Title: The Legend of the Apache Kid
Author: Sarah Black
Cover art: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: The Legend of the Apache Kid
Length: Novella/154 PDF pages/approx. 38,500 words
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Simply beautiful.
Blurb: English prof-slash-cowboy Raine Magrath knows Johnny Bravo is an airhead. A beautiful young Apache film-making genius airhead, but still. They meet in a hot tub during Johnny’s first film festival, but he bolts before his work is even shown. When Johnny drifts back to Taos a year later, they slide into a slow cowboy two-step so easily Raine starts to think Johnny might be the one. When Johnny’s young cousin Weasel joins them, Raine’s life seems complete, a ready-made family to love and protect.
Raine is sure that with his gentle guidance, Johnny can achieve the sort of worldly success Raine turned his back on years before. But Johnny has his own idea about what he wants his life to become. Too late Raine remembers that Johnny runs when he feels a chain tightening around his neck. Raine’s quest for the perfect family might be the very thing that tears them apart.
I always struggle when I’m writing a review for one of Sarah Black’s stories, because it seems to me that my words are completely inadequate to convey its complexity and its beauty. More than anything, it’s difficult to explain, especially to someone who never had a chance to read any of them, how much heart her stories have. The Legend of the Apache Kid was not an exception.
The book blurb is pretty accurate, so I won’t dwell on it too much. But, I will tell you that this is a story about love: between fathers and sons, for one’s family – real or chosen, love between lovers, love for one’s community, history, art, love for the life itself. The story is narrated by Raine Magrath, professor, cowboy and street art photographer. The pacing is unhurried, almost languid and it fits perfectly to both Raine’s personality and his slow, sweet two-step romance with young Johnny Bravo. The writing is beautiful, intimate and dreamy and it envelops you like a cloak from the first sentence. I had trouble shaking it after I finished the final line.
Raine is a man settled in his life: he likes his job, dabbles in art, loves his town and his little farm which he shares with his dad and horses, enjoys his neighbors and casual lovers that come and quietly go. He is content. If he misses anything, it’s not until Johnny reenters his life that he starts thinking that he just might need something more. And, Johnny is very easy to love: he is beautiful, young, talented, passionate about his films and stories he wants to tell, a little bit naïve and eager to please. It is also easy to doubt the future of that love for the very same reasons. But:
“His image scorched its way into my brain, and I felt like there was some fragmenting of the stars, solar flares burning great black holes in the patterns of the universe, because nothing would ever be the same, nothing.“
It takes a bit for Raine to understand that Johnny’s dreams are simpler that he imagines, certainly simpler than his were.
“I can see it clear as a mountain lake. A good-looking cowboy, maybe you, a good-looking horse, a nice quiet spot in the Carson to sleep. Stories rolling through my head, and all I have to think about is how they’ll look on film. Nothing else.”
The journey isn’t easy and you certainly want to smack Raine at times, but when he gets it right – it is sweet and warm and lovely.
The secondary characters are colorful and hilarious, whether it’s JJ, Raine’s former student who petitions for the return of McRib, Drew, the owner of local coffee shop, Mikayo, his beautiful Japanese mother, social justice fighter and sock bomber (you have to read the story to get it), Weasel, Johnny’s cousin and Apache Kid’s namesake or Raine’s dad who offers wonderful moments of humor and practically steals the show.
“He’s your new boyfriend? Have you told him that happy news?”
“I think I just did.”
“Well, nobody asked me, but I think the Apache have been screwed enough. Boy, you sure you can’t do better?”
Through it all, Ms. Black weaves the legend of the Apache Kid which like a magical string connects the stories of fathers (or father figures) and sons – Johnny and his adoptive grandfather, Raine and his dad, Weasel and Raine, Al Sieber and Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl – which beautifully rounds the story. Another thing that you can always count on when it comes to Sarah Black story is that you’ll learn something new and interesting whether it’s about pottery, cheese making or, in this case, eartships. Great stuff. The author’s fans may also find it interesting that Colton and Diego of Fearless fame got an honorary mention.
In the end, again, this little review cannot do this story justice. The only reason I didn’t give it the highest rating is because I recognize that it will not be for everyone. The theme might not appeal to some readers, it doesn’t follow the usual romance formula and the ending is, while happy, fairly open. Such is life and, in my book, that isn’t a real flaw, but I had to take step back from all the gushing and let this slightly less than perfect rating be a mild, mild warning to the new readers. All I can say is read it, because I believe it will make your life just a bit richer. It simply is that beautiful. Highly, highly recommended.