Buy Link: Inherit the Sky
Author: Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Novel
Rating: 4.5

Guest Review by Melanie

Caine Neiheisel has just been dumped by his boyfriend of 6 years. Alone in his apartment, Caine makes an appraisal of his life and doesn’t like what he finds. He has no boyfriend, a dead end job, a mediocre apartment, and friends that are really only acquaintances. However, a letter from Australia is about to change his life. His uncle has died and his Mom has inherited his sheep station. Now Caine sees a chance for a new future, full of exciting possibilities in New South Wales, one where his stuttering won’t matter but his hard work ethic will, or so he hopes.

Macklin Armstrong has been the ranch foreman of Lang Downs sheep station for years, ever since Caine’s uncle took him in when he had no where else to go. Now his future and that of the sheep station is in the hands of an unknown American and he fears the worst. Their first meeting doesn’t make either of them hopeful. To Macklin, Caine is a soft American “blow-in” or greenhorn, and a gay one at that. While Caine hopes that Macklin, a gruff, handsome “grazier,” or cowboy, will help him learn how to run the sheep station, the foreman instead blows hot or cold, and doesn’t seem want to give him a chance.

Macklin is having a hard time keeping his guard up around his new boss. Caine works hard and is trying to fit in, even with his American accent and stuttering. Plus the fact that he’s darn cute doesn’t escape his attention. Macklin is deep in the closet and intends to stay that way, sure that it would cost him the respect of his coworkers. What will it take for Caine to find the acceptance and approval he seeks on Lang Downs? Could Caine be the future that Macklin has always been afraid to reach for?

Inherit the Sky is very different in tone and pace from Under the Skin, the last book I read by Ariel Tachna (and Nicki Bennett). Whereas Under the Skin was fast paced, with hard men in dangerous situations, Inherit the Sky’s charm sneaks up on you with the slower pace of life on a sheep station. Each sheep station is a small village unto itself, isolated by the enormous range of territory of the ranch. There is the drudgery of everyday chores, sheep breeding and shearing, and life lived in accordance with the seasons.

Caine Neiheisel is a wonderful character and I liked him immediately. He is comfortable with his sexuality, has learned to accept his stuttering, and is a man of character and purpose. We don’t even find out that he is attractive (he doesn’t see himself as such) until Macklin tells him that’s how he sees him. Macklin too will grow on you. Older and as isolated from people as the ranch he lives on, Macklin finds it hard to believe that Caine will stay on Langs Down, and harder still to believe that Caine could come to love him. Macklin is so deep in the closet, so fearful of change, that his only sexual outlet is a one week vacation full of anonymous encounters. He firmly believes that any emotionally rewarding partnership will never be his. It is so gratifying to watch each man make adjustments as they juggle the demands of the station with their burgeoning relationship.

This story is beautifully, realistically handled. The obstacles and fears here are ones that many face. If I come out, what will happen? How will my coworkers see me? Can I find the courage to reach for something better or will fear hold me back? How do I make a relationship work? This can and does make for a wonderfully rich story that moves with the same pace as the men asking those questions, slow, a little unsteady, and yet so very satisfying. Life on a sheep station seems very similar in some respects to life on an American cattle ranch, with many of the same highs and lows. I could almost feel the callouses form on Caine’s hands and his soft body harden as he adjusted to life on the ranch so faithfully did Tachna capture that lifestyle. It’s all there from the utes they drive, right down to the clothes they wear, and the Blundstones boots on their feet. My only quibble (and you know I had to have one) is that I would have liked a little more inclusion of the daily activities. We got some of the breeding, some of the working sheep dogs but all that did was wet my appetite for more.

I believe the author is writing a sequel to this story and I can’t wait to read it. Barring my own trip to New South Wales, I will happily curl up with the inhabitants of Langs Down for another nice long visit.

Cover: I liked the cover with the landscape at the bottom. I wish the man in front with the hat was a little older, more true to the description of Macklin but I am not sure there are cover models like that out there. Calling all bears! The fonts are easy to read and well placed. Nice job.