Author: Cooper West
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 27, 2011)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥
Blurb: Gary Winston is a professional musician with a debilitating problem: stage fright. Between his failing career and his failing relationship, Chicago has little left to offer him, so when he inherits his great-aunt’s pecan farm in North Carolina; it’s the perfect excuse to escape.
Nervous about being back in the Deep South again, surrounded by small-town homophobia, Gary’s certainly not ready to fall in love. Then he meets local farmer, businessman, and fiddle player Chuck Everett, whose family has been contracted to harvest the crop of pecans. Chuck’s the perfect man for Gary… except for being deep in the Southern closet.
Life heats up quickly when they start making music together, and though both men have more than their fair share of baggage, neither can walk away from the relationship. If Gary rediscovers his muse and realizes being true to himself means moving past his comfort zone, will going forward mean leaving Chuck behind?
Review: Gary was bouncing from pillar to post, sleeping on friends’ couches, subsisting as a studio musician when his aunt leaves him property in North Carolina. Stage fright has kept him from moving to the next level in his career. There’s really nothing keeping him in Chicago, since he and his part-time closeted ex-lover parted ways. So, with little more than the shirt on his back, Gary goes home.
I’ve come to expect a well-written angsty story from Cooper West. Dawn in the Orchard is classic Cooper West. The pace is a bit slower than some contemporary romances, but you really get to know the characters before they hop into bed. I really felt how lost and frustrated Gary was in relation to his career. And I loved how Cooper West uses the music of Gary’s childhood to help him heal and evolve.
Honestly, I didn’t like Chuck…at first. This is, after all, Gary’s story and Chuck seemed to pose a risk that I wasn’t sure Gary was ready for. I mean, what could a wealthy, divorced, closeted single dad want with Gary, except to use him as a boy-toy? But, as you get to know Chuck, you realize he’s doing the best he can with the history that he’s got.
In the End, I loved that their journey was bumpy. Their reactions, fears and responses rang true every step of the way. This isn’t a light read with a fairytale ending and the family singing We are the World over Thanksgiving dinner. There are more than a few moments when you really wonder if one or both of them will call it quits and simply walk away. This is a slow-building, thoroughly masculine romance that had me believing in the probability of happy-ever-after.