Exiled to an abandoned presidio in southwestern Texas, Father Alonzo Vargas is accustomed to being utterly alone except for his white donkey, Angelica. He is also fully acquainted with the corrupt and rotten sheriff, John Cullen, the man responsible for his semi-permanent exile. When he finds a victim of the sheriff hanging upside down from a tree, he immediately cuts the man down and vows to nurse him back to health.
Ben McKinnon has never done anything to cross Sheriff Cullen—except defend the land he inherited from his father. The land Cullen covets. He’s surprised when the exiled priest makes it clear that he will not only be a nurse, but will also become Ben’s ally in the fight against Cullen. He’s even more shocked when he realizes he doesn’t just want Father Alonzo as a friend. Ben cherishes the other man’s mind, his body, and his heart.
But Father Alonzo is not a free man. And if Sheriff Cullen has his way, they will both be dead men.
Review by Erastes
Priestly love has always been something that appeals to me, has done since I first read The Thornbirds, or possibly before, so this theme, coupled with Jamie Craig’s writing was something to look forward to.
Right from the start this book grabbed me–I’m not a huge fan of western stories, but this was obviously not just another tale of cows, campfires and round-ups and the description in the first few pages (I’m a description whore) pulled me in, making me feel the desolation of the prairie/desert, the ominous wheel of the vultures overhead and the baking sun.
Father Alonzo is a good man and a dedicated priest. He’s a little trammeled at being posted 30 miles from anything with nothing much more than a donkey for company and the constant threat of Indians, but he trusts in the fact that God has a plan for him.
Jamie Craig’s characters, I’ve found, are never two-dimensional. They leap off the page straight away. I don’t need to be shown Alonzo’s description to get inside his mind, and Ben is perfectly introduced too.
I admit to being a little confused as to why a priest would have his posting ordered by the local bad guy, though – I was under the impression that the postings were ordered by the Vatican, through a network of communication? But I’m not sure, I’m not an expert in Catholic episcopal organisation of 19th century America!
I particularly liked the way that Ben “came out” to Alonzo, and the way that Alonzo dealt with it.
For its length (around 120 pages) this certainly does a lot, it has adventure, a burgeoning friendship, relationship, and some truly spine meltingly erotic sex. As usual with books of this length that I enjoy I find myself frustrated because I greedily want more; want to know about Alonzo’s past with Cullen, about Ben’s upbringing, want to see Ben being taught to read, want to know how Alonzo’s going to deal with the future… I want the whole thing, really, and this teases us with so much other aspects.
That being said, it’s a perfect perfect short read and one I’ll be getting out to read again and again, I’m sure.
I can’t imagine how a writing collaboration works, I couldn’t do it, but Jamie Craig (a collaboration between Vivien Dean and Pepper Espinoza) does it perfectly. I don’t know how they work it, but there’s never any discernible join–all I can imagine is that they’ve worked together for so long that they know exactly how the other person thinks. It certainly makes them uber-productive, and they while they continue to write historicals as well as contemporaries, I’ll always be a fan.