Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating:  3.75 stars out of 5

HomeTheHardWay_500x750Dare Buckley has returned home to Palladian, Washington a far different person than the one he was when he left.  Dare left Palladian, a teenaged golden boy who, along with his mother, was mourning the loss of his father who had committed suicide.  The man who returned?  That Dare Buckley is a disgraced former Seattle P.D cop.  A man who’s poor judgement and even worse actions have made him someone only a hometown police department would give a job too.  Dare Buckley knows this is his last chance for redemption and he needs to make good.  It also gives him a chance to investigate his father’s death and reconnect with someone who used to idolize him, Finn Fowler.

Finn Fowler, son of the local tramp, is someone who Dare protected when they were in school when the bullies saw Finn as an easy victim and outsider.  But that young boy who followed Dare everywhere, who thought Dare was his hero is gone.  Now there’s an adult Finn Fowler to  content with, one who wants little to do with Dare Buckley.  Or so it seems.

Palladian has always been a town of secrets, only Dare never realized that before now.  And those secrets contain the answers that Dare needs to find closure and the ability to go forward.  But what happens when someone doesn’t want those secrets to come out?  Who can Dare trust when even the man he thought he knew might be keeping the biggest secret of them all?

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Two things  right off the bat.  One, I love Z.A. Maxfield.  Her stories have an originality and life about them that I find irresistible.  So many of them are must reads and highly recommended books on my shelf.  Two.  Home the Hard Way is probably not one of those stories, at least for me.

Home the Hard Way is more of a mixed bag for me narratively speaking than her other tales of  angst, broken men, and love.  For most of this tale, I was engrossed in the complicated but resoundingly lifelike plot.  That includes the small town Sheriffs office and its police officers, the town beauty parlor and its clients as well as all the other denizens of a town that’s seen better days and knows it.  And there’s a local golden boy who left a hero and came home a failure.  Those parts all work here and work extremely well.  The resignation, humiliation, and indignation of the returned “past his glory” boy and the people left behind who idolized him…all rang true. It is just one well conceived and well drawn character portrait after another here.

Other plot threads that worked seamlessly throughout the story were the old mysteries floating up from the past to haunt and threaten those involved in their present lives.  That these secrets were kept hidden by agreement and association feels like an integral part of authentic small town life instead of part of a fictionalized culture.  I liked that too.  Even the behavior that can be institutionalized under such a society felt real.  Bullying, harassment, all can be excused given the right circumstances and people involved, and that’s the shared history in a small town that makes that an ordinary happenstance.  Everything I just mentioned worked beautifully in the story and made the narrative flow slowly along.

So what didn’t work for me?  The manner in which one main character is introduced to bdsm and a D/s relationship.  And that aspect of the story was enough, in its treatment, to almost derail this book for me.

I love it when using BDSM components or a D/s scene or lifestyle makes sense for a character or a situation.  I think that it’s important that it be explained or incorporated in a way that lets the reader into the scene and understand  why its necessity for both characters to participate.  It shouldn’t, in my opinion, make you start questioning about the “rightness” of the scene or the judgement about the author’s handling of her characters in such a scene.  Or even if  the segments that bothered me are acceptable to the leather or bdsm community in general (if you can answer this please let me know), I do know that those scenes were problematic enough to keep me awake trying to see it from all angles because it bothered me enough to jar the flow of the story.

My issues here?  That anything consensual can happen with a drunken or judgment impaired character and not be addressed in the narrative.  That’s at the core of my dissatisfaction with this story. It’s a sticking point with me although it might not be for other readers.  But here’s my thinking on the issue.

For starters, that a drunk character, on an unplanned, inebriated visit to another sober character (under strained circumstances) gets pushed /involved into a D/s BDSM scene with little dialog or discussion between the characters.  Unless the lack of consent is part of the storyline, an inebriated or alcoholic person (fictional or not) can’t be seen to give consent to an action or behavior, even an implied consent without some discussion going on.   The impaired judgement of that main character is not addressed.  It wouldn’t have mattered even if they are getting a tattoo while on a binge or other similar actions.

Secondly, then this character is ushered into an act of submission, and by a Dom/character who has complex feelings about the other person. This includes a long standing grudge (feelings of abandonment) against this character. For me, it just felt well less a scene between consenting adults and more like an action of aggression and implied revenge.  Again that would be fine if that was the intent of the scene.  But it’s not. And the character made to submit?  A virgin so to speak about D/s play and BDSM in particular.  This happens more than once.  Is this typical D/s play?  Don’t know. I have been informed by some in the lifestyle that such scenes need to be worked out in advance, rules and limitations agreed to, things of that nature.

Again, it’s not the D/s or BDSM play that I mind, but the manner in which the characters use it to sexually interact with each other and work out old issues.  This guy is a mess to begin with and it only gets worse. I wish the whole aspect of this story would have been handled a little differently. Even the slightest change would have affected how I feel about this story.  I kept trying to see my way around this element but I could never resolve it satisfactorily enough to get by it.

This element aside (which admittedly was hard for this reader), Home the Hard Way is a story that many readers will enjoy and feel deeply about. Why?  Because there are so many wonderful elements at work here.  Z.A. Maxfield’s characters and small town descriptions are just incredible.  Just the way in which the town of Palladian and the rank river that it got its name from are depicted.  The river, dank,and  sluggish, full of trash pooling at its edges, waits for a storm to flush the stagnant waste and foul waters away.  Much the way the town has an overlay of old secrets, hidden antagonisms, and barely contained jealousies and rivalries.  It’s that aroma of  neglect that reflects the stagnant  feel that small town can get as if the life is seeping slowly out of them a drip at a time.  Everyone knows everyone else or thinks they do because of a shared history that can reach decades into each family’s life.   This element of the story made Home the Hard Way for me.  I recognized those people and the town they lived in.  I knew them from their all-too-human actions, petty and otherwise,   The small town parlance and activities speak for themselves as an authentic part of small town USA.

Will the issues that bothered me here bother you?  Not sure. That’s for you to decide.  If not,then you might feel that this is just the story for you.  As I said, so much about this book is quite wonderful.  I enjoyed parts of Home the Hard Way, just not enough to read it again and that’s the benchmark for a 4 star rating for me.  Let me know how you feel about the book and this issue.  This inquiring mind wants to know.

Cover art by Amber Shah.  I loved it and vote it one of the best of the month!

Buy links:            Riptide Publishing                   All Romance eBook (ARe)                 Amazon                    <a href=” Home the Hard Way 

Book Details:

book, 350 pages
Expected publication: July 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleHome the Hard Way
ISBN139781626491458
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/home-the-hard-way

Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield Book Tour and Contest

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Z.A. Maxfield has stopped by today on her Home The Hard Way Book Tour.  She’s brought a contest to help celebrate its release that you won’t want to miss out on!  Welcome, Z.A.!

 

Hello and thanks to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for letting me be here today!

I’m Z.A. Maxfield, coming at you from lovely sunny southern California where I’m blogging about my latest release,  Home The Hard Way.

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I’m doing a giveaway and there are a couple different ways to win! At each tour stop, one lucky winner will get to choose any book from my backlist, so if you’re new to Z.A. Maxfield, this is a great way to find out if you want to dive in! At the end of the tour, I’ll be giving away a Riptide gift certificate, so you’re going to want to follow along the whole blog tour  for your best chance at a prize!

HomeTheHardWay_500x750Here’s the blurb for Home the Hard Way:

Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.

Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.

In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.

Read more about Home The Hard Way here!
Contest:  There’s two ways to win today! Comment below for a chance to win an ebook from my backlist AND you can also…

Enter the Giveaway!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

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About the Author – Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back. Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.

If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Readers can visit ZAM at her

It’s Release Day for Down the Other Street! Let’s Celebrate with Jennifer Cie on Tour (contest)

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It’s Release for Down on the Other Street

by Jennifer Cie!

Let’s Celebrate!

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Book Name: Down On The Other Street

Author Name: Jennifer Cie

Author Bio:

Jennifer Cie is a Tennessee native who loves taking aimless road trips, taste testing whiskey and low grade tequila—for science, and writing about social issues in everyday life. Self-proclaimed writer of “two cups of morning coffee” length books, Cie is the author of the fictional work Memphis Rain, creative non-fiction memoir Burn It, and the upcoming collection of short stories entitled Down On The Other Street.
When she is not getting lost driving across state lines, you can find her rambling about book formatting, poor life decisions, and everything in between on her blog: http://www.journeytopaperback.com.

Author Links:

Blog
Twitter: @JenniferCie1
JC600x600BannerGCover Artist: Najla Qambers
Publisher: Self-published
Blurb:

Long winded, unemployed, and timid, on the first date Brendan Bloom is already in love. Comfortably arched over his body, Ryan contemplates murder. Cold, necklace gleaming against the pale tint of her collarbone, the passenger could have mercy. Not a little black book, but a faded love letter out from under the sheets. Some romances ignite on sight, others flare at the base of waterless tubs soaked in agitation. Rooted in the South, this collection of short stories delivers five electric confessions of love, sexuality, and identity across time

 

Buy Links:    Paperback priced at $5.75 at:  Amazon      Createspace

Ebook ( priced at $0.99) available viaAmazon  Barnes & Noble( Nook)  

 

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Down on the Other Street Excerpt:

““You’re not asking someone studied—you know? I guess the rough kind of good. Like when you floss your teeth till your gums bleed. Hurts a bit, but the taste and feel are good to you.”

My first “real” talk came from you in 1992. I was fourteen sitting on the edge of my father’s leather recliner watching you cut the edges off a peanut butter sandwich. You didn’t have any tattoos back then. You had on this red sweater with blue stripes swishing through it. That pesky string of acne was still running down your right cheek when you offered me half of the sandwich.

“Anna. Why do you want to know about sex—from me?”

I wanted to tell you that the walls in my house had grown thin. Even with the stretches of screeching cars passing by and gargled whispers from the Mississippi River outside, I could hear everything tiptoeing inside. The high pitched turned guttural shrieks the women in my brother’s magazines evoked. The sound of the calluses on his hands attacking flesh like rubberized sandpaper; then, the wheezing attack followed by a hushed “guuu-ah” and tissues sopping up warm ooze. The late-night lullaby to my summers had changed, and I wanted to know the words.” –Excerpt from Intellectuals Are Fools

JCBadgeGTour Date: 7/29/14

Tour Stops: Parker Williams, Cate Ashwood, Smoocher’s Voice, Emotion in Motion, Prism Book Alliance, MM Good Book Reviews, Havan Fellows, My Fiction Nook, LeAnn’s Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Kimi-Chan, Iyana Jenna, Michael Mandrake, Love Bytes, Velvet Panic

Contest: Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of the book. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Use the Rafflecopter link below to enter and for more contest details.

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