Snakes Among Sweet Flowers is a new novel by freshman author, Jason Hoffman-Black. Having previously published a few short stories with the Goodreads M/M group, this is his first full-length novel and I must tell you that this is an author I am definitely going to keep an eye on. With its uniquely southern voice, and sweet yet varied cast of characters, Black’s story resonates with charm.
Cam Sanders is a con artist who appears, at first, to have no regard for those he chooses to milk for money. On the run from a deadly and violent leader of the gang of thieves he chose to live with between prison stays, Cam has set up his automotive repair shop in the small town of Hog Mountain, Georgia. However, despite his attempts to harden his heart against the small community that continues to reach out to him, his best efforts seem to dissolve in the wake of young children who need a helping hand and a policeman who is desperate to find someone with whom to share his secret. Slowly but surely, Cam slides back the bars he has drawn across his heart and begins to discover that Hog Mountain really could be his home. But the past is not done with Cam regardless of how much he has begun to change. Now Cam must watch as those he has grown fond of begin to bear the retribution that should be his and his alone.
Snakes Among Sweet Flowers is a bit of a romance wrapped up in a suspenseful story that moves relentlessly to the very end. While the main character, Cam, is not a very likable guy at the beginning, by the end he has certainly wrapped himself up in your emotional heartstrings. When the revelation of what he has done impacts the sweet members of the small town he has timidly begun to recognize as home, you cannot help but feel his incredible horror and remorse at what he has brought on these people who did nothing more than extend a loving hand to him. The last third of this book is a roller coaster of emotions and intense action causing one’s heart to leap into their throat on more than one occasion. Although I did find it harder to connect with the young policeman, Jackson, and his forced coming out to the community at large, I had no such difficulties with Cam. This was definitely his story and from that perspective I felt the book was well written and fully developed. We saw all the bits and pieces that Cam strove so hard to keep hidden, his vulnerabilities, his needs, and his fears.
Having a good friend who hails from the Deep South, the cadence, speech, and overall tone of the story was rich in southern hospitality and that slow and easy way of life. While I enjoyed this story very much, the pacing was at times uneven, particularly at the beginning. Also I thought there should’ve been a bit more time spent on us seeing Cam’s change of heart. His quick capitulation from unfeeling con artist to invested community member seemed a bit fast. Along with that, the interactions with the town veterinarian seemed a bit forced. The man was rather blatant in his pursuing of Cam and how the town could turn a blind eye to that seemed a bit implausible as did his rather venomous attacks and threats about exposing Cam and Jackson.
Despite these small discrepancies, however, this first novel by Jason Huffman-Black was definitely a successful one. I look forward to reading more work by this fresh new voice in the m/m genre.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.