Five years ago, Joe and Cam slept together. Then Joe ran off to college and has barely seen or spoken to Cam since. Now Joe has come back to the family farm for his cousin’s wedding. It is clear that the last few years haven’t been kind to him. He looks tired and has lost weight and is definitely not himself, but he doesn’t want to talk about what is wrong.
Cam has loved Joe for years and definitely wants Joe back in his life. He is determined to find out what happened to Joe while we was away at school, and hopefully to rekindle what they once had between them. When Cam finds out Joe’s secret, however, it is worse than he feared. Cam still wants Joe desperately, but he also knows that Joe needs to find himself again, to learn to trust himself and stand on his own and put his past behind him. Until then, Cam knows Joe can never truly be his.
This is my first book by Jaime Samms and I will say I was really impressed by the depth and complexity we get from these characters. I really felt like we get to learn not just what is driving Joe and Cam, but really follow along as they work through their feelings and figure themselves out over the course of the book.
Although the book is told in alternating POV, the first half of the story focuses mostly on Cam. He is the one left behind when Joe runs off to school and we know he still loves Joe desperately. Cam is openly gay, but has tried to hide his feelings because Joe is not. When Joe returns, it opens all those wounds for Cam. He is still hurt that Joe was gone, still wants to be with Joe, and is desperate to figure out what Joe is hiding. Cam is an interesting mix of strength and vulnerability. As a child he was abandoned on the farm, but grew up like part of the family. He runs the farm and is strong and confident, but with Joe he is also vulnerable. It is clear he has never gotten over Joe leaving, and even when he pushes Joe to come back to him and to open up about his past, it is still obvious how hard this is for him and how painful it was to be without Joe for so long.
Samms does a nice job here with the pacing in the early part of the book. Just as I was about to get frustrated waiting to learn just what exactly did happen to Joe over these five years, someone from his past shows up and it all comes tumbling out. At this point, the book shifts focus more to Joe as he both reveals his past and tries to figure out how to move on from it. When he finally spills everything, both what he has done and the fact that he is gay, Joe gets support he never expected. But at the same time, he still feels so unworthy, feels like he doesn’t deserve better given his past. The crux of the conflict really comes down to whether Joe can find his inner strength again, whether he can believe in himself and stand on his own two feet again. Until that happens, he can’t be with Cam, not in the way they both want. It is a really interesting journey watching Cam help Joe along, but at the same time knowing Joe needs to take these steps himself.
As much as I enjoyed this internal growth and self exploration, I did feel like things dragged a bit at times, especially over the second half. Most of the action of the story and between the two men happens in the first half, while the second half is mostly Cam and Joe working out their feelings and issues. I guess I wanted a little more action rather than so much in their heads, though I still think the issues are explored well and I was really drawn in to their story.
This book has a light BDSM theme running through it, as Cam is a dominant and Joe a submissive. I didn’t categorize it as a BDSM story, because although the men embody these roles and have had more formal scenes and relationships in the past, we see very little of that here in the book. Most of the focus is mental in the way the men relate to one another. The both crave Joe’s submission, but they also need to work things out between them and in Joe’s head before that can happen. So the BDSM elements are here emotionally, but not much physically, at least on page.
Overall I really enjoyed this story by Samms and am definitely interested enough to seek out more of her writing. I really liked Cam and Joe together, and I loved the detailed way we explore these men and their pasts and their emotions as the story goes on. They are both complex characters and I enjoyed watching them learn and grow over the book. So a really nice story that I definitely enjoyed.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.