The Fall, by Kate Sherwood

>> Saturday, November 15, 2014

TITLE: The Fall
AUTHOR: Kate Sherwood

COPYRIGHT: 2013
PAGES: 214
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press

SETTING: Contemporary Canada
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: There's a follow-up

Every relationship leaves something behind. Dumped by his sugar daddy, part-time model Scott Mackenzie somehow ends up owning an abandoned church in rural Ontario. He dreams of using it for gay weddings, even if he’ll never have one of his own.

Joe Sutton is trying to keep his family together after his parents’ deaths. Between the family ranch, his brother’s construction company, and commitments around town, he doesn’t have time for a relationship. But Mackenzie is hard to ignore.

As both men fight their growing attraction, challenges to Mackenzie’s business threaten their relationship. If he can’t make it work, he’ll have to crawl back to the city in defeat. But the only solution involves risking the ranch Joe loves, and each man has to decide how much he’ll sacrifice for the other.

Mackenzie (his first name is Scott, but he goes by his last name) has spent the last few years in a relationship with an older, much richer man. In exchange for being the perfect boyfriend, always considerate of his man's needs and not of his own, always at his beck and call, Mackenzie got security and a very comfy lifestyle.

And then the older boyfriend decides Mackenzie's getting too old for a boy-toy, and should be replaced by a younger model. Now all Mackenzie has left is a small nest egg and a run-down, deconsecrated old church in rural Ontario. The plan when he bought it was to turn it into a venue for gay weddings, which with the ex's money and connections, would have been a nice hobby. Mackenzie is determined to make it work anyway.

Joe Sutton meets Mackenzie when he accompanies his twin brother Will to have a look around the church. Joe mainly takes care of the family ranch, but he sometimes helps Will in his contracting business. He finds Mackenzie really attractive (not that he shows it), but he has a lot on his plate. Work is really busy, but there are also loads of family responsibilities. He and Will raised their younger siblings after the death of their parents, and the whole family are now raising the 4-year-old son of the younger brother, who was too young to do it himself.

But of course, this wouldn't be a romance if temptation didn't get to be too much for Joe, and what starts as casual turns more serious as the two men start liking and depending on each other more and more.

I picked this one up after adoring Sherwood's Mark of Cain. While The Fall doesn't have the angsty plot of Mark of Cain, it has a lot of what I liked about it. There's the romance that is about much more than good sex, there's the sense of community and characters who are dealing with much more than what's going on in their love lives.

I'm a sucker for well-done, real-feeling family drama. I particularly like it when what we've got is real tensions and conflicts that arise in a loving family, who continue to love each other even when they are driving each other crazy and might momentarily not like each other very much. This is what we get here. It's people acting like real people, not like evil cartoonish villains, and the tension was much better for it. I loved all those scenes with Joe's family, and I loved seeing Mackenzie fitting in with them at the end. And I particularly loved little Austin, the 4-year-old nephew being brought up by the whole family. I haven't got a maternal bone in my body, but he is truly adorable. I don't know if he's realistic (I suspect not, he's always really good), but I don't care, because he's so sweet in a completely non-saccharine, non-sickening way.

I liked the romance. It wasn't perfect, mainly because Joe's issues behind his reluctance to get involved with Mackenzie don't feel as clearly understandable as they could have been, but that was a relatively small issue. What I loved best was Mackenzie's character arc. I loved that this was not about him finding another protector, but about him coming into his own and meeting the ├╝ber-competent Joe on his own terms.

This was a really good one. There's apparently a sequel, continuing Joe and Mack's story, but I don't know if I'll go for it. I liked where this stopped. It felt like a wonderful ending to me, and I'm always reluctant to take the risk of ruining that. But then, that's how I felt about the In Death books (it took me years to go beyond Naked in Death), so I'm well aware the pay-off can be great.

MY GRADE: A strong B+.

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