Tanner has recently purchased an old farm house with a partially burned down barn as his late wife, Emma, was always drawn to the property and wanted to purchase it. It’s been a year since Emma has died, but Tanner’s loneliness consumes him and the repairs to the property have gone untouched.
Cole has just gotten out of prison and has nothing to his name and no family. His job prospects are bleak as he has to check the box labeling him a felon and he heads to the small town of Red Bluff in search of a way back. It’s there he meets Tanner and soon Cole is living in the barn and rebuilding it in exchange for room and board.
The barn becomes special to both men and it holds many secrets. When Cole finds a journal hidden in the floor of the barn, he and Tanner slowly read the entries that date as far back as 1948. The journal tells the story of two best friends, Tom and Charlie, falling in love in a time it was impossible for two men to be together. Tanner and Cole feel a special connection to each other, the two friends, and the property, and their tentative relationship slowly shifts from friends to intense chemistry. The men have to adjust to falling in love surrounded by Tanner’s grief and Cole’s past while searching down rumors of two fated lovers and a fire that changed their lives so many years ago.
The premise of this story incorporates so many things that call to me with two lonely men and the mention of a hidden journal. This book gives us a story within a story as we learn about Tanner and Cole in present day and then Tom and Charlie in the late 1940s. The style of both authors blended together and in the beginning the voices of Tanner and Cole, as well as Tom and Charlie, were too similar for me.
Tanner loved his wife and they had a great life. She was always drawn to the property and her greatest wish was to buy it and she had plans for her and Tanner. But when she didn’t live long enough to make that dream a reality, Tanner bought the property. However, his grief consumes him and he hasn’t taken any of the steps to make the repairs needed.
Cole never had a solid direction in life and a series of bad choices landed him in jail. He served his time and wants for the most basic things in life. He’s determined to work hard and refuses to take anything he sees as charity. While Cole has always identified as gay, Tanner has never thought about being with a man, but accepts his interest and attraction to Cole easily. The men are drawn to each, as well as to the story of the young lovers from the 1940s that lived and worked on the property. There is an air of mystery surrounding the story of the fire, as well as clues that there is a lot more going on with Tanner and Cole and their connection.
The men fall in love in a quiet, soft, and sensual way. While they are both incredibly lonely, the men have a special connection and with a touch of the mystical added in, the story leaves room for what you choose to believe.
I enjoyed this story as a whole, but the journal entries were an issue for me. The setup was engaging as we learn more about Tom and Charlie, but the entries did not read as a journal to me. The journal was written by Tom, yet it was written in conversational dialogue rather than in any style of a journal I have ever seen. In all the passages, what Tom said was in quotation marks as if it was a regular conversation, and generally, the person writing a journal of their own experiences does not quote everything they say, or even what others say, and it broke the atmosphere each and every time for me since it simply was not written in the style of a journal. The ending was also a little weak for me in the way certain things came together.
Ultimately, this is a story of heartbreak, hope, love, loss, and love again. I had some issues, but there was enough of an appeal to the book overall and it was a fast read that held my attention all of the way through.