Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Elijah Carter is the adopted son of the local doctor in the mining town of South Pass City, Wyoming Territory, in 1870. Elijah was adopted by Carter about fifteen years earlier when the wagon train carrying his family west was befallen by Scarlet Fever, and young Elijah was not only left homeless, he was left partially deaf.
Even though Elijah couldn’t hear well, what he could hear were the taunts of his boss and other townsfolk calling him names and taunting him about the way he spoke. You “simple deaf cunt” translated in his mind to: you stupid dumb kid. He knew he wasn’t stupid, but he also knew he held a deep, dark secret so he didn’t confide in his adoptive father, preferring to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble.
When he catches the attention of Harlan Crane, saloon owner and Dom, Crane makes short work of Elijah’s virginity. Elijah had been told to bring an envelope to Crane from Elijah’s boss, Mr. Dawson, the town butcher. The envelope contained payment for cattle that four rustlers brought into town late the night before, cattle that were now no more than slabs of meat in the butcher shop. Unknown to Elijah as he follows Crane up to the bedrooms in the saloon, he’s also caught the attention of Grady, one of the rustlers, and Grady is pissed when he sees Crane got to the young man first.
Several situations combine to bring Elijah to loneliness and despair and to seek revenge for a tragedy that has deeply affected him. Late one night, after being turned away by Crane, he stumbles into Grady’s path right when he strongly feels the need to be dominated. Grady easily sees Elijah’s need to submit, but he also sees his need for love and acceptance, and he uses a gentler, more loving approach to bring Elijah under his control. After several days spent in Grady’s care, Elijah no longer wants Harlan, until he’s back in Crane’s presence and Grady’s no longer there for him to rely on. He, of course, submits to Harlan’s will again.
I liked the way the author developed Elijah’s self-awareness of both his need to be dominated and his own strengths. He’d spent so many years being taunted and ridiculed that he had started to own the simple deaf cunt description. But when he allowed his inner strength to finally come out and be seen by others, he shocked a few people— Dawson and Crane included.
Harlan Crane was a cruel man, however, in his own way, due to circumstances we see unfold later in the book, it appears that he cared for Elijah, at least a little. Grady wants Elijah for more than sex, and whether he’s willing to vocalize it or not, he feels drawn to the young man, protective of him, and he admires Elijah’s strength. Two men, seemingly completely different, yet both see something in Elijah that he never saw in himself.
While I liked the authenticity and feel of the time period, I never got fully engaged with Elijah or Grady. I expected to feel deep empathy or compassion for Elijah and get heavily involved in caring about his circumstances, as I have with most of the MCs in Lisa Henry’s other books, but my heart didn’t connect this time.
And I didn’t connect with Grady at all. I’m not sure if that is due to the setting, or if it was the fact that circumstances in the story didn’t bring the two together until the second half of the book, and even then, Grady wasn’t present enough for me to get to know him well. I also never felt any deep emotional bond and commitment between the two men. At least the story ends with a HFN, so there is hope for a long term relationship for them.
And, Sweetwater? Sweetwater is the name of the River near the town. It snakes over the plains causing the wagon trains to have to cross it nine times before getting to the town. Other than that, it’s incidental to the storyline.
Overall, I’d recommend this book to those who might like a historical piece, with more of a dark than a sweet romance. And, of course, I’d recommend it to Lisa Henry fans because I’m sure that we’ll all have our own opinion on how well we like this one. Really, for me, Lisa Henry books are like candies, and I can’t imagine disliking any, though some I love more than others.
Cover Art:L.C. Chase – The picture on the cover is the perfect period piece to match this tale. One of ScatteredThougthtsandRogueWords Best of September 2014.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance eBooks (ARe) Amazon Sweetwater
ebook, 240 pages
Expected publication: September 29th 2014 by Riptide Publishing