Love, Like Water
Title : Love, Like Water
Author : Rowan Speedwell
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY IT HERE)
Genre : M/M, Western
Length : 284 pages (e-book)
Published : July 10, 2013
Three years undercover with one of the worst gangs in the country left FBI agent Joshua Chastain shattered. Battling nightmares and addiction, he leaves the concrete jungle for New Mexico horse country, hoping to start over on his uncle’s ranch.
Foreman Eli Kelly spends his life rehabilitating abused animals, and Joshua is just another lost soul. But as Joshua slowly begins to put his life back together, Eli realizes that Joshua is a lot more than his newest project.
Joshua’s plan seems to work—maybe a fresh start was just what he needed. Then, just when he has finally found a sense of peace, crime and hatred nearly destroy all his hard work, forcing him to reevaluate what he wants out his relationship with Eli and his own life.
I really liked the characters, the mood, and the overall flavor of this story. The author created a really empathetic character in Josh and I was sure rooting for him to prevail. I read the first half of this book voraciously, but the plot details in the latter part of the story seemed to falter somewhat.
*Fair warning – There will be spoilers in this review but I tried not to get too specific with them!
I love the premise of this story. A badly broken FBI agent – Josh – meets a kind and patient cowboy – Eli- on a beautiful New Mexico horse farm. I found these characters to be well crafted, interesting and to have terrific depth. I absolutely loved the gorgeous New Mexico high desert setting – the author brought it to life brilliantly. I felt like I was riding the fence-lines, exploring the canyons and swimming in the secluded lake along with the guys.
Josh is a former FBI agent, recently out or rehab for a heroin addiction that he acquired as collateral damage from a three year undercover stint infiltrating a drug cartel in Chicago. His superior at the bureau took good care of him, once he was out of the OC operation that is, as did Josh’s sister. What happened to Josh is horrible and dark, he has managed to stay clean and kick the heroin, but he is far from healthy, physically or mentally. The drug abuse was obvious to others, but there are heinous acts that Josh was complicit in that stay locked within him and haunt his nightmares. Josh ends up going from rehab to the Triple C, his Uncle Tucker’s horse rehabilitation and training center in New Mexico, for a chance to heal his body and hopefully his soul. Josh had fond memories of his Uncle Tuck and the horses – but he had not been to the ranch in years. Tuck planned on (and did indeed end up) putting Josh to work on helping him straighten out his office work and finances, and to eventually have him perform physical chores around the Triple C.
Tuck sends his foreman, Eli, to pick Josh up at the bus station. Eli is astonished at the pale, thin, ghost of a man who is Josh. He also feels the stirrings of attraction and as time unfolds, Eli’s nurturing nature can’t help but feel the pull to try to help Josh out of his despair. Josh isn’t oblivious to the gorgeous, capable and rock-steady foreman, but he is feeling much too empty and bereft to give it any further consideration. Besides, nobody at the Triple C knows Josh is gay, and what are the chances that Eli would be as well?
The secondary, yet highly integral characters of Uncle Tucker and Sarafina – the cook and resident “mom” at the Triple C – were quite genial and wonderfully portrayed. These two, along with all of the men working the outfit, were highly supportive of Josh and the struggles he faced on his journey back to health and a life free of whatever was apparently haunting him from his time spent under cover.
Eli turned out to be the perfect person to detect the demons that Josh was dealing with, and he quietly went about becoming friends with Josh, re-acquainting him with life at the Triple C. He did this with the help of Rory, a neglected gelding who was sent to the Triple C to receive much needed TLC, and D.C., Rory’s joined at the hip feline companion. Josh enjoyed observing and was mesmerized by Eli’s easy going and successful way of communicating with horses, especially the abused ones. The correlation between Josh and the rescued horses, and Eli’s manner with and compassion for them all, was beautiful to behold.
Being at the Triple C was good for Josh. But despite everyone’s best attempts, he certainly did not have a smooth go of it,. A big scare caused Eli to face the fact that he was developing feelings for Josh that went beyond physical yearnings. When Josh and Eli addressed their mutual attraction for each other, there were sparks flying such that they should have burned a barn down – luckily this was not the case – but they did set each other (and this reader) on fire. With the help of Eli, and also sessions with a therapist, Josh really began to shine again…until fate intervened.
I did have issues that kept me from rating this book higher. Potential sub-plots and interesting ideas were introduced and then went nowhere. There were some events I thought might turn into more and I was bothered when they didn’t. I thought that maybe Rory, and D.C. and the symbolism of Josh working with them as part of his healing might take more of a central role …or maybe one of the characters would get hooked on painkillers after an injury that occurred and Josh would then end up being integral in helping someone else through a drug addiction. Sarafina’s son, Jesse, was introduced at the very beginning of the story and then pretty much disappeared until a “bombshell” moment at the end. There was hospital time involving several characters. I felt the extent of injuries to one of them was more than necessary to drive the plot, and while not treated lightly, it was still sort of brushed off somewhat toward the very end of the book. I also raised an eyebrow at the FBI approaching Josh for help in ANY capacity in light of the fact that he was a recovering addict.
I was relieved and satisfied that an external source of conflict for Josh, and his relationship with Eli, came out of left field and was not something obvious. I personally love when authors don’t choose the “easy” route with plot. Unfortunately for Josh, this incident sent him into an emotional tailspin, brought his demons to the surface again, and caused him to pull away from Eli.
The romance between Josh and Eli, the pace at which it unfolded, and the manner in which they communicated with each and expressed their feelings for each other, was perfectly fitting and true to their characters. It coalesced realistically well with the darker undertones of Josh’s past and all that he was coming to terms with during the story.
Once again, I will state that the author gets kudos for surprising me with some inventive, unexpected plot turns. Perhaps some of the unexplored points that niggled at me will find a place in a sequel? I would love to see how Josh, Eli, and everyone at the Triple C are faring.
Rated 4 stars by Dianne