Beneath the Palisade: Courage by Joel Skelton *Retro Review*

Title: Courage

Series: Beneath the Palisade 02

Author: Joel Skelton

Genre: Contemporary

Length: Novel (318 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (14 Jan 2013)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 3.5 Hearts

Blurb: Theodore Engdahl’s sexual identity crisis clashes with his faith. Raised to believe homosexuality is a sin, Theo finds himself on the ropes with his girlfriend as well as his straight coworker, whom he can’t stop staring at. Luckily, before he can panic too much, Theo discovers the support system provided by the Men’s Center. 

At the center, he meets Alex, and the two hit it off. Unlike Theo, Alex wears his sexuality like a favorite shirt. Alex is also easy on the eyes, but for Theo, following his example is anything but uncomplicated. 

With a little help from Alex and his mentors, Ian and Harper, Theo realizes that living well requires courage. While he struggles to take the next step with Alex and to come out to his conservative parents, life beneath the palisade goes on. But when Alex and his boat disappear during a terrible storm, Theo must find the strength to hope

ISBN: 978-1-62380-294-3

Product Link: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: Courage is the second book in Joel Skelton’s series Beneath the Palisade. While the main story is based around different romantic couples, it is best to read this series in order.

As soon as I finished book 1, Reliance, I had to start Courage. I had thoroughly enjoyed the first book so much I wanted to know where the set up that was given there would lead to in the next book. Ian and Harper from Reliance are back, offering fatherly advice and basically wanting to make the world a better place. However, this is really Alex’s story, who was introduced as Ian and Harper’s protégé who they had started to think of as almost like a son. (It’s all very sweet).

Wherein the first book there was the main story of Ian and Harper, then we were randomly introduced to Alex and it took a while to realise that he was going to be important – it does happen here in Courage, though it is far less confusing as the story opens up quickly. While Alex and Theo’s relationship is front and centre, as well the important subplot of Theo coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out to his highly religious parents, there are plenty of other couples we hear directly from. However, I can’t help but think that much like Reliance, the main romantic story line is rather thin in terms of plot and it is everything that is happening in Alex and Theo’s immediate surrounds that propels the story forward.

The story for the most part is set at the Palisade B&B which Ian and Harper had opened by the end of book 1. However, Harper and Alex’s plan to help the local men by opening a men’s centre has also been realised, which is where Alex meets Theo for the first time.

Occasionally, Ian and Harper pop up, mostly as a guide and bringing together all the parts of the story, especially when it comes to Alex. Then we meet Petra, a lesbian who works at the Palisade who finds love with Betsy when she checks in on day. Then the more important story line is that of older couple Harold and Quentin. It is an absolutely beautiful story and might well make you cry (I will admit, I did cry when they popped up). Their function as characters, I think, is to be something of a role model to Alex, adding on from all the positives he has learnt from being with Ian and Harper.

Overall, this is a really sweet love story. I love Alex – he is strong in that he is a great support to Theo and not about to push the bounds of the start of their relationship. Theo is sweet and cute, though he is also strong in his own way. Both these guys seem so real and they are just a joy to read.

Beneath the Palisade: Reliance by Joel Skelton *Retro Review*

Joel Skelton - Reliance CoverTitle: Reliance

Series: Beneath the Palisade 01

Author: Joel Skelton

Genre: Contemporary

Length: Novel (300 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (23 Mar 2012)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Blurb: Rising star attorney Harper Callahan hires Ian Burke to landscape his backyard, but it’s his heart that gets the real makeover. Cautious at first, Ian is soon won over by Harper’s good looks and charm, and before they know it they’re on the fast track to romance. 

Then a brush with death makes Harper and Ian reassess their plans for the future… and offers them an opportunity for adventure. What starts out as a casual fantasy of owning and operating a B&B on Lake Superior soon explodes into reality as Harper and Ian realize that when they rely on each other, they can accomplish great things.

ISBN: 978-1-61372-404-0

Product Link: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Prime

Review: This is the first book I’ve read by Joel Skelton and if this is any indication of his writing style, I cannot wait to get to the next two books in this series. In fact, I’m rather glad that I picked it up now with 3 books already available and not when this book was first released. I’m selfish like that. 😉

The first thing that I’m going to say is not an actual criticism but more as an observation. So if you read the blurb it’s in two paragraphs, which I finally realised splits the book in its two halves. I was a couple chapters in and I was thinking “where is this brush with death?”, “what do the… where is this Palisade?” and “Will Ian and Harper just get together and do what they’re meant to?”

This book is a bit of a slow burn and is the perfect set up for the next two books in the series. The opening in fun and dragged me right in immediately as we meet Ian as he is filming his first TV ad for his landscaping company. Immediately you know that he is a great guy and that he is surrounded by some fun, if not interestingly quirky, people. Then we meet Harper. He’s a successful lawyer, but he’s involved in defending a criminal case which has had more than its fair share of local and national media attention. Late one night, Harper see’s Ian’s ad and figures he might as well get his garden fixed. Oh, he had actual reasons, but being that he was attracted to “the actor” on the ad probably doesn’t help his sleep deprived state.

I don’t want to go too much further into anything in terms of plot. As I said, this is a slow burn and for that reason it might not appeal to those that only have the attention span for fast pace. However, where there is not a lot of plot going in, the author makes up for this in spades with the brilliant character development. Shaping the world and the characters in a way that is easily relatable and where the reader will probably recognise pieces of their lives as “oh, yeah, that’s what real people do”. It also helps that the attraction between the guys is both subtle and hot.

One thing I will say though is that I was really confused when a character, Alex was first introduced. If anyone finds this off putting, just hang in there. I’m still sceptical about how he was introduced but by the end of the book it is clear that Alex is an important character in both Ian and Harper’s lives.

This will probably appeal to a broad range of readers but as I said earlier, it is a slow burn so some may find it a tad boring since all the action tends to happen in the second half.

Beneath the Palisade: Justice by Joel Skelton

BeneaththePalisadeJusticeLGTitle: Beneath the Palisade: Justice
Series: Beneath the Palisade #3
Author: Joel Skelton
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novel (298 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (13 April 2015)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥4.5 Hearts
Blurb: Despite a spirited inner debate pitting right against wrong, Owen Grady is lured off a forest trail by a handsome stranger. Just as he is about to surrender to an urgent desire, Owen realizes he is making a mistake and attempts to leave, but the rejected man wrestles Owen to the ground and discloses he is a cop. Wrongly accused of sexual misconduct, Owen seeks legal help.

Ambitious young lawyer Brent Burns is a junior partner at Burns & Callahan, a law firm located within the Men’s Center in Two Harbors, Minnesota. He takes on Owen’s case, determined to prove him innocent. But Brent can’t possibly predict the obstacles on the bumpy road to an acquittal—not the least of which is an ethical taboo involving his heart, which threatens to defeat him before he ever sets foot in the courtroom.

ISBN: 978-1-63216-844-3

Product Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6256

Reviewer: Prime

Review: Justice is the third book in Joel Skelton’s series Beneath the Palisade. While the main story is based around different romantic couples, it is best to read this series in order. However, I’m just going to put it out there, this is my favourite book in the series.

The characters (and to some extent the writing) have come a long way since book 1. Although, in this one we are moving away from the Palisade B&B and more towards the men’s centre which was for the most part Alex and Harper’s plan to support the local [not always gay/bi] men.

We get to meet up again with Brent – who we first saw in Reliance (book 1) as Harper’s PA at the law firm in the city. Now that Harper is back practicing law, as a sort of extension to the men’s centre, Brent was invited in to be a partner to his new, small firm. It is through here that Brent meets Owen. Brent is immediately sure that Owen is innocent and will find a way to help the guy. It also should be pointed out that despite the circumstances the guys are immediately attracted to each other.

As a reader we first meet Owen when he goes experiences a horrific series of events, including physical and sexual assault. He’s now been charged with a crime that he is innocent of but is drowning, not sure what to do. Owen is a great guy. He’s a passionate music teacher and all around nice guy who is loved by students and parents alike. And that is why it is so easy to feel sympathy for Owen’s plight, feeling his desperation as the book progresses.

We don’t see the POV of other characters so much as we did in the first two stories, which I think has made this book feel a lot more meaningful, though undoubtedly the previous books had plenty of emotion. I like that we get to hear from Ian and Harper, they kind of link the story together as Brent looks on to his mentor for both professional and personal advice. Harper is a bit of a dick at one point, but I like that in the way that we get to see that this guy is human.

This is a fun and fascinating read. People that like the whole courtroom drama thing will enjoy this the most, but readers of the series, I think, will be more than happy with the addition.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through http://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com *