In Close to Home, the fourth book of Cate Ashwood’s Sawyer’s Ferry series, we meet Witt and Mason and watch as their tender story unfolds. Those familiar with the series might recall meeting Mason in book three at the brewery where he works. However, this story could definitely be read as a standalone if you haven’t been keeping up with Sawyer’s Ferry before. Having read all the books, I can’t remember meeting Witt, but I must say of all the characters introduced in this group of novels, Witt stands out in many ways—all of them good.
Witt has been working on the oil rig site since moving to Alaska. He has never really gotten along with the supervisor, but can’t figure out why. The guy dislikes Witt and does nothing to hide the fact. Since Witt is shy and quiet, mostly keeping to himself when not at work in the IT department, it’s difficult to understand why the boss, Silas, goes after Witt whenever he is in a foul mood, which is most of the time. When Witt refuses to work more unpaid overtime, Silas exacts his punishment with his fists, attacking Witt and beating him nearly unconscious. Witt escapes and heads to Sawyer’s Ferry, but passes out waiting for the ferry boat and wakes up in the hospital where Logan is caring for him. When Logan’s boyfriend, Jackson, hears about his buddy Witt, he and Mason head over to see him.
Mason has only met Witt once, but the quiet man made a big impression on Mason. When an opportunity to help out Witt arises, Mason jumps at it and ends up being the guy’s roommate. Before long, a trust builds between the two of them. In a matter of just a few weeks, Witt and Mason come to realize their feelings for each other are have moved from tenuous friendship to something more. But Silas is still out there and Witt may not be strong enough to fight him off a second time. Mason promises to protect him, but can Witt really trust a man he barely knows, despite the fact that his traitorous heart is already attached?
I think my heart became Witt’s the moment the story began. Beaten down in more ways than just physically, Witt is broken not only in body, but in spirit as well. He has no faith in himself and, with near panic-like thinking, often second guesses every move he makes. The way in which Cate Ashwood crafted this character could have made him appear weak and a sound like a pathetic johnny one note bent on pitying himself, but that never happened with Witt. Instead, we see a guy who has lost over and over again, taking each hit and remaining on his feet until he literally couldn’t any longer. There was a resilience inside Witt that grew beautifully, as did his affections for Mason.
Mason felt over the top, at times, almost too good to be true. He was infinitely patient and caring, but that bordered on this daddy/boy vibe sometimes. That, in itself, didn’t disturb me, but it was never fully developed so I began to feel as though perhaps I was seeing something in their relationship that really wasn’t there. Plus, I didn’t quite get the secretive nature of his sexuality when his entire family knew, but no one else in town did. The author had used this same plot element in the previous novel so I wasn’t really sure why it was reused here considering there was very little fanfare except for the reveal to Masons boss. I liked Mason—he was so good for Witt, but I found his character both a bit underdeveloped and pretty much one note.
While Close to Home starts out with a raw and dramatic abuse situation, the author handles it with grace and compassion—never minimizing Witt’s trauma, but also giving him coping skills to adjust to the PTSD he has after the attack. The love between Witt and Mason develops a tad too rapidly in some ways, but there’s no denying the chemistry and love between the two of them. They were sweet together and that made up for any of the glitches I found in the story. I think this installment in the series was my favorite thus far and I will wait for the next book with great anticipation.