Colin Lancaster has crushed on stable master Patrick Callahan for years, ever since spying the man in a sexual encounter made clear to Colin his own feelings for men. When Patrick is caught having sex with another man and the crowd is looking to see him hang, Colin can’t help but jump to his aide, admitting his own sexual interests in hopes of softening Patrick’s punishment. In a moment, life as Colin knew it is over. Gone is his comfortable life in a wealthy home and plans to attend Cambridge. Now he is a convict, headed to Australia on a prison ship.
The only saving grace for Colin is that Patrick is on the same ship. At least he has someone familiar in the midst of this upheaval. The ship is hot and crowded and conditions are miserable. And at first Patrick clearly wants nothing to do with Colin, thinking him nothing but a spoiled young man. But as the months go by, slowly the men begin a sexual connection that Colin hopes will turn into more.
Upon arrival in Australia, the men are assigned duty traveling with a recent widow and helping her set up her station deep into the Australian wilderness. Traveling by horseback under the searing hot sun isn’t easy, but Colin finds himself feeling a freedom he never did at home when he was stifled in his academic world. He likes working with his hands and having a physical job, and even though he is a prisoner, he is also the happiest he has ever been. Things with Patrick seem to be going well too and the men continue their sexual connection from aboard the ship. But trust doesn’t come easy for Patrick, and while Colin is falling hard, Patrick is still holding himself back. When secrets are revealed and danger lurks, Patrick and Colin must figure out if they are truly meant to be together.
The Station opens in England in 1833 where we meet Colin and Patrick, however we are quickly following along with Colin as he journeys on the prison ship and throughout Australia. I loved the details about life aboard the ship and what the experience was like for prisoners at that time. Colin’s whole life is upended and he moves from a wealthy and somewhat pampered young man to traveling with hundreds of other prisoners bound for a totally unfamiliar new world on a hot and crowded ship. Upon arrival in Australia, Colin is again immersed in a new world, traveling over harsh terrain for weeks on end. But despite how hard he is working, we can see Colin really come into his own. He is officially a prisoner, but his life is much like any other laborer of the time. He loves working with his body and seeing the beauty of the country. And soon he is strong and capable and settling into a whole new life. So I enjoyed this aspect of the story and liked getting the perspective on life in rural Australia at the time.
Where I struggled here is with the relationship between Colin and Patrick. We are solely in Colin’s head and the guys talk very little for most of the book. They have quick sexual encounters and a few personal moments together, but there is no real interaction beyond that for much of the story. So I never felt like I really got to know Patrick or felt a connection between them, or even understood what his allure was to Colin other than physical attraction. Patrick isn’t particularly nice to Colin much of the time, barely talks to him, and makes clear at several points that he is looking for a sexual outlet and not a relationship. And I’m fine with sex for its own sake, but only when both people are on the same page. Here I felt like things are very one sided and without understanding Patrick better or seeing them interact more, I never really felt the connection, even when Patrick’s feelings begin to change. So the chemistry between these guys was just missing for me.
There is also a big secret that Colin learns that affects Patrick and he chooses not to tell him right away. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really get past it. While I had been team Colin all the way up until this point, the idea that he would keep something this momentous from Patrick was unacceptable, especially because his reasoning was purely a selfish attempt to have more time together to hopefully draw Patrick into a relationship. Another character is also involved in the secret and while I understand why the person took those actions, I found their actions wrong as well and it just all colored the story for me. Between that and the struggling with the relationship development, by the time these guys end up together, I just wasn’t feeling it the way I had hoped.
Two other quick notes. First, like most historical westerns, this story focuses on the white expansion across the country, though the story does acknowledge briefly the indigenous people who are already there. Second, this story a rerelease of a book originally published by Loose Id in 2010.
So I did enjoy this story for the glimpses into life aboard the prison ship and in the Australian wilderness, as well as seeing Colin really find himself throughout the story. But the romance side of things did feel lacking for me. Despite that, if the setting and the storyline appeal to you, this could definitely be a book you enjoy.