Author: Bailey Bradford
Publisher: Loose Id, LLC
Jesse Martin never knew what it meant to belong anywhere until he moved to the small town of El Jardin, NM. Something about the town called to him, and he set about doing what he could to fit in. If that meant keeping some parts of himself separate, tucked away from prying eyes, then that was what he’d do.
Caden Tomas moved to El Jardin to escape the memories of a vicious attack that left him a shattered, broken man. The physical wounds would heal, but the emotional ones seemed insurmountable. Unable to leave his home for more than a brief walk to the mailbox, Caden’s isolation was just one more torment that ate away at his hopes of ever recovering.
Two men, each with their own personal demons, living only yards across from one another. Each is fascinated by the other, but unable to find a way to breach the problems that keep them apart. The solution comes in the form of one yappy little poodle, Loopy. His frequent escapes from Caden’s yard gives Jesse a reason to approach his neighbor, and form a tenuous bond that will heal their wounds and maybe, just maybe, end their lonely nights.
Another week passed before Jesse caught what he hoped was a break. The little reddish orange ball of fur bounced around his ankles. A smile bloomed as he realized why the poodle looked familiar. Bingo and a home run. This hyper creature was the same one he had seen in his neighbor’s backyard.
Now he had an excuse to go bang on the door, regardless of what the snotty sign said. So far, he had patiently waited for the story to unfold. Maybe here, in the form of a three-pound bundle of shivering canine excitement, was the thread that would unravel the whole tale.
“Come here, boy.” Jesse squatted and reached for the poodle, earning himself a face full of dog tongue, or dog kisses, whatever. He’d tolerate them if it meant finally meeting the man who had refused to acknowledge Jesse’s existence for over a month.
The guy couldn’t be totally averse to visitors, so it was either personal or applied to all strangers. Jesse was definitely leaning toward the latter, since he opened the door to one person at least. Or, to be exact, three people. A car had been there earlier, carrying an attractive woman and two little girls Jesse assumed were her kids. It was gone.
Twice he’d seen that car at his mysterious neighbor’s house, and while the man hadn’t walked outside to greet them, he had waited in the doorway and hugged his visitors before scurrying back inside. Jesse suspected they were family members. The woman was petite, her hair was reddish, and the little girls, with their auburn ringlets glistening in the sun, were like carbon copies of the man who had hugged them.
© Bailey Bradford
When I saw this book on the publishers website it was no hardship to snap it up. Why, because for one I enjoyed the offerings that this author has presented to me this past year and secondly I was loving the blurb alot – it spoke of emotional disability, it spoke of loads of hurt and hopefully a pretty decent amount of angst along the way to whatever resolution Bradford decide to give her protags.
The book starts off with Jesse Martin assuming the position, on his front stoop watching the front door of the house next door. Waiting for the minute hand to reach a particular time, for the neighbour's door to slowly open and a rather pale dishevelled figure to slowly make his way to his post box and a sort of routine takes place.
This time daily and like clock work for the past month Jesse’s neighbour checks the post not looking up or around and not acknowledging anyone and Jesse being Jesse and a cop as well is almost out of his mind with curiosity – and he wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Locked behind the door on the other side of the road is Caden, a man trying to literally put his life and himself together. Caden’s one thought for the day is keeping safe, staying out of sight, not letting anyone in – but El Jardin is a small town and small town comes with it’s own set of rules.
Number one rule is expect nosey neighbours and luckily for Caden the first person that tries to breach his barrier is not only tactful but seems to understand that Caden needs time, patience and space to work out his issues. Jesse is determined to find out what is up with Caden, but mostly he wants to help him as that’s what being a good neighbour is all about, before long they are tentatively relying on each other for various things.
A romance soon develops between the two and this is where the other not so nice side of small town kicks in. Assumptions and accusations starts flying because as much as Caden is gently coming around to making brave new steps he is not ready for anyone else to cross his front doors and Jesse is not as together as he likes people to think – he has his own set of secrets to face.
What I like
I really really liked the first half of this book. Physical or emotional disability/abuse is not the most over used plot in the GLBT genre and when a book pops up with that plotline I am really keen to see how the author deals with it.
While each persons reaction to psychological traumatic is different I am going with the angle the author took, it was not at the extreme end and it might ring as convenient for some readers, but I liked the fact that I could see the support system Caden had around him, I could see his thought process so to speak – and it swings from “this is not me” to “I dare not let anyone in” – and it made accepting his growth all the more easier..
The author really used the little moments to suck me into this book, from the little scenes of a door slowly opening, to Jesse diligently watching out and looking for the perfect opportunity to make contact – it was sweet to watch and helped with the build up of this book.
The addition of pets is always a winner with me – two psychotic animals were the perfect match for Caden who was dealing with so much.
While the entire book did not hold up to my expectations, I was liking the small town setting of this book, the pace is always slower and I think this helped in seeing the mundane everyday things that showed Caden’s steps towards recovery that I think would have been overlooked in the big city or marginalised in the big scheme of things.
There was a nice mix of characters with their own little storylines to go with their introduction. Caden’s sister was priceless, she was not only the voice of reason but also the comic relieve for the most part and I liked her alot.
While there could have been a bit more invested in both the main protags characters, I liked what I got and saw how they got to the place they were at and ultimately the decisions they made.
I read this author because I know what I am getting – Sweet. Nothing is wrong with that and for the most part I love that, however with such an angsty, heavy beginning I was a little disappointed that the plotline went cutsie after the halfway mark and more towards type more than just a waning of the story.
The obligatory small town bigotry was a big roll eyes moment for me – I would have enjoyed something a bit more suiting the overall angsty plot.
There was one story line with Caden sister that I thought had legs, but with only minor scenes and little bit and pieces here and there I was left really wanting more of that plotline.
With Caden issues, I thought the sex scenes were a bit over the top, but they were hot all things considered.
Not a bad read and the thing that stood out for me was the angle Bradford took with the trauma and the ensuring reaction by Caden and even Jesse.
Fan of this author you will find this the angstiest book to date with a lot to think about. Caden is so sweet, add in the pets and his total devotion to Jesse and I was left with “the grin”
What more could I ask for…