Review: Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield

Crossing Borders by Z.A MaxfieldRating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

When I found this book on Joyfully Jay’s Favorite Coming Out Stories list, I jumped at the chance to review this for the Reading Challenge. I’ve read a few ZA Maxfield books in the past, and have enjoyed them, so the re-release of Crossing Borders piqued my interest. As I didn’t read the original, I can’t comment on the extent of revision or editing, but I will tell you that the book in current form is spectacular.

Tristan is a 19-year-old, sexually-confused college student. He’s been sexually active with girls for several years, but he’s thinking that he is, perhaps, gay. He doesn’t seem to get that turned on with girls, and he’s had lots of gay fantasies. So, Tristan’s out to trap a guy, and find out for sure. He gathers up a bunch of gay literature and plants himself in the café of a Borders Books (back when they existed!! *sigh*) in plain view of the customers, one of whom happens to be off-duty Officer Michael Truax, the very same cop who ticketed Tristan years ago for skateboarding without a helmet.

challenge monthTristan is not happy that “Officer Helmet” is lingering in the café, and he’s even less happy with the text commentary the good cop offers on the men who do attempt to pick Tristan up. When Tristan’s fishing expedition is a bust, Michael pushes Tristan to have lunch together, and that’s when the Tristan gets the bombshell: Officer Helmet just picked him up.

The thing is, Michael is really a good looking man. He’s 26 with a gorgeously restored Craftsman home, and Michael’s clearly gay. And willing to help Tristan become less sexually confused. I absolutely melted along with these two as they spend an afternoon and night talking and working out the sexy. Tristan is a man-boy, old enough, but so naïve and so appealing to Michael, who admits he’s harbored an almost-creepy attraction for “Sparky”—the nickname Michael gave to Tristan the first time they met.

As the book unfolds, Tristan must come to terms with his sexuality. He does so with his family and friends, being the bold kid he always has been, but honestly he’s so tender. Being in his POV as he makes himself vulnerable is fantastic. Tristan has a lot of abandonment issues. He father died of a brain aneurysm and he’s living at home instead of going away to college so that he can be a role model to his younger sister and brothers, and help his mother with their care. He’s an admirable, stand-up guy, despite being a self-admitted adrenaline junkie and a tad reckless. Being with Michael is a little reckless, for Tristan, because Michael’s a young cop who has the worst detail and works nights often. Fear for Michael’s safety definitely becomes an issue for Tristan.

I don’t want to reveal too many of the plot points here, but I want to remind readers that the book was written in 2007, published originally shortly thereafter, and for the characters in the story gay marriage is being banned nationwide, being out and proud as a cop is dangerous, and gay partners have no rights in the hospital. For goodness sake, BORDERS was a popular bookstore all those years ago! While times change, and laws change, and attitudes change, the feelings in Crossing Borders are timeless. Tristan’s family is flabbergasted with his news, and it takes them a bit to warm up to Michael. Michael’s family, friends, and work colleagues are suspicious of the “boy” who’s hanging around. They have problems, and issues, and reality. It’s not easy being together. But nothing worth fighting for ever is, right?

I can easily see why this made Jay’s list of favorite coming out stories. Tristan is engaging and brilliant as a main character. He’s cocky and self-assured, but smart enough to realize that he doesn’t know it all. When presented with challenges, he rises to the occasion time and again. The story is well-told and approachable, with details that enrich, not distract. Michael is a protective man, seeing the dangers on the street on a daily basis. He’s had a rough time of his own, emotionally, and never wants to see anyone suffer. For all his witty banter, his heart is bigger than Texas, I think. I adored how Michael keeps his restored home free of many of the modern conveniences—like cable TV and internet—which are out of period with the house and it’s furnishings. It really struck me how Tristan’s deep appreciation for architecture allowed him to connect with Michael’s “old soul” ways. Their conflicts pulled me in; from overprotective misunderstandings to big ole abandonment problems, I wanted to see Michael and Tristan come out stronger on the other side. Also, hoo-boy, a break for a cold shower won’t come amiss. This book is hot and heart combined. Expect a rough road to the HEA, and some tear-jerking moments. Best advice: plan for an immediate re-read.

This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Favorites List Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of books and swag from Samhain Publishing, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Favorites List Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes! 

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  1. “Crossing Border”s was one of the first M/M romance novels I purchased when venturing from fanfiction only to something more, and I still have it in paperback in my bookshelf among some of the other early purchases I made before completely turning to ebooks. I vividly remember the scene at Borders and the sms conversation between Tristan and Michael, and I still think it’s funny, and in my opinion one of this books heights. I’ve even re-read it, because of that scene, and because I love a coming out story and the little bit of age difference just adds that bit of extra, for me.

    This new cover though, it doesn’t work at all for me. The prominent expression of the guy’s freckles reminds too much of  photos used in an add  for an awareness campaign against skin cancer; the sun damaged caused to still healthy skin true UV illumination looked just like that guy with his freckles. But then the original cover wasn’t that good either. And in any other circumstances I love both red hair and lots of freckles. It’s still a good story, definitely worth reading!

    • Yes, I’m not sure how I feel about the new cover. Now I totally disliked the old one. But this guy looks a little too much like a kid to me, and not necessarily a modern day kid. But I still think it is an improvement.

    • That’s funny, because I kinda liked the old cover better, with the boy with long red hair and the straight-laced cop hanging over his shoulder…

  2. This does sound good — and not only because it features my favorite and now defunct book store! I keep hearing good things about Z.A Maxfield, and this book may be the first that I try. Thanks for the review.

  3. I have the original version and adore it…it definitely takes its time building the relationship, but the payoff is so worth it! The dynamic between the guys just melts me, and you can’t beat the sensuality of the sex scenes…

    • I think that first encounter was just so… excellent? How Michael cons Tristan into lunch, and how Tristan goes for it? And then, the middle of the night heart-to-heart? *Melted*

  4. Wow!  Thanks for the wonderful review.  I have had this on my TBR list for a while and now I know I will love it when I read it.  It has many of the components I look for in a great story. I look forward to meeting Tristan.

  5. Great review, Veronica! In fact, I’ve just decided to read Crossing Borders for this week’s challenge. It had been sitting in my ebook for a while, but your review has convinced me it is time to start it. Thank you!

  6. I love Z.A. Maxfield’s books. This one is right up my alley. I can’t wait to read it.

  7. Sounds interesting, I’ll consider it a definite maybe. Thanks for your review!

  8. I read Crossing Borders when it was new and I’ve reread it a gazillion times. Thanksgiving dinner is hilarious. Tristan on the ski trip tore me up. Overall, a good mix of funny, romantic, sad.  I’m with everybody else about the cover – I almost didn’t read it the first time because I hated the cover. I was so excited when I saw ZAM’s blog saying there was a “great” new cover, then I saw the cover…if anything, it’s worse than the first one. The kid on the cover doesn’t look anything like the Tristan in my mind. Oh well, at least on my Kindle I don’t have to look at the cover.

  9. I love ZA’s books but I haven’t read this one yet. Coming out stories are a favorite of mine too. Thanks for the great review. I’ll add it to my TBR list.

  10. I read the original version of this book and loved the dynamic between the characters.

  11. I really enjoyed your review, Veronica. I found myself getting sucked into their story, and I’m not even reading it yet! I haven’t read a Z.A. Maxfield book before, though I’ve seen the author’s name plenty of times. This one seems like the one I should try, even just for the scene at Borders, which sounds awesome. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  12. I haven’t read any of Z.A. Maxfield books. Crossing Border’s does sound like an excellent read and the cover is appealing. I’ve added it to my wishlist. Thank you for the review =)

  13. waxapplelover says:

    I’ve read such great reviews about this book before (but scathing reviews about the cover). It’s on my TBR but somehow I never seem to get around to it. Thanks for the review.

  14. I love ZAM’s work, but I haven’t read Crossing Borders yet. I think it needs to move up on my list!

  15. Denise Dechene says:

    One of the first books in the MM genre I read.This is a comfort read for me. I loved it so much I have a copy of the old paperback as well as the old e book and got the new version. I adore Tristan. Love his attitude and zest for live. This book sucks you in. Love,laughter, and some tears, it has it all. As for the cover, not a big fan or either of them. Luckily I don’t generally buy a book based on the cover or I would have missed out on a great book.Thanks for the review

  16. I’ve got this in my TBR! And I do like the new cover as well, better than the last one. Although I think they make the freckles stand out more than is natural in real life.

    Since I haven’t read it I can’t read the review until after reading the book, but a good review on this blog is always a very good sign for me. The more excited I am about a book, the more careful I am to not read the reviews beforehand to inadvertently find out too much about the plot. I note the rating and then come back to read the review after finishing the book, saving the review for later as Reading a good review of a book you really like enhances the experience. 

  17. This is the book I decided to read along with this week! I have the first edition that I read ages ago and I am really glad it has been brought back out! Thanks for the review!

  18. I read this one early on in my M/M days, and this book (and author) still remains one of my faves!

  19. Thanks for the review! So far I only read one book by ZAM and it was The Long Way Home and i loved it. I bought this new re-release and her Deep series. I’d like to know if she plans to release Crossing Borders #2 again (it was re-released last year).

  20. I have had Crossing Borders for a long time now.  I have never read it.  It just kept getting pushed off.  And every time I was reminded of the book, I would make  notation that I really needed to read it.  May be this time I will.

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