Title: Sex & Sourdough
Author: A.J. Thomas
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 266 pages
Blurb: Anders Blankenship never intended to hike the Appalachian Trail alone, but when his boyfriend cancels, Anders steels his courage, leaving the abusive relationship to tackle the long-distance hike. Though a hiking virgin, he’s glad he made the decision when he receives threatening messages from his ex. Luckily, Kevin, an experienced backpacker, takes him under his wing.
Kevin Winters isn’t looking for a hiking partner, let alone a fling with a cute man on the rebound. After learning he has the autoimmune disorder that killed his father, Kevin left his family to wander remote trails. Convinced his future holds only pain and death, Kevin refuses to get close to anyone. The family sourdough recipes he recreates over a campfire are his only solace.
In the wilderness, Anders and Kevin discover a lot of common ground. While the future holds uncertainties they may not be ready to deal with, it might also hold the chance for happiness.
Review: This is a beautiful story. There was so much more than the blurb had lead me to expect. Layers that built over time and created a tapestry of love, acceptance, endurance, family in all of its flavors and nuances, strength and the appreciation for the simple beauties in the world.
The Appalachian Trail and the people who hike it were characters all their own. The world of long distance hiking was amazing and beautiful. I want to walk those paths that these men journeyed. See the breathtaking sights and foster the strength they developed on so many levels as they pushed themselves to traverse the Appalachian Trail.
Every hiker gets a trail name, a nickname that is given to them and is a rite of passage and a way of marking their time on the trail. Kevin’s name is Sourdough and while Anders’ changed, in many ways he will always be the Butch that Kevin first christened him.
Anders was such a wounded puppy when he first meets Kevin. There is no doubt that he owes much to the sexy and amazing Sourdough. While he most likely would have survived he probably would have given up and quit out of fear, exhaustion and inexperience. Anders is in awe of the skill and fortitude that Kevin shows. He is drawn to this mysterious man who manages to bake delicious sourdough creations on the trail.
Kevin’s story is heartbreaking and beautiful. So much pain and love in his past. The struggles that he lives with are daunting and he is amazing. I was impressed with how well he dealt with things and even more with what he was willing to do when he found hope and love with Anders. He deserves all of the peace, happiness and sourdough that he will find with Anders.
Kevin takes pity on Anders and teaches him what he needs to know to thrive on the trail. Both men quickly decide that they are better off working together and form a team and a bond. There are many hours of companionship and slowly the secrets they hide come out and are met with acceptance and friendship. They both have good reasons for not getting into a relationship, and while they fight it for as long as they can their genuine appreciation of each other makes resistance futile. Which leads to some wonderful encounters.
Anders’ family was complicated, intense and a little weird. Every time that I was ready to write them off they would do something that redeemed them. I felt bad for Anders and felt that they explained so much of who and how he was. While they were heavy handed, frequently overwhelming and disturbingly manipulative, they love Anders and want the best for him. They just usually go about things the wrong way.
Kevin’s family will break your heart. Their years of pain and grief as they dealt with Kevin’s father’s illness left them shattered. When Kevin finds out that he shares his father’s fate he doesn’t see how he can burden them with watching him slowly die as well. Such a complicated situation. There was so much love there.
***** Sensitivity Warning That May Contain Spoilers: There are some serious issues of domestic abuse. They are fundamental to the story and are not gratuitous. Most of the abuse is verbal with only a couple of physical encounters, but those are intense and disturbing. Anders also deals with the trauma of being in an abusive relationship and discusses it several times. There is also other violence and discussion of that violence. I felt that most of these were integral to the plot and were well written. As always only you can know what will upset you and what you want to deal with. *****
I really enjoyed this book. Loved the build and complexity. While there are some intense moments and some serious issues addressed it wasn’t heavy or full of unnecessary angst or drama. There was so much love and happiness mixed in with all of the bad things that were going on in their lives. There was so much hope. I am very glad that I took this journey with these men.
Reviewed by Nina