Sweetshade, Book #1
Heat Factor: Really great physical affection. Lots of hugs. Also some hot sex. But, oh, the hand kissing in the truck…
Character Chemistry: These two were super committed super fast, even with everything else going on.
Plot: PTSD, independence, homophobia, mistrust, love
Overall: The love story was totally sweet but the drama stressed me out like crazy
If you like a romance with a huge amount of external emotional drama, this book might be for you. I wouldn’t say it’s angsty, because Abe and Sonny generally have a good relationship, and I typically feel that angsty books are the protagonists being ridiculous about each other, and these guys don’t do that. But when Sonny, who has moderate to severe PTSD, moves to Sweetshade, Texas, and is the target of homophobic harassment, the increasingly threatening homophobic crimes combined with the behavior of Abe’s best friend, the officer responding to Sonny’s calls, became a little too much for me. I’m high strung in real life, so I usually read to tone that down, not amp it up.
Sonny is a retired army medic who did a tour in Afghanistan that left him so traumatized that he was honorably discharged. When we meet him, he is in a really bad place, which results in an attempted suicide. After spending some time in the hospital and talking to a therapist there, he decides to regain some independence and engage in some self care by moving from his mother’s home in Maryland to Sweetshade, Texas.
Unlike most romance novels, which don’t feature therapists at all, even when the protagonists would seriously benefit from professional help, this book includes a comparatively large quantity of Sonny engaging with either his therapist in Maryland or his therapist in Texas. While I felt that these scenes were well done and the work was presented well, I tend to get bogged down with accurate portrayals and what I don’t know about how accurate these portrayals are. There are very few spaces where this happens for me (like, I don’t care at all about the accuracy of sportsball), but for some reason I get worried about therapy in particular being portrayed accurately, and because I didn’t know for sure I was always a little bit removed from the story when these scenes happened.
It takes a while, but after the first homophobic incident at Sonny’s house we finally meet Abe, a police officer in in Sweetshade who gets to know about Sonny because his best friend, Nate, responded to Sonny’s call and told Abe about it when he got back to the station. Unlike the drama surrounding the homophobic harassment and Nate’s extremely rude behavior, Abe and Sonny have a reasonably sweet, easy romance. They start out by teasing a little bit that there are so few gay men in Sweetshade that they are pretty much required to go on at least one date, and things flow from there. The relationship isn’t without hiccups along the way, what with Sonny struggling with his PTSD and Abe having privileged information about Sonny thanks to the investigation Nate’s been conducting into the incidents Sonny’s reported. But overall there’s a great deal of trust between our protagonists in a brief timeframe, and the romance is the shy, blushing new love type. Sure, they have a fun sex life, but this romance isn’t going to be for readers who like a lot of dirty talking, confident bedroom behavior. It almost feels like these protagonists are first loves, but Sonny is 26 and Abe is 31.
The last thing I’ll address in this review is the title. Faith is…faith. Sonny is a religious man who attends church every Sunday and prays like it’s going out of style when things get rough. The first person Sonny reaches out to after moving to Sweetshade is the pastor of the church he thinks he’d like to attend. Given how few characters are included in the book, we are also pretty well aware that the homophobia behind the harassment of Sonny is due to a religious zealotry. (Also when we are in the perpetrator’s head, it becomes pretty clear as well.) Christianity plays a big role in this book.
Aside from one scene about the perpetrator of the hate crimes, which became a dangling thread, and also the fact that it was snowing in Maryland in November, which I don’t recall ever experiencing ever, the writing is good. I think my lack of excitement about the story stemmed from the level of stress I had as I read it. If you enjoy that kind of stress combined with a tender love story, this might be a really good book for you.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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