|Genre||Gay / Contemporary / Athletes/Coaches / New Adult / Erotic Romance|
|Reviewed by||Lena Grey on 16-January-2016|
Everyone wants the best for SCU student and tight end Raven Nez—and they know exactly what that is. Enter the NFL draft, become a big football hero, promote his tribe’s casino, and make a lot of money to help people on the reservation. Just one problem. Raven's gay and he really wants to work with gay kids. Plus he figures a gay Native tight end will get flattened in the NFL. Then the casino board hires a talented student filmmaker to create ads for the tribal business and asks Raven to work with him. But the filmmaker is Dennis Hascomb, a guy with so much to hide and a life so ugly it’s beyond Raven’s understanding. Still he’s drawn to Dennis's pain and incredible ability to survive. Captivated by Raven’s stories of the two-spirited and by the amazing joy of finally having a friend, Dennis knows he has to break free from everything he’s ever been taught was good—but that’s a struggle that could kill him and Raven too. Is there a chance for “the great red hope” and the “whitest guy on earth”? A future for the serpent and the raven?
“True Redemption is seized when you accept the future consequences for your past mistakes.” ~ Eduardo Macedo
Raven Nez seems to have it all with his Native American good looks, athletic skills, possibility of an NFL draft, and charisma. In their overenthusiasm, Raven's family and fans are pulling him in several directions, none of which are the way Raven wants to go. His success is good for the locals, especially considering how much revenue Raven's ventures will bring in. It's not that Raven is ungrateful for his success, but he wishes he had more choice in the matter.
Trying to be the “good son” and doing what's expected of him, Raven assists with a publicity project for his father's casino in which Dennis Hascomb, a young photography student, will be doing the filming. From the beginning, there is a spark between them, but Dennis isn't gay and Raven has a boyfriend, Walt, who is actually just his best friend. As Raven and Dennis work together, they become friends. Raven senses that Dennis is extremely troubled by something, which he admits but can't talk about. His attraction to Dennis continues to grow stronger, but Dennis resists getting closer. When Dennis finally shows up again, Raven is determined to find out what is wrong and won't take no for an answer. Dennis can't tell him the whole truth, but admits that he thinks he's gay. Besides talking it out with Dennis, Raven does his best to help Dennis accept himself. Raven introduces Dennis to his grandfather and the counselor at the Gay Youth Center where Raven volunteers; both of offer him help but Dennis is resistant.
All of his life, Dennis has lived in fear of his parents with good reason. Due to their manipulation, Dennis lives in fear of what the consequences might be if he didn't listen to them. Their brainwashing, physical, and psychological abuse have taken its toll. His parents are despicable con artists who force Dennis to gather “sensitive” information that can be used against them. Dennis is beginning to hate it and them more each day. Raven's Native American stories about two-spirited people, those who don't fit into the binary gender model, being treated with respect hit a chord with Dennis, but even the thought of his parents' reaction to a gay son is enough to terrify Dennis and “keep him straight”. When Dennis's parents realize that he's friends with Raven, they encourage the relationship, thinking that they might able to use it to their advantage. The idea of Raven in their clutches terrifies Dennis. He knows he has to do something drastic to keep that from happening, even if it means severe consequences.
Making a hero of a villain is a tall order, but Tara does it with ease. Dennis was a person I considered despicable before since he caused so much misery in the first book of the series. He seemed unredeemable, but Tara explained why he acted the way he did. I began to feel sorry for him for having such dreadful parents and such an awful life. Surprised as I was by this, I was even more surprised when I finally found myself liking him, even though I still think his consequences were a bit too light. While Tara was accomplishing this monumental feat, she also reminded me of the old adage: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” If you enjoy reading about Native American customs, football, parental expectations, underhandedness, deceit, kidnapping, drama, and angst, you may like this book. Thank you, Tara, for showing me the true Dennis and for giving him and Raven the love they earned.