Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Inherit The Sky & Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna

Reviewed by Hannah
Inherit The Sky (Lang Downs #1) by Ariel Tachna
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 206pgs
4 Pants Off

Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle's sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won't hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine's biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine's American accent than they are moved by his plight... until they find out he's gay and their amusement turns to scorn. It will take all of Caine's determination-and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor-to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.

This book is beautiful. Tachna has crafted an enchanting story in the shape of Macklin and Caine’s relationship.

Macklin and Caine are two truly endearing characters. They are portrayed with subtle complexities that keep you reading a tale that may at first appear to hold no interest to you. The ins and outs of sheep farming is not something I would describe myself as having an interest in, but that takes nothing away from this book. Tachna uses her two leading men to entice you into their world on the ranch and you begin to develop a genuine interest in their way of life, even in places where the detail into organic lamb raising probably goes beyond what you need to know.

The development of the character Caine is one that progresses gradually and believably as he grows from uneasy city boy, out of his depth on the ranch, to respected and trust worthy ‘boss’. At the age of 32, Caine is hardly a character that you would expect to show youthful traits of vulnerability and self-doubt, but this character is written in a way that perfectly balances out his relationship with Macklin. Whilst Caine is endearing to the reader as he tries to negotiate his way through learning the ways of the land in the middle of the outback and tries to adjust to the rules of his new surroundings, having moved from the liberal ‘gaybourhood’ of Philadelphia, to the rather more reserved and judgemental circle of ‘Jackeroos’ in Australia, his confidence in his sexuality and relationships balances out Macklin’s insecurities about being a gay man, in an open relationship, in a crowd that may not accept him.

The fact that Macklin is almost 10 years older than Caine makes his insecurities even more enchanting to the reader as you watch this pair try and find their way through each other’s uncertainties to a way to co-exist as a couple whilst holding their authority on the ranch as the ‘Boss’ and the Foreman.

This story is beautifully written as you take Macklin and Caine into your heart as you try to understand their reasons for fighting with the other to find the right path for their love. Macklin in particular leaves a warm glow as he charms you with such nervousness and vulnerability, rebelling against the normal stereotype of the confident older man. Although his control in the bedroom leads to some sexy encounters, it never distracts the reader from his true nature, which is one of shyness and uncertainty about how to love Caine the way he deserves, whilst balancing his need to be respected by his ranch mates. Macklin is definitely a character with the power to make you weak at the knees.

As Caine tries to tread carefully through his relationship with Macklin, trying to open up his gorgeous older man to the joys of a relationship, instead of just cheap thrills and quick sex, you see more of the strong and headstrong nature that leads him through the other part of his story, taking his place as head of the ranch, battling through the anxiety of not having the knowledge needed to effectively command his ‘men’ and facing bigotry and resistance and he tries to cut his own path to success.

The only thing that stops me giving this book 5 out of 5 is the fact I wanted more. This book could have benefited from some chapters told from Macklin’s view point. Although Tachna uses Caine to explain the reasoning for Macklins behaviour, it’s not the same as truly getting into a characters head.

That said however, every aspect of this book holds your attention, whether it’s the heart-warming love between the two leading men (even when they don’t trust their own feelings), the beautiful tale of Caine trying to find his place in the world and meaning in his life, or the really hot sex. This book is a truly enjoyable read.

4 Pants Off

Chase The Stars (Lang Downs #2) by Ariel Tachna
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 250pgs
5 Pants Off

Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He's as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.

For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he's crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.

Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.

How people are born into this world with such gifts as to write a book like this I don’t know, but I am grateful they are.

After reading ‘Inherit the Sky’ I opened this book unsure of what to expect. Having loved the previous book so much I was sceptical that a sequel, one based on new characters no less, could live up to the beauty of the first. How wrong I was to doubt Tachna’s talents.

This book matches ‘Inherit the Sky’ in every way, in its beauty, in its enchanting storytelling and in its endearing characters, except this book manages to tug at your heart even more as Tachna opens up all the characters, by giving you snapshots from each individuals point of view, something that was missing from the first book, and something that pushes this story to the 5 out of 5 rating.

You can enjoy this book whole heartedly having not read the first instalment. Tachna makes sure to include enough of the back story that you don’t miss anything, but in a way that has enough subtly, that a reader coming off of ‘Inherit the Sky’ feels no repetitiveness from the characters. I was thoroughly elated to see Macklin and Caine’s story continue and progress throughout this book. I had concerns their story would be left behind to open up for the new characters, but I needn’t have worried. This book has been crafted beautifully to satisfy the burning want you will have coming off of the previous book, to know how Macklin and Caine’s love has weathered, but to also completely envelop you in the lives of the new characters, Jesse and Chris.

Jesse and Chris are most accurately described as the new generation on the station. Not due to their age (Jesse is 28 and has been around the block a few times when it comes to sheep farming) no, they are the new generation when it comes to their love story. They mirror Macklin and Caine for the rough path they have to take to find happiness, but have their own struggles to make them independent from Macklin and Caines story. That said however, the love in this book is more than just the love between Jesse and Chris, or Macklin/Caine. It took me a long time to pinpoint why I found this book so beautiful and captivating, and then I put my finger on it, it’s the sense of family.

You could be forgiven for feeling de je vu at the story of Jesse and Chris, as they seem to reflect the difficulties of Macklin and Caine in the previous book, however this is beautifully avoided by Tachna, as she allows for the two generations to open up each other’s stories, to allow the reader to see each couple grow and guide each other, and it is that love, the love outside of the individual couple, the love of a wider family on this station, the comradely, the protectiveness, that makes this story so heart-warming.

The characters around Jesse and Chris are so easily taken into your heart as they guide the young couple. It warms your heart as you notice the subtle gestures that show the other men on the station are learning to push past their own comfort barrier to see the happiness of these ‘young’ men, even when Jesse and Chris seem to be incapable of finding out for themselves what the other needs.
You are equally captivated by the older generations love as you are the younger. You read eagerly as they both find themselves fighting different insecurities, and you breathe an equal sigh of relief when Macklin faces his fears as you do when Jesse faces his.

This book becomes something more than the first, as you are allowed more of an insight into the personal motives of each character, and you learn more about their own fears, as they each get their chance to speak. You get to see how the characters you loved from the first book have grown into an almost unshakable force, outside of the couple, into the wider relationship of a group of Jackeroos on the station. The love of an adoptive family warms the page just as much as the love between the two couples does.

This is another masterpiece by Tachna, a beautiful story that focuses on all examples of love and what it can take for a person to feel secure. Even in the intimate moments of ‘love making’ between the couples, the reader is not distracted by what would appear to be ‘hot sex’, instead you focus on the emotion behind each act, elevating this book beyond one of lust, to one of romance, compassion and love.

5 Pants Off

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