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REVIEW: Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton

Dear Ms. Sexton.

I’ve enjoyed your writing before, but it was Kaetrin’s review of this one that made me pull it out of Mt. TBR. I was interested in the concept and knew I could trust your writing. I’m glad I did, even if it wasn’t what I expected.

Levi Binder works in a gay bar and enjoys the “perks” of his position at least once a night in the bar’s storage room. He’s uninterested in relationships and is happy in his “work.” The only fly in his ointment is phone calls from various representatives of his Mormon family, trying to get him to see the error of his ways. Oh, and his hip and thigh, which after being abused by standing all night and then surfing during the day, hurt like a bitch. So he sees a neuro-muscular massage therapist (and I learned something new there–had no idea that neuro-muscular rehabilitative massage existed, let alone what it was). His therapist is Jaime, a quiet sort of guy who seems a bit skittish. Levi keeps coming onto Jaime, Jaime refuses and finally, when Levi won’t back down, kicks him out. And good for him, I say.

With the help of some friends, Levi figures out why Jaime not only won’t consider sex, but categorically refuses to be touched–he realizes that Jaime was probably sexually abused as a child. We already know this, because Jaime has thought about it, giving us a bit of an info-dump. Levi and Jaime work their way back to a professional relationship and then a friendship, because Levi now understands the boundaries, without ever actually discussing the sexual abuse with Jaime. He and Jaime also figure out that Jaime can sleep without nightmares in Levi’s bed because he finally feels safe, so they spend a lot more time together. But Levi starts to fall for Jaime without realizing it, and ends up changing as a result. First he tries to abstain from his easy bar sex and when he falls off the wagon spectacularly and dangerously with a bar patron, he quits the bar.

All of this is interwoven with Levi’s continuing struggles with his family, who variously want him to stop being gay altogether, or stop having gay sex, or stop having meaningless sex, gay or not, or stop working at the bar, his means to meaningless gay sex. But Jaime adores Levi’s large family (parents, Levi and five siblings, nineteen sibling offspring), and when Jaime and Levi finally start exploring the sexual side of their relationship, after they’ve figured out they’re in love, they have to navigate the shoals of Levi’s family’s disapproval, their place in it, Jaime’s past, and their growing love for each other.

I can’t believe that summary had to be so long, because the plot isn’t that complicated. It’s not a Romantic Suspense. No one has to save the world from the Big Bad. But it IS complicated nonetheless, with relationships and interpersonal tangles and the book is all the richer for it. Levi has a LARGE family, but most of the siblings and his parents have solid, individual personalities, which is a pretty good trick. Or, you know, damn hard work as a writer. :)

Here’s the thing, though: this book was an Inspirational. Now, admittedly, I’ve read one “true” Inspy in my life (Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love), and while I enjoyed it in an academic way, atheist me doesn’t particularly want to read any more. And although this book is a m/m romance, it’s definitely an Inspirational, proving that the two are NOT mutually exclusive (and really, it’s only the Christianist h8ers who claim they ARE mutually exclusive). While I appreciated the writing and the characters and understood how the inspirational nature of the story was good and right, even necessary, for the characters, it was…unexpected to me.

Because the story is REALLY about how Levi finds his way back to the bosom of his religious family, finds his way back to his religious beliefs (although not necessarily to his church), through his relationship with Jaime. It is precisely his religious family who help Jaime heal. And Levi eventually believes that God brought him to Jaime, precisely as a gay man in a Mormon family, not only to help Jaime heal, but also to draw Levi back to his family. (Clarification: although the narrative itself is as much about Levi’s emotional journey as it is about Jaime’s, Levi’s own motivation is ALL about making sure Jaime is safe and happy. So while my description here might make Levi sound selfish, he really really isn’t. All he wants in life is for Jaime to be happy and to feel safe.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Inspirational aspects are brilliantly done. The story is utterly compelling. The characters were solid, consistent, even fascinating. And while I absolutely could see that anonymous sex was, indeed, wrong FOR LEVI, the book felt to me like an utter condemnation of anonymous sex for everyone (although, don’t all romances that believe in finding “The One” and living together in happy monogamy forever after, amen? I guess so). And it’s not like I felt the religion was pushed on me or was trying to convert me. I did NOT feel proselytized to in the slightest, like I did with the Rivers. But readers who care about this type of thing one way or another should be aware that Levi’s journey back to God is a huge part of this book.

There was one stylistic thing that made me want to scream. EVERY TIME Jaime wanted to talk with Levi about something difficult, he’d start massaging Levi’s hand. And EVERY TIME he did that, you’d tell us why:

Jaime found it easier to look back down at Levi’s hand rather than to face him.

He concentrated on massaging Levi’s hand, and Levi realized the massage gave Jaime a sense of security–he was relying on what he knew to get him through something that made him nervous.

Instead, he took one of Levi’s hands and began to massage it in a familiar way. It meant he didn’t have to look in Levi’s eyes when he started to talk.

I got to the point that I was screaming at my phone, “Yes, I get it! I really really do!” Trust your readers to get it a bit more than that, okay? Say it the first time, then…don’t. Trust your readers.

All in all, you took serious risks with this book, as you did with Strawberries for Dessert, and the characters carry the day. But the sexual abuse and Inspirational aspect, no matter how brilliantly handled (and they are, don’t get me wrong), means this book probably won’t make it to my Desert Island Keeper file in Dropbox.

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Sarah

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Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

20 Comments

  1. Cris
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 14:23:59

    Overall, I really liked this book, but was never completely comfortable with it.

    I’m not a reviewer, so I could never put my finger on what exactly was wrong, but I suspect it was just my discomfort with reading about other people’s religious beliefs (as opposed to general spirituality, which is usually okay. Or hot, buff angels, which are always okay!). I also never really connected to the protagonists, I liked them, but they weren’t in line to be my new BFF’s like Jared & Matt from her book “Promises”.

    All in all, really good book, recommended, but not my personal favorite.

  2. Lazaraspaste
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 15:12:35

    What an interesting review! I’m curious about how the Mormonism was handled vis a vis accuracy, etc. I’m pleased that it posits the possibilty of being an active gay man who also gets to retain his religious identity, though not necessarily within the church. I know many such men personally, so I might just read this at some point to see what how it handles Mormonism.

    But what really interested me in your review was your definition of this an Inspriational. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but I was more like “Huh, I think I’ve been thinking of this differently.” I’ve always defined Inspirational as being a book that drives the plot and the themes towards a very specific theological interpretation (usually super Orthodox) rather than as a way of describing any book with a positive religious perspecitve. I kind of think of it as the difference between John Milton and John Bunyan. Milton, clearly religious, very Christian, even if heterodoxically so. Whereas Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress much more about conversion and inspiring the reader towards a particular type of theology.(Hush now, Stanley Fish!)

    In fact, I would make the argument that Inspirationals are more genericly akin to Medieval Mystery plays like Everyman. But I totally may not get how the term Inspriational is used.

    Thoughts?

  3. Heidi Cullinan
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 15:24:13

    The funny thing is, I am amazed every time I hear this book referred to as “heavy on religion.” I’m trying to figure out why. I mean, I’m horribly biased, because in addition to being joined at the hip to Marie, I not just betaed but alpha’d this thing, so maybe that’s why. Though I don’t know.

    I think it’s because, ironically enough, Sexton is an atheist. In fact this book, as books do, took her to the religious aspect, and she kept lamenting that, because it wasn’t somewhere she wanted to go. (Probably I told her, “Oh, it isn’t that religious. Go on.”)

    To me the bigger issue was the importance of family and culture, not religion. What I enjoyed reading BTAS is seeing LDS not as the bully religion for once, because I know that it’s not necessarily so. As for the accuracy, yes–Marie was raised in an LDS community. She calls her family “Jack Mormon” which meant nothing to me but she explained means not very good practicing Mormons.

    In my reading the family/church aspect represented how being Other can separate one from community, and how a lot of times that separation is artificial. I liked the idea that getting back together wasn’t about God but about family.

    And I liked the use for healing from abuse: community and love and support. Not a magical healing or patch or group of words, just a sense of safety and belonging.

    But again, I am very biased, and I also know what Sexton was TRYING to do. So bear that in mind.

  4. Sirius
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 16:47:51

    I really really loved this book, I did love Jaime and Levi, I loved their growth and I loved how Levi finally managed to be close again with his family and how his family was not portrayed as devils. Having said that I did think that religious theme was very heavily there, so to speak. And yes, while I thought that Levi’s family was portrayed as human beings, I also felt that there was a heavy condemnation of how Levi was living. I also think that anonymous sex may have been wrong for him, because he was doing it for all the wrong reasons and was not happy. But more than once I just heard from the pages the condemnation of anonymous sex. And that kind of bothered me. As I said, I forgave any misgivings I may have felt, because of Levi and Jaime, but more than once I wanted Levi’s family to shut up and stop being so obnoxious and judgmental. At the same time after reading so many books where religious people are portrayed only in black colour, it was quite refreshing. I knew they loved Levi, I just wished they would have realised how much they had been hurting him for so long earlier. Better late than never I guess. Thanks for the great review.

    Oh religious themes per se never bother me, I love when book plays with it, I love when book gives it a twist, but here it was refreshing twist in itself, even if book was not coming up with reinterpretation of religion.

  5. Brie
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 17:02:01

    I agree with Heidi (actually, I agree with Sarah as well). I think it was about family, the inspirational aspect was about accepting yourself and your loved ones. I was raised Catholic, I went to an all-girls Catholic school with nuns and all that, and honestly I can’t stand anything religious especially if it’s preachy. But this book didn’t bothered me at all, I was happy to see a positive portrayal of an often misunderstood and even demonized religion, one that I really didn’t know much about, even though I was a bit judgmental about it due to my adversity towards orthodox/dogmatic beliefs.

    I found this book quite dark, I didn’t feel that things were wrapped up nicely at the end, the characters do get their HEA but the family situation was a work in progress and I didn’t feel like they would ever be fully and truly acceptant of Levi.

    Overall I think this was a fantastic book and if you go into it with an open mind there’s no reason not to like it.

  6. Sarah Frantz
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 19:04:25

    I guess I *wished* that Inspirational meant any story about two characters falling in love and/while negotiating their relationship with their deity. That it started and/or was co-opted for a much more conservative meaning is, I think, part of our issue in the US. Liberal people have relationships with deities, too, that are extremely important to them. They just don’t try to insist that their way is the One Right Way, as some conservative believers do, whatever their denomination. So, I guess I was labeling this “Inspirational” in the way *I’d* like to see Inspirationals. I’d class James Buchanan’s HARD FALL an Inspirational along those lines, too, maybe even more than this book, beautifully kinky as it is. But yeah, Angela, I think you’re right that Inspirationals generally have the meaning you ascribe to them.

    As for @Heidi Cullinan‘s comment, this book really IS heavy on religion compared with almost all other romances. Run-of-the-mill romances are VERY secular. I thought SEP was taking a huge risk having Ethan the minister as the secondary hero in DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, since his central dilemma is his relationship with God. Characters rarely mention God or their beliefs. They almost never go to church. Georgette Heyer is unusual in that her characters always go to church, even if they aren’t at all religious (ah, love the Anglicans). So yeah, the characters (or at least Levi) talk about what God wants for them, or what God is leading them to do, AND MEAN IT, *all* the time. And that’s…very unusual. And *in this country* is usually indicates a conservative text. Which, in some ways (not the crazy Christianist ways), it IS conservative–family-values, monogamy, no “meaningless” sex (heck, the concept that sex can be meaningless), saving yourself, etc. Romance is in some ways inherently conservative and this book just makes that very obvious.

    So…there you have it. Not sure how coherent I’m being. I don’t think that the religion was a bad thing and it definitely worked for the characters. But it *IS* unusual in romance that’s NOT Inspirational to see it.

  7. Joy
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 19:23:08

    Inspirational (in a way like romance) is a marketing category, and it’s not a marketing category in which m/m romance can fly. There are good stories both “mainstream” and “inspirational” about people living their normal lives and struggling with how to integrate faith or lack of faith into them. But if it’s gay, it’s not making it into your local Family Christian Store. To a large extent, how it is classified and marketed depends on your publisher, but writing for a mainstream audience demands a non-preachy touch (and some are quite successful at it, like John Grisham).

    (As someone who does integrate faith into her life, I wouldn’t mind coming across more characters of faith in the mainstream romance genre; in fact, the last one I read was _Forbidden Falls_ by Robyn Carr.)

  8. Lazaraspaste
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 21:16:53

    Hee hee. I can’t think of Anglicans without thinking of Eddie Izzard. Cake or death?

    Thank you for your explanation, Sarah. That totally makes sense. I like that definition. Heck, I wish that was what every Inspirational was about without having to be tied up with a conservative political ideology or a punishing, narrow-minded dogma.

    I think sometimes that people use the word meaningless in association with sex as a synonym for not transcendent or not about love, which is interesting in the context of an Inspirational. But of course, even meaningless sex has meaning it just perhaps doesn’t have the meaning that a particular culture or perspective wants or approves of. When I hear/say “meaningless sex” I translate it to mean “boring sex” or “bland sex” Like the sexual equivalent of eating some God-knows-how-old Halloween candy at midnight after watching the Food network special on chocolate. But, hey, that’s just me. ;)

  9. Lazaraspaste
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 21:17:32

    P.S. I’m totally going to have to read both this book AND Hard Fall.

  10. jmc
    Sep 08, 2011 @ 21:27:11

    I had a longish Twitter conversation with Sunita after reading this book, because she’d recently read another m/m romance with a Mormon hero (not Spin Out or Hard Fall). My reaction was much less positive than yours, in that I felt battered by the inspirational/religious aspects of the book and Levi’s family. After reading it, I would classify this book more as gay lit and/or inspirational than genre romance, because it felt like Levi’s relationship with his family and his god and the more or less therapeutic aspects for Jaime outweighed the romance.

  11. Kaetrin
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 08:43:30

    See I thought, as strong as the religious aspects of the story were, the story was really about Levi and Jaime. They were both, in their own ways, scarred and alone and they found, in each other, something worth changing their lives for and in the process, Jaime got stronger and Levi stopped being a dick. I thought the LDS aspects of the story were quite cleverly done and skirted the line, on the “right” side of being preachy. Mainly I thought this was because it was authentic for the characters and I never got the impression that the author was preaching at me. I mean a strict LDS dad is probably going to think what Levi’s dad thought. And a religious family of any persuasion is likely to frown on casual indiscriminate sex. That just makes sense to me. I also thought it was clever how the various different family members showed some of the differences on the religious continuum, so they weren’t caricatures. Like in Hard Fall, religion was important to one of the main characters and because of that, it was featured strongly in the story. In neither case did I feel like I had a clue what the author’s own religious view was, which is, I think as it should be, as the story is not about what the author thinks, but the characters after all. It’s for that reason I wouldn’t call these books “inspirationals” – I don’t think they were trying to influence my beliefs, which is what I think that category is trying to do – evangelize, either subtly or obviously depending in the author.
    As for the indiscriminate sex, the thing is that Levi recognizes later in the story that his sex life is just a big FU to the family he feels (not without cause) has abandoned him and also is a punishment to himself. I don’t think that this was a secret message not to sleep around from the author. It made sense for Levi in the context of the book, and besides, the whole romance genre is about the HEA and you don’t usually get that by screwing anything that moves. There’s probably a whole thesis to be written about how the romance genre promotes monogamy and fidelity, but that’s probably for another day!

    Finally, can I just have a tiny “squee” that I got linked in a DA review and by Sarah no less! *so proud* :D

  12. emmytie
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 10:21:18

    I apparently have a similar background to @Brie (Catholic family, all-girls Catholic HS), and as someone who has this huge break with her family over religion, a lot of the book felt very real. It did deal with religion (throughout nearly the whole book), but I think I would have liked that about it even without my background. Religious beliefs and families aren’t addressed often in romance but that seems more a failing of the genre than this book. It’s just as real as any of the other barriers that couples have.

    I really disagree about calling this an Inspirational, but I’m having a hard time articulating why. Probably because religion felt like something Levi and to some extent Jaime were working through and coming to terms with instead of being a third person in their relationship.

    I actually even loved the book up until the very end when it got a little too perfect. I am apparently a picky bitch with regards to endings.

  13. Sirius
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 14:26:53

    @Kaetrin: Please forgive me if my argument will not be very coherent. Yes, the random sex is not my idea of HEA actually, be it romance or real life. However, neither do I think that random sex in itself is something that person deserves to be sneered at or judged. How to put it? Yes, of course thats the whole point that Levi was not doing because it brought him happiness, he was doing it as big FU to his family. But his family never (as far as I remember, I read the book right after it was released) apologised for the *cause* of why Levi was doing things and had a nerve to judge him for an effect. I am not really disagreeing with anything you are saying, but I am trying to think why I was so unhappy that they were doing it? I suppose because Levi was not doing anything dangerous to his health, he was not (again as far as I remember) having unprotected sex, he was not finding partners on the street, who could be a danger to his health or worse to his life. He was just finding different partners in the club and often. In other words, no matter why he was doing it ( for all the wrong reasons, I totally agree), the only reason why they judged him was because they felt that he was doing something that only people of their religion (I mean any conservative christianity) will judge him for. Am I making sense? It is one thing to say that you are unhappy, you should stop doing that and another to say, you should stop because you are living your life wrongly IMO.

    They were not saying that he was doing it *because* he was unhappy, they were just saying that because he was doing it, he was a sinner. Maybe because that attitude annoys me, I guess I wanted somebody, ANYbody to point to them how wrong and how poorly they treated their son and that they have no right to pass a judgment on him. I guess I was a little bit worried, because at time it felt that Levi was judged for casual sex simply because he was engaging in casual sex, and IMO his family was given too much pass on what they did to him. In other words, I had no problem whatsoever when Jaime did not want Levi to work in the club, he IMO had all the right reasons in the world to want it, but not his family. I think Ruth ( his sister who called him all the time?) at some point says that it does not matter to her that he is gay, but that he sleeps around, but even that to me came out all the wrong way.

    Wow, sorry for it being so long, I just realized that I disliked Levi’s family much more than I thought I did. Those calls and family discussions every time he was being called “on the rug” I hated it. I am also realizing that I felt that too much of burden to change was put on Levi and way too little on his family.

    I have to say though, that all of this has no bearing on how I felt about the book, to me it is the highest compliment I can pay the book if I disliked some of the characters and still loved the book. And I did love Levi and Jamie, I know how much Levi wanted the support of his family and how much Jaime liked them and for their sake I could tolerate the others, but only for their sake. I know that they love Levi, but as Levi said he needed their support more. IMO of course.

  14. Kaetrin
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 21:15:52

    @ Sirius. I’m not agreeing with the attitude/judgment displayed by Levi’s family. I only point out that it is an understandable attitude – it’s what you’d expect from a conservative LDS family. The whole “sinner” thing was all coming from Levi’s family. I was just saying that the characters were true to themselves and I thought it was coming from the characters rather than the author. In my review I pointed out that for those with a strong religious belief, this kind of conflict must be very difficult – how does one “love unconditionally” when the person is living a life which is, according to one’s strongly held beliefs, is a “sinner”? I thought it was an interesting question and I liked the exploration of it in the book. Ultimately, the heart of the conflict between the Binders and Levi was that they found that loving Levi unconditionally conflicted wildly with their religious beliefs (I’m not saying whether those beliefs are right or wrong or beliefs I share) and the “confabs” were, as I saw them, the family’s way of trying again and again to reconcile the two things. In the end, through the religious equivalent of “creative accounting” they did but I understood the genuine conflict. I don’t believe it’s wrong to be gay, but for those who are raised and believe strongly in a religion which says that, it must be difficult to have to confront these issues. It’s easy to say, well, they’re wrong and they should change, but it’s not as easy as that and I think the book captured that quite well. Ultimately, when I really thought about it, I realised that Levi kept coming back, even though he was on a hiding to nothing, because he, too, wanted that reconciliation. When I looked at it from that perspective, I had a lot more sympathy for the family, even though I don’t personally agree with them.

    Sarah said that the book felt to her like an utter condemnation of anonymous sex for everyone. With resepct, I disagree. Those characters who pushed that message, were entirely consistent and had believable reasons, given who they were. I never thought it was an author message being pushed on to me.

  15. Sirius
    Sep 09, 2011 @ 21:33:06

    @Kaetrin: I did not mean to imply that you agree with Levi’s family attitudes. Sorry if it came out that way. I am just saying that it seems that our only disagreement, which I am not even sure is a disagreement is not about whether the family was portrayed believably. I certainly agree that it was. I am not saying that it would have been easy for them to change and certainly I think that they changed somewhat.

    I think the crux for me is basically what Sarah said, for me at times it felt that book indeed was condemning anonymous sex no matter who did it and why. Moreover for me it felt at times that author’s sympathies were more with Levi’s family than with Levi and that I just cannot agree with. I do think that Levi wanted that reconciliation as well, he clearly missed being part of it. I felt so sorry for him and because of him wanted him to reconcile with the family, but no matter how difficult it is for them to reconcile the fact that their son is gay with their religion, I feel that they are clearly in the wrong and I guess for me I suppose I needed it stated more strongly. Sure, loving each other and overcoming differences for that purpose could be the most important thing in the world, but I am still wary of the fact that even Jaime at the end states that their love maybe a sin, but if it is, it is a smaller sin than what had been done to him and thats the only way he is able to shake Levi’s father way of thought somewhat.

    I completely agree that all the characters who condemn Levi are very true to themselves while doing so, I just cannot shake off the feeling that the book wants me to *like* their way of thinking. I want to be wrong, I hope I am wrong and before I entered this discussion I never framed my uneasiness in these terms, I was just so smitten with Levi and Jaime. But I am not sure what I think now. Even though I am still smitten with both of them. I hope I am making sense, because I am not sure if I am making sense to myself. The first time I have finished the book I have had that warm and fuzzy feeling, because as I said exploration of religion, any religion is one of my favorite themes, and because I loved the guys so much, but I am wondering now.

  16. Kaetrin
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 02:56:32

    @ Sirius. I didn’t get the impression that the author’s sympathy was with Levi’s family myself. Given that this author writes m/m romance, it would be a strange thing for her to think. That said, if that was your impression, I can’t argue with it. Everyone’s experience of a book is their own and is valid.

    We both did love Levi and Jaime though :D

  17. Sirius
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 09:39:32

    @Kaetrin: Right, we definitely both love them. :) I am not attempting to make you agree with me, as I mentioned before, I am just trying to figure out for myself what I think about this issue and I am still wavering. I am not sure about the sympathy, but I think that it felt to me that there is more unconditional acceptance of Levi’s family flaws than Levi’s flaws. Yes, I think this phrasing quite adequately reflects what I think at the moment at least.

    I am trying to come up with a good example of what would have made me feel differently. Have you read her Song of Oestend? If you did, there was a woman, who was sort of a mother figure to one of the guys and at the end one of the guys calls her actions somewhat evil, but they agree that it was understandable, given her circumstances and what she had been through before. Of course the actions were totally different, circumstances, setting, everything. BUT here was somebody voicing a *different* opinion about what she did or not did, cannot say more without spoilers and I was quite happy knowing that author allows that different opinion to be heard. Am I making sense?
    I am probably not since as I said I am still trying to figure this topic out for myself.

    In this book nobody stands up for Levi, even Jaime after those awful dressings down they gave to Levi wants to go back. Now before you say it, I totally understood why Jaime wants to go back, given how what horrors had been done to him, destroyed his family, made him feel all alone and he wants to belong. I totally get all this, but at the same time, I missed somebody, *anybody*, just once voicing how awful Levi’s family had been to him besides Levi. Now sure, subtlety is often a good thing and I usually like when author lets me decide for myself what to think of characters’ actions. But if this was the purpose, I feel that she overdid it a bit and instead of ambigiuous at time it felt that what Levi’s family did was approved of.
    I did not feel that their acceptance went too far away from “hate the sin, love the sinner” kind of thing and they never stopped loving Levi anyway. IMO of course.

    I think I should reread the book and see what I think, as I mentioned I have read it couple days after the release, maybe I am misremembering some parts and will change my mind again.

  18. kkm
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 12:20:53

    how’d i miss this review? i loved the book and found it illuminating of faith/life conflicts and lds practices. what i think is missing in this conversation is whether m/m romances are escapist or capture real three dimensional people we can relate to. i think we need to clarify what we read for. i, personally like both. and like many real people i know – faith in whatever form is part of their life and subsequently sex practice. cutting it out from romance novels (espcially with christianity versus other faiths) altogether robs people of any faith or external practice of their moment of dimensionality and reveals so much more about reader bias than author skill.
    -kkm

  19. cleo
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 21:02:47

    I bought this book because of this review – I finally read it today and I just want to thank you. I really enjoyed it – both men’s journeys felt emotionally accurate to me and I resonated with both of them. I liked that Jaime wasn’t magically cured by the end of the story, but seemed to be on the road to recovery. I’m also a complete sucker for romances where the couple has to work to figure out how to have good sex together. And in this case, it was particularly poignant because of Jaime’s past.

  20. Sarah Frantz
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 21:12:05

    @cleo: I’m so glad you liked it! :) I love it when my reviews lead readers to books that mean so much to them.

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