Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.
Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.
It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.
Bonfires is one of those Amy Lane books that’s bigger than any review any reader could possibly write about it. It encompasses so many huge elements and hits so many big emotional targets that when it comes to pulling it all together in one review I find it escapes me. It doesn’t help that you go willingly into this story knowing there’s an aspect of it that’s going to tear you apart in Amy Lane’s “shred your heart” way. You do it knowing something worthwhile will come out of it, as it does here.
Bonfires is not simply a romance any more than starting a fire is about putting two twigs together and expecting a spark. No, Bonfires is about how families are built, how foundations are laid for people to come together to become a strong cohesive unit, powerful enough to withstand some of life’s worst blows, public condemnation and more. First you get these two men who have already had long relationships that led to having families and children. The men are real, grounded in their lives and ages. You get them and understand them immediately.
Then you get the amazing, believable, (and not so amazing) kids on both sides. Yes, just as in life, not all the offspring are sweetness and light. That’s always a relief to see that bit of reality hit the pages even if its not so welcome for the couple. There’s no instant meshing of families. Things take time, talking, and work. There’s actual adulting here. There’s two houses, schedules, and how and if to come out to your various working environments and staff. Complicated? You bet and absolutely absorbing. Why? Because we care about these men and children. We gotten to know them intimately. At school and at their workplaces. So when deeply concerning things are happening at the school to people, adult and teens we are intensely concerned about, we care about that too.
Along with Aaron and Larx trying to figure things out for themselves and their kids, there’s another storyline unfolding that’s of equal importance and intertwined with Aaron and Larx. Its the element with the tragic repercussions that reverberate throughout the community and the two men’s burgeoning relationship. All things elements, all these pieces of tinder that add up to Amy Lane’s powerful Bonfire….and there’s more. Of course, there’s always more…
When I said its about families. I mean families of all types. Its also the flip side of families…those that do irreparable damage to their young and their community. And its about the larger families found within the various social communities. Here Amy Lane’s knowledge of the school system comes in handy with the interplay with the Board of Directors, the various school teachers and factions within the education system. It all rings very true.
At the end of Bonfires, when you finish the last sentence and reflect back on all those lives and people that Amy Lane created and you spent time with, the tears shed, the hearts that broke and got pieced back together again, the families made into one…I still think back over this incredible story and realize there’s so much more that I never addressed or could even begin to. Its as though she crammed a series into one book and no one noticed. What I do think you should do is read this book. Its one for thinking about, thinking about families and love and all the astonishing things it takes to get that right. If we’re lucky and work hard. When making my Best of 2017 List, Bonfires will be on it. That’s my recommendation.
Cover Artist: Anne Cain. Works for the story, although I’m not sure I’m that crazy about it. Don’t exactly know why.
ebook, 280 pages
Expected publication: March 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press, LLC
ISBN 1635333415 (ISBN13: 9781635333411)