Rating: 5 stars
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Broke, despondent, and soon to be divorced, Sam Emery has nowhere to turn but to his brother Neil when he leaves his embittered wife and old life behind him. Sam is also leaving the closet as well, another reason for the divorce and the hatred his soon to be ex feels for him. Sam only got married to please his controlling father and that was a disaster from the very beginning. Now Sam turns to Neil, his younger brother who lives and works on a sheep station, and Sam is unsure of his welcome there when he tells his brother he is gay. Sam knows that Neil loves him but will he be accepted? And what will an out-of-work bookkeeper do on a sheep station?
The brother who meets Sam is not the brother Sam remembers. Neil accepts Sam’s sexuality with an openness that surprises Sam. But then again, Neil lives at Lang Downs, a sheep station owned and operated by a gay couple, Caine Neiheisel and Macklin Armstrong, and his views have undergone a fundamental change in the process. Lang Downs has been described by those that live there as a “miracle,” a magnet and haven for those in need. Sam has been hurt to his core by the constant verbal abuse thrown at him by his wife, shattered by the loss of his job, and made to feel like a total failure by his life to date. A miracle is just what he needs if only he can accept it.
Jeremy Taylor is another man in need of a home and sanctuary. The youngest brother of the family that owns the neighboring sheep station, the two families have butted heads since Jeremy can remember. But since his father died and his brother took over, things have gotten out of control because of his brother’s bigotry and hatred. One explosive argument and fight leads to Jeremy outing himself to his brother and his exit from the only home and lifestyle Jeremy has ever known. Immediately Jeremy heads over to the one place he hopes to be accepted – Lang Downs. But the animosity runs deep between the seasonal buckaroos and Jeremy when the hands have problems looking past Jeremy’s last name to see the man underneath. And then the problem is compounded when Sam and Jeremy become friends to his brother’s consternation because Neil’s antipathy towards Jeremy’s family.
Can two men in need of love and a home find it with each other at Lang Downs? It will take another small miracle to overcome Sam’s insecurity and fear and Jeremy’s family’s reputation if they are to find happiness with each other and outlast the night.
I finished this book and immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and start the Lang Downs series a fresh because I can’t get enough of this universe that Ariel Tachna has created. This book and series has such compelling characters as well as a captivating setting that it is impossible to put the books down once started and the stories stay with you long past the last page. Really this is fast becoming one of my top favorites in contemporary fiction series.
Outlast The Night is as strong and enthralling book as the one that started the series. Lang Downs is such a large and isolated sheep station that it acts as its own small village. By using the sheep station as her setting, Tachna ensures that all the beloved characters of the previous novels are fully present and engaged in the current story, as are the newly introduced main characters. Tachna creates her web of characters that works much the way that nature herself does, they are all interlocked with each other. Their actions have reverberations throughout the sheep station and all those who live there, just as it does in nature. The men, women, children, and animals all live in intimate connection with the earth at Lang Downs. From the seasonal variations in their lives and work to the animals themselves, both wild and domesticated, all are aware of the fundamental role nature plays in their lives.
Winter, the season when the book starts, brings a slower pace to the sheep station. Breeding is finished, and the seasonal jackaroos are gone until spring. The village has shrunk down to those “year rounders” who make Lang Downs their home, school, and workplace. Through the previous novels, we have gotten familiar with the sights and sounds of the place and its citizens. We see the bare necessities of the bunkhouse, the functionality of the sheep sheds, complete with odor mind you, and the predators that keep watch for the unwary animals in field and barn. The author brings Lang Downs vividly and authentically to life before our eyes and before we know it, we feel right at home there along with Caine, Macklin, and Kami. Of course, Kami the aboriginal chef is in the main house kitchen, creating food for all who live there and dispensing advice to those who need it. Molly, Neil’s fiance, is a marvelous female character, a force in her own right. Well, I will let you see them through Sam’s eyes:
Sam finished eating, doing his best not to telegraph his unease to the rest of the room. Caine and Macklin sat at a nearby table talking with several other jackaroos Sam hadn’t met yet, but it was obvious from the body language that they were well known to Caine and Macklin. Sam figured the two men knew everyone pretty well by the end of the summer, but it took a certain degree of familiarity to choose to sit at the table with the bosses. Two teens joined them at the table a moment later, obviously sure of their welcome, and Sam realized one of the boys closely resembled the youngest of the jackaroos.
“Chris and Seth Simms,” Neil said, following Sam’s gaze. “Chris is the one I was telling you about in Yass, the one who nearly died. Seth is his younger brother. And that’s Jesse Harris sitting next to Chris, and then Jason Thompson, the other kid, and his dad, Patrick, our head mechanic. They’re all year-rounders. Patrick’s wife, Carley, is around here somewhere, although I haven’t seen her this morning. She helps out in the bunkhouses and in the kitchen sometimes, when Kami lets her.”
And that doesn’t even include the animals that play such an important roles on the station as well. From Arrow, Jeremy’s kelpie (a sheep herding breed), to Titan, “and a big lug of a horse who loved anyone who brought him treats,” these animals will endear themselves to you in much the same manner as their human counterparts. And never does Tachna make the mistake of treating these animals as pets. These are workers with important jobs to do on the station and are handled accordingly, although with love and affection.
Sam and Jeremy are wonderful additions to Lang Downs and the series. Sam, so vulnerable and hurting, his self image shattered over time by an angry abusive wife. Sam feels out of place, in his life and on the station. A business manager by profession, you can feel his unease and wariness at thinking that he will find a home at Lang Downs. The reader will feel his pain and insecurity and then root for him as Sam begins to pull himself back together, a slow process and a realistic one too. Jeremy is his opposite, he is so rooted to the land and the sheep that it practically rolls off of him from the moment we meet him. Coming from a tough family background has made Jeremy equally tough, inside and out. But still, Jeremy has the capacity to show his gentle side with his dog, Arrow and Sam. It is a beautiful character and the two of them together are like comfort food and magic at the same time. A difficult combination to achieve but Ariel Tachna has done it here with Sam and Jeremy.
Authenticity. Ariel Tachna brings that to this novel and her series in spades. From the Drizzle Bones the men wear (and wear properly) to the utes they drive, I never doubt that the terms and clothing the author uses are the correct ones. But just as important as the research is the seamless manner in which the information is doled out to the reader, in spurts and quick asides. And ever so slowly we have accumulated a wealth of information about an Australian sheep station and how it feels to live and work on one without realizing it. Really, the flawless manner in which Tachna has created all of Lang Downs is exceptional.
I love that all of Tachna’s characters are fully realized and vivid in their personalities as any you would meet out on the streets around you. They endear themselves to you because they feel so real, from their flaws to their passions. And just as real and special is Lang Downs, the heart of the series. I will let you hear it from Jeremy and Sam:
“Lang Downs is a pretty special place.”
“Lang Downs is a miracle,” Jeremy amended. “A bloody miracle, and if you don’t believe that, ask Chris how he ended up here. Hell, ask Macklin how he ended up here. Or Kami. Or Patrick. I’d bet most of the year-rounders have a story to tell about how this place changed their lives. I never knew what drove Michael Lang, but even as a young child, I knew things were different here when I came to visit. That’s even more the case now.”
Yes, Lang Downs is a special place and each new story makes it even more so. I hope that Ariel Tachna has many more stories to tell on her sheep station in Australia, more people to meet, more couples in need of home and a miracle. I know that I will never get tired of this place and the people who inhabit it as the saga gets stronger with each new story it tells. If you are already on the journey, pick up this new addition and fall in love all over again. If you are new to the series, start at the beginning, discover the magic and wonder that is Lang Downs. Expect to become addicted to a very special place in an isolated territory in Australia and the people who live there.
Here is the series in the order they were written and should be read in order to understand the characters and events that occur:
Cover art by Anne Cain is as lovely as the book it represents. The men are perfect representations for Jeremy and Sam and the landscape gorgeous.