Book Reviews

Sweetwater by Lisa Henry

Genre Gay / Historical / 19th Century / Cowboys / Romance
Reviewed by Christy Duke on 08-October-2018

Book Blurb

Wyoming Territory, 1870.

Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.

Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.

When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.



First edition published by Riptide Publishing, September 2014.


Book Review

Ah, the Wyoming Territory in 1870. I will be honest and admit that I'm not much of a fan of historicals, but anything involving the American Wild West will pull me right in. The description, particularly, of Elijah, is what interested me in reading 'Sweetwater'. Once I began, it was his story, and his point of view, which kept me reading. Lisa Henry is an author I have enjoyed, very much, and I knew she'd deliver a wonderful story.

South Pass City is just one of many boom towns that grew up overnight to cater to the miners. Elijah Carter came west with his family, but his mother and sisters died along the way, Elijah came down with Scarlet Fever, and he doesn't know what happened to his dad. The wagon train leaves him with Dr. Carter and when Elijah finally gets better, he is left mostly deaf. Most of the townsfolk treat Elijah like he's stupid, which isn't the case, at all. He can read lips, but people tease him for the way he talks. Elijah keeps to himself and lives in his own head, a lot. Part of that is his reception by others, but part of that is his shameful desire for other men. Not just other men, but for men to hold him down, and take what they want. Or, at least, that's what he assumes he wants since he doesn't know how to fill the ache inside.

"He wouldn’t go back to Crane. Couldn’t. Crane was too dangerous. Not just for the booze and the gambling and the whores he ran out of the Empire—there was no shortage of men making their fortune that way in South Pass City—but because Elijah had taken every stab of pain and every searing burn of humiliation that Crane had given him, and still would have taken more. He would have taken anything Crane wanted him to take, because Crane had looked in his face and seen him."

Harlan Crane owns the saloon in town, several card houses, and has a business interest in a few mines. He's a powerful, wealthy, dangerous man who recognizes the desires in Elijah and takes advantage of him.

Grady Mullins and his kin round up stolen cattle and sell them to the butcher Elijah works for. They were supposed to be doing it until they could raise the money to buy their own ranch, but lately it seems his kin is happy to just keep thieving. He's been interested in Elijah for awhile now. Grady's life has consisted of back alley hookups, with no intimacy or gentleness. Something about Elijah calls to him and makes him feel as if they could have something together. When Grady realizes that Crane has claimed Elijah and doesn't treat him well, Grady is determined to protect Elijah against forces he isn't even aware of.

Elijah is a fascinating and very lovable young man. He feels so much guilt, and always has, ever since the doctor took him in. Elijah knows he isn't good enough to deserve the love the doctor has given him, and that the doctor must be disappointed that he got stuck with him. It's a cycle of mental abuse which Elijah inflicts upon himself, and his naturally submissive tendencies don't help. Elijah truly believes he deserves the pain, the abuse, the degradation, and humiliation he suffers at Harlan's hands. When Elijah comes home one afternoon and finds the doctor, dead at the table, with a bullet in his head, his whole world implodes.

"He heard Dr. Carter’s voice again: “Oh, Elijah.”
But you’re not here. It doesn’t matter what happens to me. You’re not here, and I can’t break your heart."

I honestly didn't think that Lisa Henry could tear me up as much as she did in 'When All the World Sleeps'. I was wrong. She has done it again by writing this beautiful study of a young man and the wounds he carries so deeply inside. Watching Elijah find the strength inside of himself was a gorgeous thing. Seeing him and Grady fall in love was even better. A fabulous book that I can wholeheartedly recommend.





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Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 228 pages/64000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 21-March-2018
Price $4.95 ebook
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