Words that come to mind when thinking back on this book? Charming, entertaining, delightful, and romantic. Jon has done a wonderful job with the material here, and his writing style is so clear and warm, you can’t help but settle into the story. I only intended to give the first chapter a read last night, and I found I was halfway through before my eyes challenged my brain to a duel at twenty paces . . . and won.
What struck me most about the story is how beautifully the feeling of family is developed – something you don’t necessarily expect from an old west tale or a gay romance. Tom and Jack make a wonderful couple, so much so that your heart really does beat a bit faster every time they enter the room together. As for little Abby, she’s a lively (and lovely) character herself, cut and charming, but not smarmy in that TV sitcom way.
The pacing here is slow and languid, entirely fitting with the sleepy western town setting. There’s an underlying sense of mystery surrounding Jack, the late Fiona, and Tom, but it serves to move the story along, as opposed to overwhelming it. This is also a wryly humorous story, the kind that makes you smile and chuckle – but often a page or so later, as the literary punchline is so casually dropped. It’s not a comedy, but instead has just enough of that subtle humour woven into the narrative to balance the more serious emotional aspects.
Ever so slowly, Jack’s lies are revealed, one by one, the threads working their way out of his carefully crafted tale. If this were Hollywood, I’m sure the temptation would be overpowering to shift this into the realm of slapstick, but I’m just as sure they’d omit the entire forbidden love angle that pulls the story together. Jack is a cheat and a liar, but for all the right reasons. Instead of wanting to see him get his comeuppance, we just want to see him come through the unravelling of his world healthy and happy once again.
One quirk of the novel is that it relies a little too much on the element of surprise, saving crucial details for the end of a conversation or section of the narrative. On the one hand, it’s understandable – this is Jack’s own story that he’s telling us, so he doesn’t need to explain to himself who people are – but it can be confusing at times. It’s a small matter, but one I suspect might put some readers off.
Overall, this was quite an enjoyable read, and one that I would have no qualms about recommending.