When I found this book on Joyfully Jay’s Favorite Coming Out Stories list, I jumped at the chance to review this for the Reading Challenge. I’ve read a few ZA Maxfield books in the past, and have enjoyed them, so the re-release of Crossing Borders piqued my interest. As I didn’t read the original, I can’t comment on the extent of revision or editing, but I will tell you that the book in current form is spectacular.
Tristan is a 19-year-old, sexually-confused college student. He’s been sexually active with girls for several years, but he’s thinking that he is, perhaps, gay. He doesn’t seem to get that turned on with girls, and he’s had lots of gay fantasies. So, Tristan’s out to trap a guy, and find out for sure. He gathers up a bunch of gay literature and plants himself in the café of a Borders Books (back when they existed!! *sigh*) in plain view of the customers, one of whom happens to be off-duty Officer Michael Truax, the very same cop who ticketed Tristan years ago for skateboarding without a helmet.
Tristan is not happy that “Officer Helmet” is lingering in the café, and he’s even less happy with the text commentary the good cop offers on the men who do attempt to pick Tristan up. When Tristan’s fishing expedition is a bust, Michael pushes Tristan to have lunch together, and that’s when the Tristan gets the bombshell: Officer Helmet just picked him up.
The thing is, Michael is really a good looking man. He’s 26 with a gorgeously restored Craftsman home, and Michael’s clearly gay. And willing to help Tristan become less sexually confused. I absolutely melted along with these two as they spend an afternoon and night talking and working out the sexy. Tristan is a man-boy, old enough, but so naïve and so appealing to Michael, who admits he’s harbored an almost-creepy attraction for “Sparky”—the nickname Michael gave to Tristan the first time they met.
As the book unfolds, Tristan must come to terms with his sexuality. He does so with his family and friends, being the bold kid he always has been, but honestly he’s so tender. Being in his POV as he makes himself vulnerable is fantastic. Tristan has a lot of abandonment issues. He father died of a brain aneurysm and he’s living at home instead of going away to college so that he can be a role model to his younger sister and brothers, and help his mother with their care. He’s an admirable, stand-up guy, despite being a self-admitted adrenaline junkie and a tad reckless. Being with Michael is a little reckless, for Tristan, because Michael’s a young cop who has the worst detail and works nights often. Fear for Michael’s safety definitely becomes an issue for Tristan.
I don’t want to reveal too many of the plot points here, but I want to remind readers that the book was written in 2007, published originally shortly thereafter, and for the characters in the story gay marriage is being banned nationwide, being out and proud as a cop is dangerous, and gay partners have no rights in the hospital. For goodness sake, BORDERS was a popular bookstore all those years ago! While times change, and laws change, and attitudes change, the feelings in Crossing Borders are timeless. Tristan’s family is flabbergasted with his news, and it takes them a bit to warm up to Michael. Michael’s family, friends, and work colleagues are suspicious of the “boy” who’s hanging around. They have problems, and issues, and reality. It’s not easy being together. But nothing worth fighting for ever is, right?
I can easily see why this made Jay’s list of favorite coming out stories. Tristan is engaging and brilliant as a main character. He’s cocky and self-assured, but smart enough to realize that he doesn’t know it all. When presented with challenges, he rises to the occasion time and again. The story is well-told and approachable, with details that enrich, not distract. Michael is a protective man, seeing the dangers on the street on a daily basis. He’s had a rough time of his own, emotionally, and never wants to see anyone suffer. For all his witty banter, his heart is bigger than Texas, I think. I adored how Michael keeps his restored home free of many of the modern conveniences—like cable TV and internet—which are out of period with the house and it’s furnishings. It really struck me how Tristan’s deep appreciation for architecture allowed him to connect with Michael’s “old soul” ways. Their conflicts pulled me in; from overprotective misunderstandings to big ole abandonment problems, I wanted to see Michael and Tristan come out stronger on the other side. Also, hoo-boy, a break for a cold shower won’t come amiss. This book is hot and heart combined. Expect a rough road to the HEA, and some tear-jerking moments. Best advice: plan for an immediate re-read.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Favorites List Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of books and swag from Samhain Publishing, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Favorites List Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!