Rating: 4.5 stars
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Hank Woods is a sheep farmer in Western Australia in the tiny town on Dumbleyung. When he injures his shoulder playing footie, Hank goes to the local clinic to get treated. There he meets the very handsome new doctor, Elliot Stockton-Montgomery. Hank is attracted to Elliot right away, especially when he notices Elliot accidentally checking him out. But Hank’s rule is no fishing in the local pond; though he goes into the city occasionally for a hookup, no one in Dumbleyung knows he is gay and Hank plans to keep it that way. He is sure that no one will accept him if they find out he is gay, and since Hank makes much of his money as a hired sheep shearer, he needs to stay in everyone’s good graces.
Hank and Elliot begin to spend time together as friends. Elliot is from the city and hasn’t had much exposure to country life. Since Hank’s shoulder has to be immobilized, Elliot helps him out a little on the farm, and gets to learn more about rural life. As they get to know one another, the attraction deepens, and finally Hank admits to Elliot that he shares his feelings. The men begin a hot affair, but one that they must keep secret. Both men fear that coming out to the town will make their jobs impossible, so they continue to see one another while hiding their relationship.
As the men begin to fall harder for one another, keeping their feelings a secret becomes even more difficult as their attraction to one another is hard to hide. On top of that, they don’t have much time to see one another, with Elliot on call frequently and Hank working constantly to earn money during shearing season. To make things worse, Hank worries that Elliot is going to leave Dumbleyung and find another place to work, sure that a man with his skills and money won’t stay in the tiny town for long. Hank has avoided relationships around his home for years, trying to protect his privacy and his heart. But now despite himself he has fallen hard for Elliot and hr just must hope that there can be some kind of future for them.
This is such a lovely story set in remote Western Australia. Kaye does an amazing job incorporating the setting into the book and we get such a wonderful feel for their way of life. Hank is a farmer, and we learn all about how he makes his living, raises crops, and cares for his livestock. Sheep raising is the main industry and Hank is one of the top and most sought after shearers. It is a hard life, rising at dawn, taking on major physical labor, and never having a secure financial future. But Hank loves it and it is in his blood. It is so nice to see not only Hank’s love for this life, but Elliott’s delight as he is exposed to things everyone else there takes for granted: new baby lambs, collecting eggs, and herding the sheep. The detail Kaye gives is amazing and as readers we are completely immersed in this world. There were a few times I felt there might be some information overload, but for the most part I found the town just comes to life in a really wonderful way.
As with many small towns, Dumbleyung is a place with few people who all know one another. Nothing happens that isn’t immediately broadcast everywhere. Hank is sure that folks are far to conservative to accept him as gay. He was kicked out of his home by his father when he came out and lived with his uncle and his partner. Hank’s uncle had been beaten years before when folks found out he is gay, and Hank has no reason to believe anything different will be the case now. For Elliott’s part, he was out and proud in the city, but has gone back in the closet for this job. Again, he fears what will happen if anyone realizes he is gay. So both these men are really struggling, as they are hiding themselves and their relationship. It is hard to see them worry so much, but very rewarding when they finally can be out and open.
The title of the book, The Shearing Gun, refers to someone who is a top level shearer. I wondered about it a bit, as the focus on shearing doesn’t come until later in the story (and is fascinating, btw. The guys can shear more than 25 sheep an hour, and in Hank’s case closer to 50). But as I read on, I can really see how aptly the title fits the book. Hank is a well liked guy who is good looking and quite respected. But he doesn’t really see that at all. He is sure everyone will reject him if they find out he is gay. He still feels shame from his father’s disapproval and he just doesn’t have much confidence in his own worth. Slowly as the story goes on, we see Hank begin to gain confidence, as others notice his skills in sheep breeding and he has top performances in shearing. He is soon considered a shearing gun himself. As others begin to recognize and appreciate him, Hank begins to have more confidence in himself and as a result, more comfort in people finding out about him and Elliott. So it is an interesting progression and really enjoyable to see Hank’s growth over the book.
Ok, on to the juicy stuff. I totally adored Hank and Elliott together. I loved everything about them. I loved how Hank calls Elliott “Quackle” (a combination of “Quack” and “Elliott”). I love how Hank is big and strong and earthy and Elliott is smaller and more polished. I adore how Hank just throws Elliott around in bed and how Elliott loves it. And I really like how these guys can do quiet companionship, adorable teasing, and totally sexy all equally well. They are such a great couple and the bit of “opposites attract” really worked for me here. Not to mention they are sexy as sin together (and seriously, Renae Kaye, that kitchen table scene? *dies*).
So overall I just loved this one. The setting is wonderful and so fabulously incorporated into the book. The heroes are lovely and so great together. The story is really fascinating and I loved watching the growth of both these men and their relationship. So a big hit for me from an author I am really enjoying immensely. Definitely recommended.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.