Wyoming Territory, 1870.
Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.
Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.
When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.
Review: Sweetwater is one of those books I didn’t want to put down at the end of the night. Almost every page left me with a wow feeling, sometimes because of the love and tenderness Grady offered, sometimes due to the emotional pain Elijah faced, and even with the harsh desire from Harlan.
The blurb almost makes this book sound like a m/m/m story but it’s not. It’s about one man torn between feeling that he deserves the punishment one man offers and the tenderness he’s never known from another. This story really did reach down into my soul and pull at me, making me close to tears at times.
Elijah is such a perfect character. Becoming deaf as a child, he faced not only the mockery of his deafness and slurred speech but the inner knowledge that he was not like other men, that he had other desires that would have gotten him kicked out of town – or worse. He holds all this in and keeps mostly to himself but as readers, we get to hear his inner voice. His doubts, his fears – it all comes through – and this is why I loved him so much. Elijah was real. He was not a gallant knight, fighting back at everyone. He had weakness, he was afraid and he wanted to run but didn’t know where to go. Most of all, he would do anything to protect the father he loved from the stigma of what he was.
Grady was almost too good. He was so patient with Elijah, so tender and giving, that it seemed like he was out of time. I always think of the Wild West as just that, wild, but Grady was patient and caring. He was protective of Elijah when others were cruel and sensitive when they were harsh. He’s a man I’d like to meet in the here and now.
The third character, Harlan, was the tough customer. Harlan owns the saloon and runs all sorts of illegal operations. He’s also attracted to Elijah and he’s into forceful sex, what we would now call a Dom. Harlan is attractive on a certain level, scary on another. He is calculating and somewhat cold but he seems to have a soft spot for Elijah, which endears him in my eyes.
I had such a wonderful time with these characters that I hated to let them go at the end of the book. I have found a lovely new author to seek out and read.
Favorite Quote: I have two from this book.
From page 119:
Coffee and kisses and blushes. Elijah had no use for them. They distracted him, took his sharp edges and blurred them. They let his coldness bleed away. Elijah shivered as he felt it go, leaving empty spaces inside of him. Those empty spaces whispered that they could be filled so easily with coffee and kisses and blushes. Elijah wanted it so much that it ached, and that was the trap. It wasn’t real. It was the same thing Dr. Carter must have believed once: that you could take a stranger and love him and stretch him thin over the shapes of the people you had lost.
It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t enough.
From page 158:
Elijah drew a shallow breath. His heart thumped. “What else I got?”
The wisps of cloud trailed above them as Grady stared into Elijah’s face.
“You got me, Elijah,” Grady said at last. “That enough?”