Rating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

Reed Matthews lives a life of structure and routine. As the principal of the local Catholic school and a religious man in his own right, Reed is very disciplined and is careful to always appear professional. But Reed’s carefully ordered life gets turned upside when he has a surprise encounter with Dominic O’Halloran.

Dominic and Reed grew up together in foster care until Reed was adopted at age 14 by a devoutly Catholic family. As boys, they were best friends and there was a deeper connection growing, but they were separated before it was able to turn into something more. Both Dominic and Reed were devastated by their separation and the fact they didn’t keep in touch hurt them both. It has been 20 years since the men have seen one another and Dominic is now a priest at the Episcopalian church across town.

While Dominic is out as gay and is helping to develop LGBT-friendly youth programs in the community, Reed is still so closeted he can barely admit to himself his interest in men. The idea is terrifying to him as being gay not only conflicts with how he views his religion, but it also means he would lose his job at the school. But at the same time, Reed is so drawn to Dominic, he can’t stay away from the man who has been the only person he ever wanted in his life. However, Reed’s tentative steps forward bring anxiety to both men — Reed worries being with Dominic will damn his soul, and as much as Dominic cares for Reed, his heart can’t take the idea that he may fall for Reed again only to lose him to his beliefs.

When the men have a chance to spend some extended time alone together, they can imagine how wonderful being together might be. But when they return to the real world, Reed and Dominic will have to figure out if their lives can ever really fit together.

A Taste of Sin is a really engaging story that explores some intense issues, but also has a lovely sweetness that left me with lots of happy feels when I was done. Building a romance that deals with religion is a tricky thing, and I think Hawthorne does a great job here handling some complicated issues delicately and in thoughtful ways. Both Dominic and Reed are religious men, but while Dominic is part of a church that (for the most part) accepts his sexuality, Reed interprets his religion as one that condemns him for being gay. The book steers clear of getting into too much theology, and focuses more on Reed’s personal struggle as he attempts to reconcile his view of Catholicism with his own growing awareness of being gay.

When these guys first reconnect, Reed is caught in this endless back and forth of desperately wanting Dominic, while at the same time feeling overwhelming guilt and terror about his attraction. For his part, Dominic wants Reed just as desperately, but he is hurt by Reed seeming to want him and then running scared. Dominic knows he needs to protect his heart, but Reed keeps coming back, again and again. This portion of the book is quite intense as we can really feel for both of these men. They are hurting and yearning and off kilter and trying to figure out how to make things work, and if that is even possible. Hawthorne does a great job helping us to understand Reed in particular, which kept me from being frustrated at the way he was inadvertently playing with Dominic’s heart. This portion did go on just a bit overlong for me, but I think overall Hawthorne really shows the depth of emotions these guys are feeling.

As the men spend more time together, Reed slowly grows to accept his feelings for Dominic. It is lovely to see him come into his own, learn to accept himself and to realign his views on homosexuality and religion. Of course, it is still not all smooth sailing for these men, but there is a nice sense that Reed is finally finding happiness. These guys are super sexy together, but there is also a real sweetness to this story as we see these men find love together.

So I really enjoyed this book quite a lot. It is a complicated subject and I think Hawthorne really handles it deftly here. It isn’t always an easy journey for these guys, but it is definitely a rewarding story.