Rating: 3.5 stars
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Dale Devereux is the heir to the Devereux Farms fortune, and he’s a bit spoiled. He’s never officially worked for the family business, which is diversified through dozens of corporate farms all over the US. Instead, he used his MBA to work on Wall Street. But Dale’s recently been fired, and now his granddad—his only living relative—is pressing him to help out managing an underperforming apple farm in Woodstock. His granddad would attend to it himself, but he’s been recently diagnosed with cancer and needs to remain in NYC for his care. It’s more of a personal favor than a job that sends Dale up north, by train and bus, to the farm where “fish out of water” doesn’t begin to describe him.
Talgat Kudaibergen was born in Kazakhstan, but emigrated to the US with his parents when he was a toddler. His father worked his way up to farm manager for the Devereux apple farm in Woodstock. And now that his parents have passed on, Talgat is the farm operations manager, with his younger sister working as the farm accountant, and younger brother the labor manager. Talgat has a degree in farm management and a master in agri-science, so he’s also been developing some tasty crossbred apples that will hopefully make a splash in the market. Talgat’s not super happy that Dale is being sent to his farm for oversight, but he can’t really make a fuss; Dale’s name is on the farm after all. That said, it’s interesting that Dale is such and out and proud gay man, and terribly sexy–even if he doesn’t have any common sense about his new locale.
Dale nearly dies his first day, getting lost on his five-mile trek from his rental castle (I do not mean this figuratively) to the farm itself. Talgat rushes to aid him, and everyone is stunned by Dale’s escapade. It’s a humbling experience, even more so than his firing and relocation, so Dale begins making some big changes to his outlook and demeanor. Instead of the pompous city slicker, he starts ingratiating himself with the locals, learning all he can about the farm, and making some necessary improvements that help everyone’s productivity. He also builds a bigger festival market presence, in order to boost sales.
Talgat appreciates Dale’s hard work, and as the summer wears on into harvest time, Dale’s more down-to-earth attitude really strikes the right chord. Both men have been building an attraction, as well as a rapport. Because Dale is not technically a work superior to Talgat, there’s some wiggle room over what is becoming a fledgling relationship.
Dale’s doing all the right things with the farm business, but, somehow, the numbers on the corporate side aren’t adding up. It seems as if someone is grifting the company of thousands, and the suspicion is directed at Talgat’s family. It’s up to Dale’s first-hand knowledge of the farm’s operations to solve the mystery and save his relationship with Talgat.
This odd couple, city boy/farm boy romance is cute. Dale makes big changes to be more human and less caricature as the story develops, which is nice. He’s super materialistic at the beginning, but matures a lot as he experiences real world living for the first time in his life. He’s a decent enough man, and I appreciated his dedication to his granddad. Talgat is, naturally, a good guy through and through. He’s diligent, thoughtful, and patient. He loves his family, and the farm, and gives both his all. I liked how he didn’t hate on Dale, who fully embodies the Richie Rich life experience, but teaches him the realities of farm management. Plus, Dale’s wacky-ish ideas for increasing profits are rather successful, so it’s a win-win.
Ultimately, the prose felt overly descriptive, and I struggled to connect with the characters’ emotional landscape as a result. Dale’s farm misadventures felt banal and hokey through that descriptive point-of-view, instead of harrowing, or embarrassing, or triumphant. I wasn’t blown away by the characters or plot. Dale solves so many problems off-page with a phone call or two, so it was refreshing to see him actually burn some midnight oil in the climax. Unfortunately, even then, it was his connections that saved the day, so he felt mediocre as a hero.
If a modern, LGBTQ take on Green Acres is interesting to you, this could be your story.