Smoky Mountain Dreams
Title: Smoky Mountain Dreams
Author: Leta Blake
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Length: 434 pages
Blurb: Sometimes holding on means letting go
After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.
Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother, he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.
Review: This is a story about life. How rich and complex life is and how very much we all need hope. The good and bad, the joy and sorrow, love and family, hope and despair, acceptance and rejection, finding your place in the world and creating your family, life and death and what separates and defines them.
Christopher, so sweet and innocent, always ready to forgive and never believing in his own value. He struggles with the scars of an abusive childhood, full of abandonment and rejection. He learned to be invisible for survival. The abuse he suffered didn’t involve physical violence, rather it was the insidiousness of evil words spoken into his heart. Slurs and threats and dire warnings. His scars aren’t on his skin but are instead woven into his sense of worth and confidence, into his faith and trust, into his belief that he deserves to be chosen and accepted. That he’s worthy of love and family. That people could truly see him and still love him, still want him, want to call him family and finally give him a home. I ached for Christopher. If anyone deserves a hug and a cookie it’s sweet, beautiful, kind Christopher.
Christopher smiled and shook his head. “Don’t worry. They didn’t beat me or anything.”
“Some things are just as bad as a beating.”
“Yeah. I guess. Being told you’re filthy and will burn in the fires of hell, constantly bombarded by dinner table prayers calling for the cure of your ‘sickness,’ being exhorted to turn my back on the various evil temptations of Satan, and to seek satisfaction only in Christ when all I wanted was to be left alone long enough to figure out what it meant that I had a crush on my biology lab partner and that he’d actually kissed me? I guess it’s not unfair to say it was pure hell.”
Jesse is so sexy and sweet. A good man who deserves to be happy. He needs Christopher in his life. He needs the joy and peace that Christopher brings him. He isn’t perfect, but I think he’s pretty fantastic.
Jesse’s life is complicated. He’s a good dad, his family has been struggling and hurting for a long time and he’s doing everything he can to be what his kids need. Being a single parent is hard, but Jesse does a great job. Luckily he has fantastic support from his in-laws and his sister. And his kids are pretty great. Their dynamic was fun and they were close knit.
I liked that Christopher earned his place. There were some bumps and adjustments with him becoming a part of their lives. He understood and agreed that the children would always have to come first. He didn’t try to pull any drama or try to compete with the children. I respected him as a step parent. While they aren’t there yet, I have no doubt that they will be and I couldn’t be more pleased with the family they’ll create together.
There is a lot of sex in this book. It’s a part of how they first connect and it’s a driving force in their relationship. They’re young, healthy and attractive. And their chemistry is combustible. These guys are so hot for each other and can’t keep their hands (or any other body part) off each other. They’re sweet and intense and deliciously kinky without getting into anything extreme.
Gran is a delight. She was a pistol and she loved Christopher fierce and unconditionally. She didn’t miss a trick and was such a pot stirrer. She saved Christopher so many times and was his safe harbor, always loving him, always on his side. I was so grateful that Christopher had her. How could anyone not love this woman?
“Bless her heart,” Gran said, rolling her eyes and beckoning Christopher to come closer. “She’s been telling me this one all day. If I was just a little stronger, I might smother her with a pillow. This is what age does to you, honey. It makes you too old to commit murder. Now, come on, let me hug your neck.”
I absolutely adore Joe. He is a big, strong, muscled, unmovable oasis of sanity in that crazy screwed up family. I loved every moment we got to spend with him. He was such a good dad and one of the best brothers-in-law ever. He made me smile and laugh and he and Gran had some of the very best supporting cast moments in the book. He stood up for Christopher, even when chaos broke out and it would have been easiest to duck and hide or run. He helped Christopher to have courage and he gave him a blanket acceptance that was so desperately needed. He was one of the best parts of the book for me.
“A sodomite isn’t just any sinner. Do you know what that word means? It means he—”
“Bob, shut up.” Joe said. “Lee’s my kid and I’ll damn well teach him what it means.”
“He should know by now, what with the devil lurking in this family,” Bob ranted.
Joe wasn’t done. “But let me start out by saying what it don’t mean. It don’t mean Christopher’s a bad man, and it don’t mean we don’t love him.”
Gareth is getting his own book. Leta Blake created too much of a complicated and irresistible character for him not be getting his own story told. He deserves it and I think I speak for many of us when I say we want it.
“I can’t explain. I know it doesn’t make sense.”
“It don’t need to. Just talk it out,” Gareth said. “I don’t need to get it. I just need to listen to you.”
Christopher couldn’t help but feel a little choked up at that. He so craved being seen, being heard, and Gareth was offering just that.
There is a length to this book that allowed for the time for the relationship to build naturally. We’re together through a lot and we explore many areas of their lives, looking into the past and their families and careers. We get to know them and care for them. We watch them fall in love and begin to make a life together. And it was smooth enough, compelling enough, that I didn’t notice how long the book is. I was there with them and it didn’t take long at all when I came to the end. Smiling and happy for this sweet and sexy couple and their charming family.
Reviewed by Nina