ending up as completely different yarns. And I don’t think you have to be a knitter to find all this information fascinating, it just is. But did I love the patterns for the fingerless mittens at the end? Why yes I did and will try my hand at making a set this winter.
There is another Knitting series book on the horizon, Knitter in his Natural Habitat (Knitting #4), Johnny and Stanley’s story. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I will just shuffle off and reload Winter Courtship Rituals back onto my Kindle and start from the beginning once more as I wait.
Here is the order the books were written and should be read:
The Winter Courtship of Fur Bearing Critters (Knitting #1)
Super Sock Man (Knitting #2)
How To Raise An Honest Rabbit (Knitting #3)
Knitter in his Natural Habitat (Knitting #4) coming in November 2012
Covers by Catt Ford. Are these not the most adorable covers ever? I heart them all.