Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
A historical set in Australia – why haven’t I read one of these before? I have to admit that’s what caught me about the blurb on this one, and I loved the term “faller” instead of the North American “lumberjack” that I am used to. The author did a great job of making me feel like I was right there in the jarrah forests, with men hewing railway sleepers from the mighty trees with only muscle and axe, living in primitive and dangerous conditions to support the booming timber industry.
The story starts with Charlie Young, skinny, short, and, yes, young, in the forest trying valiantly, and mostly failing, to cut railway sleepers with 4 other experienced fallers. Working the forest was potentially a lucrative job, but the fallers got paid by the piece, so Charlie was in very real danger of running out of money and starving. The best faller in the group was big, strong Jack Tapper, able to turn out perfect sleepers at a rate 2-3 times faster than the others. Jack kept to himself, but his size, reputation, and mere presence intimidated all the men in the camp, and especially Charlie.
Even though Jack was exactly the sort of man that Charlie was most attracted to.
When all the men but Charlie and Jack went in to the town for a four day holiday around Christmas, Charlie found that Jack felt the same way he did, and knowing their time together alone was short, they made the best of it. But the hyper-masculine nature of the timber industry in 1912 Australia was not a safe place at all to be gay, and hiding their connection proved to be a lot harder than Charlie thought it would be…
As is usual with short stories, I wanted more – more time to build the background, more time for the men to learn about each other and fall in love, and more time to develop the conflict that would give interest to the story. But even in the constraints of a short story, I thought there was too much of Charlie’s inner monologue going on, which made the story move slowly. The conflict and danger toward the end of the book was certainly very real – I don’t think the word homophobia could come close to adequately describing what could happen to a gay man in this setting – but somehow seemed superficial, and the resolution and ending seemed a bit too easy and abrupt. Charlie’s immature decisions were consistent with his character, but I think the author made the bad guys a little too villainous, and it felt over the top. Jack, on the other hand, was beautifully portrayed, with just the right amount of description and dialogue. The historical details were really well done and clearly well researched though, and for me that made up for a lot of the areas I didn’t like. Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I will look for more form this author.
Cover art by L.C. Chase doesn’t do justice to the historical aspects of the story, but the lumberjack is spot on.
ebook, 1st edition, 46 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English