Rating: 5 stars
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Five reasons why I highly recommend Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman.
When Jasper decides to finally leave his wife and admit to himself he is gay, he realizes that the solitude of the mountains is where he most desires to live. After his father, a successful gun dealer, gives away the million he made to different charities, Jasper’s inheritance is little more than a 90-acre spread on the edge of town replete with a tumble down cabin and more alligator lizards than Jasper can endure. Over time, Jasper begins to accumulate three dogs and two cats (one of which delights in capturing and eating those pesky lizards), builds an admittedly crooked fence, and ponders investing in a few piglets as well.
Life for Jasper, while solitary, is nonetheless idyllic, or at least that is what he keeps telling himself. When he feels the need for companionship, he simply takes a trip into town to visit a gay bar and hook up with another man. But you see, Jasper is that rare creature that actually feels both guilt and just a little bit disappointed in himself when he gives in to a one night stand encounter. You see what this sensitive, erstwhile novelist and genuinely sweet man really wants is someone to share his mountain, his life–a man he can love and be loved by, in return.
Jasper is a practical man and yet deep inside him lurks the heart of a dreamer. While he fully understands his life choices and the location in which he chooses to hang his hat is as removed from society as possible, he still harbors a deep longing to find someone to take are of, to cherish. He plays at so many things, writing, building, running a ranch, and the beauty of this character is that he knows that. He understands that the choices he has made will in the long run keep him from ever really having what his heart truly desires, yet there is no whining, no regret. There is strength within him that simply makes this man shine!
The way in which author John Inman writes this character allows us to see how beautifully simple a person Jasper is inside. It isn’t that he is without fault or problems, but the total lack of guile, the decisiveness with which he opts to open his home and heart, and the wrenching way in which he is filled with despair over the loneliness of those one night stand makes Jasper someone who is instantly like-able, human, and real. His writing may fulfill him, but his heart seeks something more. As if in answer to Jasper’s heartfelt longing, Timmy appears out of nowhere.
Oh how to describe and review the immensity of this character? While he begins as almost a predictable “lost boy,” having been raised in foster homes, abused, and without love and now is a street-wise petty car thief and near homeless young man, Timmy, at his core, is so much more. Cautious and an inveterate liar, he hides in Jasper’s woods, now terribly sick and on the run from the very bad men from whom he stole his latest car. No one has ever stayed long in Tim’s life and sex has always been a means to an end, quick, loveless and frantic. But he has been watching this bear of a man with his many pets and he realizes that for the first time he may have stumbled upon someone who doesn’t have an ulterior motive for being. Perhaps, just perhaps he has met a genuinely nice man, one who can be trusted. Poor Tim has suffered much in his young life and his self worth lies at the bottom of a deep well where it steadily convinces him that no one could ever really care about him, least of which this gentle giant.
So, when Tim falls ill and ends up seeking shelter in the new pigpen Jasper has just built, the very man who has been waiting to care deeply for someone all his life finds him. And Tim? He has way too many secrets that lay buried under lie upon lie to ever consider falling in love with a man like Jasper. But fate has a very different idea altogether.
Just when I thought my heart had been captured by the quiet and loving Jasper, it found just a wee bit more room for Tim. Young and broken in many ways, Tim hid behind a brash exterior that was outwardly slick and seemingly unfeeling. But it really was all an act for inside their lay such a desperate need to be loved that Tim practically vibrated with need when around Jasper. Tim’s heart was one that was ripe for the picking and Jasper only needed to reach out and grasp it firmly in hand.
In the descriptive passages of John Inman’s novel the mountain and ranch take on a life all their own. From the humorous alligator lizards to the threat of coyotes and mountain lions, the land is as much a part of Jasper as he is of it. The author uses the land not only to set the backdrop for the reclusive nature of Jasper’s home and how it is a perfect place for Tim to hide away in, but also to give us further clues into Jasper’s personality. After all, this is a place that Jasper loves. He draws strength from its beauty and inspiration from its sweet cacophony of noises and wildlife. The bodily strength that Jasper exudes and that so excites Tim is a result of his working his land, putting up that crooked fence, refurbishing the broken down cabin.
Much like Jasper himself, the land demands little but to be left alone and afforded a little respect. The beauty of Jasper’s heart and soul are reflected in the wild, unspoiled land that sits right outside his door. And like our main characters, the mountain exists within just a few miles of the city, so one does not have to look too far to see the parallels…. the quiet and untamed next to the noisy and overcrowded…the tranquil sweetness juxtaposed against the rushed and impersonal metropolitan…Jasper meeting Tim.
The Pets, including those darn little pigs.
A truly gifted writer uses every element of his story to either further the plot or develop his characters. Often, small children and pets are used in romance novels to show a gentler side to a gruff character or the sensitive side to someone who is otherwise, for want of a better word, a jackass. However, in Jasper’s Mountain, the pets become a barometer not only for good and evil but act as comic relief, nurturing mother figures and real companions. Jasper’s sensitive side is revealed in the carefully draped animals that grace his bed every morning and in the two piglets that seemed so forlorn in their new pen that he just had to bring them into the house to lay in front of the fire. But it is the sweet girl, Lola, who lies next to Tim as he lay so ill that just made my eyes well with tears. It was as if here was all the love that Jasper had been saving pouring out on Tim through this sweet pup. The animals clear acceptance of Tim, despite his subterfuge, tells us that here was a man worth waiting for, worth trusting, despite his faults.
The “Happy For Now” Ending
I know a lack of a clear happy ever after is for some of us a real deal breaker when it comes to our romance novels. I, myself, tend to steer away from a novel that leaves the fate of the intended couple hanging with no real sequel in sight. In the case of Jasper’s Mountain it must be said that for the author to have given this book any other kind of ending would have been a real disservice to all the careful planning and work he had done in all the previous chapters. Without spoiling anything for you, I will simply say that I was so impressed that this story did not take the easy route to fixing all the problems that arose for Tim and quite frankly that is what made this novel just brilliant!
Think about how often you enjoyed a novel only to be sorely disappointed when the end was tied up too neatly and too swiftly. I can relate to you the many times I shook my head in real frustration when an author seemed to run out of steam and just put together an ending to make sure we, the audience, got what we wanted, a neat little HEA. But Inman does it one step better. He continues to remind us that his characters want and need love from each other and that trust is vital to their relationship. He gives us an ending that assures us that love has and will continue to prevail even if it has yet another hill to climb before it can rest squarely in the hands of our two main characters. I really applaud this author for staying true to his story, for keeping his men real. The ending to Jasper’s Mountain was both satisfying and hopeful, just as this entire novel was from beginning to end.
I highly recommend Jasper’s Mountain to you. It is a deeply satisfying romance story with an edgy feel to it. I fell in love with every aspect of this novel and once again John Inman delivered a story that will stay with me long after my kindle goes dark.