Hard Fall


Title and Link: Hard Fall
Author: James Buchanan
Publisher URL: http://www.mlrpress.com
Genre: Contemporary GLBT (M/M)
Length: Novel (220 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5


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.

22 thoughts on “Hard Fall

  1. Tam

    Okay, a second giant thumbs up so I shall get it. (In April when my self-imposed book buying moratorium is over. Lets not get into the mind games I’m playing with myself here okay?) I don’t mind reading stories about religion or the influence of it, what pisses me off when reading is when the character gives up everything because they buy into the rhetoric (even if temporarily) because I just want to smack a common sensical brain cell into their head. “THINK FOR YOURSELF!” I’m screaming (at a book, yeah yeah, I know).

    Guess sometimes our real life hot buttons just can’t be turned off. But it sounds so great I will definitely read this one.

  2. jessewave

    Remember what I promised you — a money back guarantee. *g* I really think you will love Hard Fall. It’s much more than the sum of its parts. Let me know what you think after you come off your self inflicted April date. Have you blown your book budget already?

    Joe does think for himself which is why he’s in trouble in this book. If both Emmy and I recommend it you have to know that it’s one helluva book because she and I don’t agree on most things. :)

  3. Tam

    Budget? People have budgets? Not really but I felt like I was getting a bit out of control with complete impulse buying. Way too easy on-line. If you have to get in your car in the snow and drive to the book store you are less likely to buy a book. Sitting at home in my comfy chair with a computer? Not so good. Also I need to spend a bit more time doing things like laundry and feeding my kid, not reading. :-)

    You haven’t steered me wrong yet. :D

  4. jessewave

    Laundry and feeding your kid? OK I can understand the feeding your kid thing, but laundry? *g* Plus you can’t buy ebooks in the store!!!!!!

    No It’s not a dueling review. I always intended to review Hard Fall because I requested it for myself but then Emmy offered to read and review it as well – she’s so much faster than I could ever be.

    When I interviewed James a couple of months ago and he talked about Hard Fall I made up my mind at that time to read he book. Then Tam expressed concerns about the religious aspect to the book so I accelerated my review. That’s all.

  5. Mary M.

    Emmy reads faster than you? 0_0 Jeez.

    Ok, two excellent reviews on the same book, I guess there’s a subtle message there (in the lines of ‘buy this book NOW!’). Message received.

    *dutifully adding title to WL*

    Can I say I’m glad I’m not a Mormon? Bloody hell, when religion stops people from being able to live their life as they would like to (within certain minimal moral/legal parameters) is when it goes overboard IMO. Any religion.

  6. jessewave

    I always intended to review this book but I expedited the review because I promised Tam.

    There were a few good Mormons in the book but the Bishop came across as someone who would fold with a swift kick – no more than a bogeyman.

    Emmy reads way faster than me and Kris is the fastest reader in the group.

  7. jessewave

    I hope you like it — I think that James is a terrific writer and did a really good job on a difficult topic. I used to be religious so I can understand all the angst that Joe experienced.

  8. M.L. Rhodes

    I bought it earlier tonight, already transferred it to my iPhone, and it’s now at the top of my TBR list! :)

  9. Tam

    Okay, after all my angst and whining, this was one of the first books I bought after my book buying hiatus. I was still hesitant (stupidly) but finally started it last night. And the result? LOOOOOVED it. :-) It was exactly the way I love to see that topic handled. I don’t have a problem with bigots and religious wingnuts in books, as long as the protag doesn’t fall for the crap and give in (even if temporarily). So after all my waffling I’m so glad I bought it and listened to everyone’s advice here. Definitely worth the time and money and I’d recommend it to anyone who asked.

    Thanks everyone and great job James.

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