Devon is returning to his hometown of Rock Springs in Wyoming, after spending six years in Washington. Although he has enjoyed the freedom being in a city has offered him, including the fact that he could openly live as a gay man, Devon has realized that his heart belongs in the country.
Devon soon begins to question his decision when he is reunited with old school friends who blatantly express their homophobia, particularly with reference to Levi, who just happens to have been Devon’s secret boyfriend and first love six years ago. Despite the small-mindedness and prejudice of some people in Rock Springs, Levi too has returned to live at home. Though he does not flaunt his sexuality, he is proud to admit that he is gay.
When Devon and Levi bump into each other by chance in the local supermarket, all the hurt between them is quickly forgotten and they revert to the natural ease that has always existed in their relationship. As Devon and Levi spend more time together and rekindle their love, it is Devon’s fear of ‘outing’ himself that stands in the way of them being truly happy.
Devon is definitely not a character I found easy to love. Although Renee Stevens does an amazing job of conveying the intensity of Devon and Levi’s romance and is able to enchant the reader with their relationship, Devon remained a fairly aloof character in my opinion. Sadly, I also found it difficult to reconcile myself with what I felt was the cowardice Devon displays. Devon becomes desperate to keep his relationship with Levi a secret, even to the point where he suggests that the pair stay in every night. I would have liked to have understood a little more about why Devon allows himself to be controlled by fear, however, I must admit that Stevens brilliantly redeems his character in the final chapter of the story – and I found myself clapping my hands with happiness.
On the other hand, Levi is a wonderfully sweet young man and perhaps the reader feels more sympathy for him because of Devon’s insistence that their relationship remains a secret. Levi is portrayed as the more open of the two characters – both sexually and emotionally – as well as being more witty than Devon. One of the most captivating moments in the story is when the couple is camping and Levi talks about his mother’s illness and his display of grief immediately connects us to him. Conversely, on the same evening, it is Levi who seduces Devon and urges his lover to be far less gentle with him.
Wide Open Spaces is part of Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love series, which features “stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.” Stevens perfectly captures the beautiful ruggedness, mining tradition, wildlife, and rodeos that define Wyoming, as well as the ideas of “masculinity” that haunt it.
While Levi studied the horses, Devon took in the scenery around him. He wasn’t sure how the mustangs survived. There were no trees anywhere to provide shade and get the creatures out of the hot summer sun. For miles all he could see was sagebrush, and it was dry. There must be a water supply somewhere – maybe a spring in one of the many minicanyons that made up the foot hills of White Mountain . . . he could see the snowcapped Wind Rivers a couple hundred miles away.
Wide Open Spaces is the first of Stevens’ books that I have read, though I know it will not be the last. I found Stevens transported me to not only a state I have never been to, but a country. Stevens also creates a story full of romance, passion, and a touch of angst.
If you want to travel to Wyoming without the cost of an airfare, I’d recommend picking up Wide Open Spaces very soon!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.