Deputy Joe Peterson is Mormon and in the closet. Then ex-con Kabe Varghese lands in town on parole. When a tourist falls off the mountain, Joe finds he needs the help of this cliff climbing adrenaline junky to solve the case. Will Kabe tear him apart or does Joe need to fall hard before he can start living?
What can I say about Hard Fall that will do justice to this unusual story that just kept peaking? Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Peterson is one hell of a character – he is a Mormon who believes in God and practices his faith but knows that he is imperfect because he has sexual urges to bed other men, and he can’t control them. He has been able to keep his two lives separate until he meets former convict Kabe Varghese who ties him up in knots, literally and figuratively, and sets him on the road to ruin. Joe and Kabe start out together as part of a search and rescue team investigating the murder of a German woman, a “touron”, and everything points to her husband as the perpetrator, but the evidence to connect him to the crime is hard to find. As Joe and Kabe set out to uncover sufficient evidence to charge the husband, their relationship escalates until it envelops both of them and sets Joe up for a very hard fall.
Hard Fall is told in the 1st person POV and Joe’s “voice” is so authentic it’s clear that James Buchanan worked very hard to get it right, even his speech which sounded as bona fide and believable as his clothes. Joe lives in a very small town in the State of Utah with all the baggage that entails – a closed-in community that’s wary of outsiders, and if you’re someone who is hiding his sexual orientation you’re in deep trouble with the Church and a community that questions your choices if you’re still single by the time you reach 23 or 24. The traditions were all new to me and there was so much that surprised me about the Church of LDS – something as simple as caffeine being forbidden. The search and rescue was another amazing aspect of the story; the climbs were realistic and dangerous as Joe and Kabe hung 10 storeys in the air while they played, which almost gave poor Joe a heart attack.
Clearly the major issue was how could a devout (or almost devout) Mormon LDS reconcile the teachings of his church with what his heart wanted and what would be the price if he followed his heart. Joe was obviously conflicted about his sexuality, however he was honest about his feelings for Kabe. The romance was incredibly sweet as well as hot and hard as each man fought to gain ground with the other. There are some spankings and rope play which add even more texture and passion to an already intense relationship. Inevitably Joe and Kabe are not as circumspect as they should have been and soon their secret is a secret no longer and Joe has to face the real prospect of being fired.
Here’s what I loved best about Hard Fall and why I rated it so highly: The complexity of the story is a good place to start. I have to take my hat off to James Buchanan for tackling this story, for giving readers a multifaceted adventure with wonderful three dimensional characters including the supporting roles of Sheriff Simple and that terrific woman, Ranger Nadia Slokum who could bust the toughest balls; great pacing, smart and fresh dialogue, a wonderful journey into two different worlds – a rock climbing paradise and the Mormon Church with all its bigotry and prejudice in the middle of a murder investigation, and above all a sweet romance right underneath all the intrigue and hate. I love Joe who is at times tough, vulnerable, good ole’ country boy, bemused lover, pissed off member of the community, and whose faith is at variance with his love for Kabe. Since this story is told from Joe’s perspective the reader doesn’t get as much sense of Kabe’s character but what is clear is that he is just as three dimensional and makes his presence felt whenever he is around, which is a lot.
Hard Fall also gave me a picture of how beautiful this little part of Utah is in terms of the scenery and terrain and to use the author’s words “its pine covered mountains and bare swept plains of rock….” which illustrate the beautiful prose throughout the book where everything is described in such vivid detail. The religious aspects of the story are evident throughout– as Joe tries to make up for what he views as his fall from grace. In order to understand his character, the parts of the story which draw the reader into the church and all its machinations are absolutely necessary, in my opinion. It’s not overwhelming but it’s there and if you pass on this story because of concerns about religion and the Mormon church in particular, you will miss a wonderfully complex book with all the elements that make it such a great adventure and love story.
James Buchanan must have done an immense amount of research into both rock climbing as well as the Mormon Church and I learned a lot about both. While it’s fine to read a typical contemporary M/M romance where boy meets boy, they fall in love, have a few conflicts and then everything is resolved, there are times when I want something more … and this is something more. If Hard Fall doesn’t deserve 5 stars then I don’t know what does.
As always, reviews are a matter of personal opinion. We all look for something different when we read a book and this is a gem of a story about love and redemption wrapped around hate and prejudice, a fun romance with some of the hottest and most carnal sex, loyalty to a fault, emotions that will blow you away, an introduction to the world of rock climbing, and the most amazing sex while suspended hundreds of feet above the ground. Some readers may be turned off by the religious aspects of this story but all I can say is that this excellent book is worth getting over your feelings about organized religion.
I highly recommend Hard Fall – two thumbs up for this unusual book.