Release Blitz – The Station by Keira Andrews (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Smart Designs
 
Blurb

 

Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster spied on stable master Patrick Callahan mastering another man, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death for his crime, Colin speaks up in his defense and confesses his own sinful nature. They’re soon banished to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick never asked for Colin’s help, and now he’s stuck with the pampered fool. While it’s true that being transported to Australia is a far cry from the luxury Colin is accustomed to, he’s determined to make the best of it and prove himself. Although Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale, he’s inexorably drawn to sweet, optimistic Colin.

From the miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must rely on each other. Danger lurks everywhere, and when they unexpectedly get the chance to escape to a new life as cowboys, they’ll need each other more than ever.

This historical gay romance from Keira Andrews features an age difference,

 

Excerpt

 

Waiting only a moment after knocking, Colin’s mother, Elizabeth, entered his room. Colin glanced over from the window seat. He’d been watching Patrick in the meadow exercising the young colt born several days before. “Yes, Mother?”

Elizabeth was forty-two and quite beautiful, with a regal nose and posture and the same thick, chestnut brown hair as Colin. “You haven’t bathed yet? Guests will be arriving within the hour.”

“I was about to, if you’d leave me to my privacy.”

When he wasn’t studying or walking the grounds, Colin whiled away the hours sitting by his window reading novels of thrilling adventures in faraway lands. Sometimes Patrick would appear in the meadow, training the horses. Colin’s book would lie forgotten on his lap as he watched Patrick at work. He seemed as if he belonged in one of the fictional tales Colin devoured. Colin could easily imagine him with sword in hand.

“Of course, dear. I had Charles press your jacket. It’s hanging there.” She pointed across the room, where, sure enough, his formal wear waited. “Katherine was partial to that one, if I do recall.”

Colin couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Yes.”

“Darling, you gave up on Katherine far too easily. Tonight will be another chance for you to win her hand. You’re quite a catch, you know. Off to Cambridge soon. Katherine will want to ensnare you now.”

“Mother, Katherine Crawford has turned her favor elsewhere. She’s moved on.” So had he. Most definitely.

Elizabeth’s pretty face pinched into a frown. “It’s an honor that the Crawfords are attending this evening. You will be on your best behavior. I don’t know what exactly you did to ruin things with Katherine, but tonight you will do your utmost to undo it.”

“Yes, Mother.” He would attempt no such thing, but Colin had learned years before that arguing with his parents got him nowhere. Soon he’d be at Cambridge and he would be able to make his own decisions. Soon he’d have a new life.

Mollified, Elizabeth closed the door behind her. Flopping down on his bed, Colin thought of Katherine and cringed. It wasn’t until a most ill-fated outing with Katherine Crawford several months ago that Colin had admitted to himself that his interest in Patrick was far from intellectual.

Katherine was a beauty, all glossy blonde hair and moist, pink lips. For some reason Colin couldn’t fathom, she had shown an interest in him at a holiday gathering down the road. The courting had begun soon thereafter, with Colin escorting Katherine on various activities. Unlike William, who railed against the inconveniences of chaperones, Colin was grateful for the matrons’ presence.

He liked Katherine well enough. She was intelligent and kind and pleasing to look at. But Colin knew something was missing. Katherine didn’t set his blood on fire, and he rarely thought of her when she was absent.

The absences were as long as Colin could manage while still maintaining the guise of courting. He was a perfect gentleman at all times with Katherine, which he found a simple feat. William and his school chums all needled him in private and made winking suggestions of what was actually going on between him and Katherine, and Colin let them believe what they wanted.

The Lancasters and Crawfords had both been guests at a country estate for an Easter celebration. Colin’s sister, Rebecca, was delighted. On the ride over, she had chattered constantly about the beautiful Katherine and how she might one day be her sister-in-law. Colin loved his sister dearly but wished she’d find a new interest.

Colin had been fast asleep the first night at the country estate when Katherine crept into his room. Despite his protests about the impropriety, she’d insisted he dress and accompany her for a moonlight stroll. He hadn’t really a choice.

It went badly.

Despite Katherine’s obvious beauty and heaving bosom, Colin had remained utterly uninterested. He’d tried. Truly, he did. Under a large willow tree, Colin had kissed Katherine and caressed her soft skin under her skirt, her hand firm on his wrist, guiding him. He had been unable to get excited, and when she’d reached for him to find him flaccid, Katherine Crawford had had quite enough.

She’d stomped back to her room and avoided Colin for the remainder of the weekend. Colin could hardly meet anyone’s eyes. His family had obviously required an explanation, and he’d had none.

When they returned home after a torturous journey, Colin had jumped from the carriage, eager to be away from his inquiring parents and sister, who’d demanded to know how Colin had made such a mess of things. Colin had almost barreled straight into Patrick, who had come to take the horses. At the sight of him, his lean muscles, his maleness, Colin had been struck with the vivid memories of what he’d witnessed in the stable that day long ago. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from begging Patrick to take him into some dark corner and have his way with him.

That was what he wanted. He would never want the Katherine Crawfords of the world. No matter how beautiful, how rich, how ideal for a wife. Colin wanted a man. Oh, God, did he want a man.

Can I be of assistance?” Patrick had affected a guileless expression, and Colin had realized he’d been staring dumbly.

Awkward and ready to crawl out of his own skin, Colin had mumbled something and hurried off. All the denials he’d repeated to himself had finally been silenced. He’d locked himself in his room, took himself in hand, and, muffling his face in a pillow as he thought of Patrick, attained the most satisfying release he’d experienced since that day at sixteen years old, hiding in the stable.

Remembering now, Colin stroked himself quickly, careful not to muss himself too much before the party. He thought of Patrick, of his Gaelic lullaby and of his grunts as he’d penetrated the man in the stable years before. As he rubbed himself with one hand, legs spread, Colin caressed his lips with his fingertips, imagining what it would be like to be kissed—really kissed. He didn’t even know if men kissed each other, but he would like to try it.

Sometime later, Colin straightened his navy tie and vest under his dark jacket and peered into the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom. His large eyes were a deep brown that matched his hair, and his jaw was narrow. His nose was straight and unremarkable. Katherine had once told him that his smile turned her knees to jelly and his eyes were bottomless pools she could stare into for eternity.

Colin doubted it, somehow.

He decided he looked as presentable as he was able to and went to join the party. Naturally, the first person he saw was Katherine. Dressed to the nines in an ornate, yellow, bell-shaped gown and looking lovely, she was laughing gaily at something William had said. Her hand was placed just so on his arm, and Colin saw the flash of her eyes as she spotted him. She laughed again, even louder.

Colin felt like laughing himself. If she only knew. Before he could do anything, Rebecca towed him into the drawing room, her voice low and urgent, grip firm. “Honestly, I don’t know what William is thinking. You mustn’t pay them any mind, Colin. Are you very upset?” Her pretty face, very much like their mother’s, creased with worry.

Shaking his head, Colin kissed his dear sister’s cheek. “I won’t give it another thought. William is welcome to her. Perhaps Father will take some solace if the family is connected to the Crawfords in the end.”

Rebecca, fourteen and very dramatic, hugged him tightly. “Oh, Colin. You’re ever so brave.”

Biting back his mirth, Colin thanked her and pointed her toward her newly arriving friends from down the road. He made his rounds of the soiree, shaking hands and making polite conversation. Dinner was served, and Colin listened to a neighbor tell him about what a wonderful time he’d have at Cambridge. Colin hoped it would be true. The one thing dampening his excitement about finally getting away from home was that he’d also be leaving Patrick behind.

As he spooned his custard, Colin brooded. He knew it was deeply foolish, since the strange affection and desire he had for Patrick was certainly one-sided. He’d only been a child when they were friends. Even if by some miracle Patrick desired him now that he was grown, would Colin really have the nerve to lie with another man? His trousers tightened at the notion, and he was glad for the napkin across his lap.

After dinner, Colin endured the ladies’ singing and gentlemen’s card games. Unable to shake Patrick from his mind as the night wore on, he found himself walking to the stable, unable to stay away. He was almost there when a cry came up. A man burst out from the large wooden doors and fled across the meadow, barely visible in the darkness. In the lantern light from the stable, Patrick tumbled outside, followed by two men Colin recognized as shopkeepers in the next county. Brothers named Harris, he thought.

Colin realized he was running and skidded to a halt just as one of the brothers landed a vicious kick to Patrick’s ribs. “Stop!” Colin shoved the man aside. Blood already streamed from Patrick’s nose and mouth.

The man ignored Colin as if he were naught but a fly, and kicked Patrick again. “Unnatural piece of filth!”

Several other guests who heard the melee drew near. The other Harris brother called out to them. “We need the inspector. A crime’s been committed here.”

“What crime?” Colin demanded.

The man spit at the ground where Patrick lay beaten. “Buggery.”

The world tilted on its axis, and Colin’s stomach churned. He realized Patrick’s breeches were loose, and that the man he’d seen fleeing must have been…

Suddenly Colin’s father was there. In the lantern light, Colin could see the rage on his father’s face, and it chilled him. Edward was short and stout, yet an imposing presence. He issued a terse command to the Harris brothers to follow him and bring Patrick.

Patrick was dragged around the back of the manor house, a growing number of curious guests following. Several women were told to go back to the party, and the servants watched with wide eyes as the brothers hauled Patrick through the kitchen. Inside Edward’s study, a group of men gathered. Patrick was deposited on his knees in the middle of the room as Colin crowded inside with the others. They were soon joined by Colin’s mother.

“What’s going on?” she hissed to her husband. “There are whispers everywhere.”

Edward barely spared her a glance. “This is no place for a woman. An ungodly crime has been committed. Go see to the other guests and tell them everything is fine. We don’t want this getting out.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what’s happened!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed.

The man who’d kicked Patrick spoke. “My wife is feeling ill, so my brother and I went to the stable to ask for our carriage to be brought round.”

“Ill? Not from the food?” Elizabeth appeared horrified.

“For God’s sake, woman, forget the food!” A vein in Edward’s temple throbbed, and Colin feared his father might explode with rage.

“Where’s the other one?” Colin glanced behind him, surprised to hear William’s voice. Apparently the whispers were indeed spreading.

One of the Harris brothers answered. “Gone. I think it was the Nelsons’ carriage driver. Quick bastard, we couldn’t catch him. This one was still tangled up in his breeches. Caught him dead to rights.”

“No need to get the courts involved. Take him out back and hang him from his bollocks,” said one of the other guests.

There was a murmur of agreement, and Edward seemed to seriously be considering it. Colin’s panic increased exponentially as the tension simmered. Many of those present had long been into their cups, and a reckless air swirled through the room. He looked to Patrick, who knelt silently, blood dripping down his face, his hands now bound behind his back. Colin hadn’t seen who restrained him.

“Kill him,” agreed one of the Harrises. To Patrick, he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be put out of your misery now than rot in a jail cell knowing you’re going to the gallows? We’d be doing you a favor.”

The murmur of assent grew frighteningly loud. “Should have expected it from an Irishman,” someone shouted.

“Hang ’im! Save the courts some time and money.” The bookkeeper from the local village reached for Patrick, attempting to haul him to his feet as other men cried their agreement.

“No!” When all eyes turned to him, Colin realized he’d spoken aloud. “No. You can’t kill him.” He thought of that day six years before, when Patrick had raced after him and plucked him from the fleeing stallion. His heart hammered as it had that day.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “Colin, the punishment for buggery is death. It’s what he deserves. This man—if you can call an animal a man—is a degenerate criminal.”

“Then so am I!”

Silence gripped the room in an instant, as if everyone held their breath collectively. Elizabeth went pale. “Colin, you have no idea what you’re saying.” She pulled his arm, urging him toward the door. “I’m sorry, everyone; he’s had far too much brandy this evening. He isn’t himself.”

Colin yanked his arm away. “No, Mother. I know what I’m saying.” He swallowed, his throat dry and thick. “I am myself.” Perhaps for the first time.

A shocked William spoke up, his eyes wide. “Colin, this is madness!”

Edward simply stared, stunned into silence for the first time in Colin’s memory. Elizabeth pulled at him again, but Colin shook free. “If you will kill this man for his crime, then you’ll have to kill me too. Shall you take me outside and string me up?”

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Patrick spoke for the first time, and all eyes turned to where he knelt. He stared at Colin with dazed astonishment.

The sound of Patrick’s voice seemed to spur Edward out of his daze. Edward turned a murderous gaze on Patrick. “If you’ve laid a finger on my son, I swear—”

“I’d sooner bed a horse,” Patrick sneered.

“And probably has!” a voice called out.

Colin felt a ridiculous stab of pain at Patrick’s words.

Patrick went on. “Sir, your son is clearly not in his right mind.”

William’s father, John, a lawyer, spoke next. He was tall and distinguished, the opposite of his brother, Edward. He seemed to be the only calm person left in the room. “Colin, are you saying you’ve committed acts of buggery?”

“Yes.” Even if it wasn’t true, Colin couldn’t let them kill Patrick. At least not tonight, not if he could help it.

Elizabeth shrieked and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, my son. What have you done? It can’t be true!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. They’ll have to kill us both.”

“Don’t listen to him! For God’s sake!” Patrick tried to stand but was shoved back down by Edward, whose face flamed with rage.

John spoke up. “No one’s killing anyone.” He turned to the Harris brothers. “Did you witness the act?”

One of them laughed tersely. “Didn’t have to. They heard us coming, and the other one was off and running. But we saw and heard enough to know what was going on.”

John pondered this, and everyone waited. He seemed to have quietly taken control of the proceedings, for which Colin was grateful. He hoped Patrick wouldn’t be harmed any further for the moment.

“No concrete evidence. None in regards to Colin either,” John said after a lengthy pause.

“Because it’s not true!” Elizabeth cried.

John ignored her and turned to Edward. “I have some friends in the magistrate’s office who should be able to help. I’ll go speak to George Crawford and get him on our side. But too many people have heard Colin’s confession. Something must be done.”

Edward nodded grimly, not looking at Colin. He pointed to Patrick. “We’ll keep this one locked in the pantry for the night. Colin will be in his room with a guard placed outside. William, take him upstairs.”

The shock of his actions slowly settling in, Colin didn’t resist as William led him away. They opened the door to the study to find the hallway crowded with party guests. Katherine was among them, her delicate face transformed into a hard mask. “Fiend!” She dashed down the hall, weeping.

Accusing eyes glared from all sides, and William led Colin to the servants’ back stairway, sparing him the spectacle of being marched up the grand staircase. In his room, Colin tried to speak. “Will, I…”

William raised a hand. “Don’t.” He shook his head sadly, his expression deeply wounded. “I don’t understand. I’ve always thought of you as a dear friend. A brother. Now I feel I’ve never known you at all.” He turned his back, closing the door behind him. A moment later, Colin heard the key turn in the lock, and his life as he knew it was over.

Author Bio

After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, fantasy, and paranormal fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

 

 

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Review of Tigerland (Tigers and Devils #2) by Sean Kennedy

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Declan Tyler and Simon Murray hope that the drama of the past couple of years is finally behind them, leaving them to enjoy their lives finally settled and happy.  When Declan Tyler retired from the AFL, it was terribly hard on him but he returned to the sport as a commentator and seems happy.  Simon has moved on from his job coordinating the movie festival and now  works as a producer for the Queer Sports cable show. Then Greg Heyward, Declan’s closeted ex decides to retire and come out of the closet.  In the past Greg has brought Declan and Simon nothing but pain and problems and this is no different.  Greg is determined to stay in the spotlight one way or the other and dragging Declan back into the drama with him is one way to accomplish his goals.

But Declan  wants to rise above Greg’s tactics, even when Greg starts spreading lies to the press about his relationship with Declan and the reasons they split up, hurting Simon in the process.  Simon wants Declan to stand up to Greg, not only for himself but for their relationship.  Unfortunately the silent treatment that Declan is using only goads Greg on to greater lies and more public exposure for the couple.  And that starts to upset their relationship, leading to arguments and misunderstandings that horrify their friends and families.  Will the adversity they face strengthen their relationship, deepening their commitment to each other   or will the stress and strain force them apart as it did in the past.

Tigerland is the long awaited sequel to Tigers and Devils, published in 2009, and it lives up to all my expectations.  I loved the original novel Tigers and Devils which introduced us to Declan Tyler, renown footballer and Simon Murray, who works at the Melbourne film festival.  From the moment they meet at Fran and Roger’s party (Simon’s friends), the two men clash, miscommunicate, come together, part and reunite  while conducting a romance that melts your heart.  Declan and Simon were two lively wonderful characters that grabbed onto the reader and never let go, even after over 300 pages. So having a chance to catch up with them again made my heart beat a little faster, even with the idea of more Australian Rules football, which as an American I never quite grasped.  Team loyalty to the extreme, check. Understood that completely while letting some of the totally Australian bits fly over my head. The other elements of the story that were grounded in Melbourne were delightful and made me want to fly down under immediately.

Now we pick up their story a year or so later, and the same qualities that made me love Tigers and Devils are front and center once more.  Sean Kennedy’s characters still leap off the pages, full of life and dealing with all the problems that comes with commitment to another person, and close proximity to family and friends.  All the people we grew to love from Roger and Fran (Simon’s friends) and Abe and Lisa (Declan’s friends), and all the family either could want are back again.  After everything that occurred in the first novel, Simon and Declan have settled into living with each other and their relationship has grown much stronger. Both men have changed professions and while Declan is no longer on the playing field, he is still very much a part of the game as a well known commentator, a fact that helps provoke Greg’s schemes to remain in the spotlight by pulling Declan into a media blitz with him.   Greg Heyward is a character we are also familiar with from the pain he caused Declan in the first story and his appearance here threatens all the hard won stability of Simon and Declan’s current status.

From event to event, Sean Kennedy clearly understands couple dynamics and let us see the stress and strain that Declan is putting on Simon with his refusal to publicly repudiate Greg’s claims about Simon and their relationship while still playing football.  There is never any doubt that these two men love each other and that their established partnership is one of respect, passion and a love that has grown deeper over the years. But even the strongest bonds can be tested and we watch as Simon and Declan deal realistically with the onslaught of public attention and lives returned to intense media scrutiny.  Kennedy gets is all so right that Tigerland has superseded Tigers and Devils in my affections, something I never would have predicted happening.

Simon remains one of my all time favorite contemporary characters.  I love his intelligence, his sense of humor and his unwavering loyalty both to his man and his football team.  Simon is such a multidimensional persona that he had to have a partner of equal strength to be his  match and Declan is certainly that for him.  When Declan makes the decision not to “sink to Greg’s level of behavior”, he makes it without consulting Simon, and the aftermath of that poor decision reverberates throughout the story to the point that the reader becomes very frustrated that Declan is not listening to Simon when he tells Declan that he tactic is not working for him.  But never fear, Declan more than redeems his actions in the end and  in a manner totally in keeping with his personality and his respect for his partner.  I just loved this.

There is, however, one part of Australian culture I was not familiar with and quite frankly shocked by.  According to Sean Kennedy, when a couple gets  married, it is law that the following words, well Sean Kennedy put it the best:

“But then the celebrant said those words which are like a knife in the heart to any queer person attending a marriage ceremony: Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. To the exclusion of all others.”

I can’t imagine that a ceremony binding two people together is used officially to remind the GLBTQ community that they are not equal and their bonds will never have the status of those automatically given to a heterosexual  couple.  I guess in a time when even the terms man and wife are no longer commonly used, and more countries are legalizing gay marriage, I am surprised that Australia would continue to institutionalize inequality in such a hurtful manner.  I was and still am shocked by this knowledge as I thought Australia more progressive than that.  I can only hope that as Maryland prepares to vote in the upcoming election that all the polls are correct  and Maryland will become the next state to legalize  Marriage Equality.  Next Maryland, then the USA, and perhaps more will follow the countries that came before.  Kudos for them, prayers for us, and hope for all others that exclusion will be a thing of the past.

At any rate, if you loved Tigers and Devils, pick this one up immediately.  If you are unfamiliar with the series,  start from the beginning with the first book and then go on to this one.  I am not sure if there will be another. If not I am more than content with this latest visit to a couple I have never forgotten.

Cover: Catt Ford did the wonderful cover art for Tigerland.  I loved it.

Review: Chase The Stars (Lang Downs #2) by Ariel Tachna

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Rating: 5 stars

Chris Simms and his brother just happened to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time and now Chris was getting the beating of his life  by a gang of homophobic thugs.  His brother, Seth, runs off to find help and the jackaroos who return to intervene and take him to the hospital end up changing their lives forever.  One of the men to stop his attackers happens to be Macklin Armstrong who along with his partner Caine Neiheisal, offer Chris a job  and both brothers a place to live on Lang Downs, their sheep station. Chris realizes how badly he needs this place for himself to heal and for his brother’s safety but it is so hard for Chris to trust other people, especially with his history.

Jackaroo Jesse Harris is gay and quietly so as he has seen more than his share of homophobia on other sheep stations he has worked for.  Having a station manager and a station owner  who are not only gay but partners is taking some getting used to, so is not having to hide his sexuality as Jesse has always done before.  Then injured Chris Simms arrives at the station with his brother and Jesse’s offer to help Chris adjust to station life turns into mutual attraction between the two men and then so much more.  But Chris’ emotional state is in turmoil.  He feels guilty for not pulling his own weight on the station because of his injuries and ignorance. And so is being there for his brother as Seth adjusts to a life so different in every  respect from the one they were used to.  Can he and Seth make a home on Lang Downs and be happy?  And what about Jesse?  Most jackaroos are nomadic by nature, roaming from one sheep station job to another from season to season.  Would Jesse be able to make a commitment to Chris, a family, and life lived permanently at Lang Downs?  Impermanence is all Jesse has known but when he falls in love with Chris, he realizes in a panic that returning that love means a fundamental change in his life.  Now only if he can find the courage to accept that.

Chase The Stars is the sequel to Inherit The Sky, the first Lang Downs novel and I certainly hope this is not the last visit to the men and the Lang Down sheep station I have come to love.  Once more we are pulled into the world of wide open spaces of New South Wales and quiet reserved men who make their living off the land.  Caine Neiheisel and his partner, Macklin Armstrong are featured here just as much as Chris Simms and Jesse Harris to my utter joy.  Caine and Macklin have had six months to adjust to their new love and partnership.  Lang Downs too is having  its own  adjustments to make to having an openly gay owner and manager.  As Caine and Macklin work to create a successful and accepting work place, they also are still discovering new things about themselves as they  learn to trust each other and lean completely upon the other man fpr their emotional support. Work schedules are tight on Lang Downs where they are shorthanded as not all the seasonal jackaroos will accept working with gay men and Macklin is still keeping secrets from Caine about his history to Caine’s frustration.  Nothing ever comes quickly and there is work to be  done, even on relationships, if all are to succeed.

Into this evolving mixture of men and relationships, Tachna adds the Simms brothers, Chris and Seth who are woefully in need of sanctuary, a home and support.  At Lang Downs, they find all that and more as Caine and Macklin provide a needed portrait of two gay men who love each other and successfully work together.  Chris and his brother Seth were tossed out of their home by their stepfather after their mother died  and Chris was having a hard time just getting them food and shelter on a day to day basis.  With Caine and Macklin making them feel at home, Chris can finally get past a state of stress and starts to think about a future for them both.  Chris Simms and his brother, Seth are wonderful characters and work perfectly within the established framework Ariel Tachna has created.  We have already gotten a real understanding of the flow and pace of life on a sheep station, we anticipate the seasonal duties the jackaroos have before them as much as they do, and we sympathize with Chris and Seth’s feelings as outsiders when they first arrive at Lang Downs.  But then the station’s strangeness starts to wear off as Chris and Seth find their way into the rhythm of life at Lang Downs. Seth settles down as he starts the School of the Air with the other children and finds an outlet for his mechanical nature in helping to work on the engines, the people around him making him feel like family.  But it is Chris who we empathize with the most.  He is the one beaten for his sexuality, he is the one who has shouldered all the responsibility for his brother and we breathe a sigh of relief and joy as Chris learns to trust in his situation and the men around him.  Chris’ vulnerability and sensitive nature engages our affections from the beginning and we root for him to succeed and find happiness just as Caine and Macklin have.

The character of Jesse Harris brings a wonderful contrast to Chris Simms and Macklin Armstrong.  Jesse Harris is more typical of the seasonal jackaroos who work the sheep stations, never settling at one place for long.  These men have learned to be self sufficient and hard, reserved and used to isolation.  Still Jesse’s homosexuality sets him apart from the others and the high standards that Macklin and Caine set are not only new but bring the potential for more into a future Jesse had never thought of for himself.  Watching Jesse change and adapt to new thoughts and feelings is like watching the parched ground soak up the rain after a steady shower, the cracks fill up and finally disappear as the ground repairs itself.  We thrill to watch that evolution happen within Jesse as well.

And that’s really how this book and Inherit The Sky feel to me.  They are as much about a life lived as close to nature and as in tune with the seasons as one can be.  Changes in emotions and thoughts are measured as incrementally as changes in the land around them.  The wind blows a little  colder, the rains and sleet pour down upon men and sheep equally.  And life is slow until the threat of dingos appears and then the rush to face the threats is quick and fierce as the storms themselves. There is the calm enjoyment of the beauty of the outback and the clear night skies contrasted with the life and death nature of the floods in the rainy season.  This is a novel that spreads out before you in as elemental and  earthy manner as the land itself.  We are made to see an Australian night sky ablaze with stars, and feel the cold seep into bones of the men checking the fence line and what a gift that turns out to be.  It is a treasure when an author can meld you seamlessly into their world, make you a part of  their  characters lives so completely that you hurt and laugh when they do.  Ariel Tachna did that with Inherit The Sky and does it again here with Chase The Stars.

Easing back into the world of Lang Downs was like revisiting with old friends and meeting new ones as well.  I love watching the changes in the lives of the characters I have come to love, whether the permutations inch forward or flow fast like a stream.  I hope that Ariel Tachna  brings us back here again, to see what changes time has brought and to whom Lang Downs has given sanctuary and home.  Until then, I will be picking these two books up again and again to read and remember.

Cover by Anne Cain is lovely and perfect for the book and the story within.