Title: Desert Crossing
Author: BG Thomas
Buy link: Amazon.com
Publisher: Dreamspinner press
Genre: Contemporary m/m, Bittersweet Dreams
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: A chance encounter with a stranger changes Callum’s view of himself and helps him make an all-important decision.
The Blurb: When Callum’s mother asks him to visit for her birthday, she unwittingly comes to his rescue. Callum is a broken and unhappy man, emotionally abused by his lover to the point of feeling worthless, alone, and without hope. But during his trip, while passing through the Salt Lake Desert, Callum picks up a hitchhiker named Danny, who shows him that life is full of wonder and blessings. He’s on the verge of believing in himself again, but can he really make a new life for himself by jumping from the arms of one man into another’s?
The Review: The story begins with Callum driving home to his native Midwest from San Francisco, where he lives with his partner of ten years, David. Callum is on his own, since David didn’t want to accompany him, and so he has ample time for pondering David and what seems to be wrong between them. At first, David’s habit of bringing strangers into their relationship at once scared and excited naturally rather shy Callum. Recently, though, their “open relationship” has turned, or so it seems, into something like carte blanche for cheating – mostly used by David, since Callum feels uncomfortable sleeping around behind David’s back. Callum knows he’s unhappy, but he can’t see a way to fix this. He considers himself unattractive and fat, and he’s come to resign himself to putting up with David’s cheating, since he is convinced that nobody but David would want him anyway, and that being with an unfaithful partner is better than being alone.
Right in the middle of the Salt Lake Desert, a stranger approaches Callum, asking for a ride. Although Callum is wary at first, he’s soon glad he took Dan, who is the embodiment of everything Callum finds attractive in a man. As they get to know each other, talking during the long hours of driving, Callum learns that there is more to David than his handsome face and toned body. Slowly, David’s worldly and spiritual wisdom starts a process of insight within Callum. Dan puts Callum’s muted suffering into words . Through Dan’s help, Callum comes to realize that he’s a person in his own right, that he can make his own decisions, and that the only person who can break the dark spell David cast over his life is he, Callum, himself.
In a way, this story was a road movie where Callum and Dan got to know each other over the course of the three days they spend together. This happens in a way which is very fitting their characterizations. We’re in Callum’s head throughout the story, and so he is the best-drawn character. Callum is a victim of emotional (and most probably, also sexual) abuse from his partner David, and I found this portrayed in a heartbreakingly realistic way. It was beautiful to watch how he came to take a new look at things with Dan’s help.
Although David isn’t physically present, his personality plays a big role in this story. Initially, David’s voice almost drowns out Callum’s own thoughts – but it fades, the more Callum’s self – perception heals. I liked it that David wasn’t only pictured as demonic abuser, though. Callum remembers things about David he’s grateful for, too, and I could clearly see why Callum would fall for David in the first place. David may have initiated the downward spiral their relationship took, but it was Callum who allowed to be dragged so deeply under as he is now.
Dan is surely the most meaningful character in this story, but also the least elaborated. We don’t get much background info on him, but get to know him mostly through his actions, just like Callum does. Although Dan helps Callum see the light, he never pushes him. On the contrary, when they finally come to consume the attraction that has been there between them almost from the moment they first met, Dan makes Callum make his own decision. Callum has to think about what he wants over and over with Dan, who never gives him an easy way out. Dan reminded me of a good teacher, or perhaps of a benevolent spiritual guide, who leads Callum with a gentle hand. Callum’s choices may not always be what others might consider ethical, or proper, but they are his choices now, and he knows he can live with them afterwards.
Desert Crossing is Callum’s quiet journey towards himself. It was a little heavy on the philosophizing at times, but this was balanced by all the heartfelt honesty. Since this is another Bittersweet Dreams title, there’s obviously not a HEA ending. I was glad , though, that the author choose to end the story the way he did. Really, a HEA would have ruined it. I’d still call it a romance, and it’s surely a love story. Although it was sad, it wasn’t a tear-jerker; there was humor, banter and eroticism, an the story even ended on a surprisingly positive note. This is a story not for everyone or for everyday either, but I’d recommend it for when you’re in the mood for a fondly drawn story of character growth with characters who will remain with you for a while.
There’s a free short story to go with this book, Desert Crossing – a Different Perspective which gives Dan’s view on the ending. You’ll receive it along with the book on purchase from DSP.