Between Sinners and Saints

Title: Between Sinners and Saints
Author: Marie Sexton
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Diverse
Length: Extended novel/98K Words/276 PDF pages
Rating: 5+ stars, DIK

Review Summary: Engrossing and incredibly moving!

THE BLURB

Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.

Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.

Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they’ll find a way to heal each other, and they’ll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.

THE REVIEW

I didn’t think that Marie Sexton could top One More Soldier, a book I love and have re-read many times, but Between Sinners and Saints showed me a different side of her writing and proved once again what an incredible author she is.  The  plot and characters moved me so much that I couldn’t put this novel down, and for me to read a book that’s 98K words straight through without switching is huge and a testament to the writing, especially in view of the tough themes.

Leviticus (Levy) Binder had left home 10 years ago when his Mormon family refused to accept him for who he was, a gay man. He missed his family but he didn’t miss the lectures about his lifestyle and he no longer visited them regularly because of the tension every time he went home. Levi was one of the hottest bartenders at a bar in Miami called “The Zone” which kept him supplied with as many anonymous sex partners as he wanted, but recently he had become disenchanted with all the free sex and was beginning to feel too old for the nightly grind – getting laid was no longer special or even pleasurable because he had sex so often, and his nightly routine of taking men into the back room of the bar for a quick hookup was becoming a drag. In addition, recently he had been experiencing pain in his lower back and leg and he was at the point where the pain made it almost too difficult to work or enjoy the one sport he loved – surfing. On the advice of his brother-in-law, a doctor, he sought the services of a professional massage therapist, and when Levi met Jaime Marshall he turned out to be the best thing in his life but also his biggest challenge.

Jaime lived his life without family or friends. He had been damaged mentally and physically as a result of being raped by a family member at a very early age. To add insult to injury his mother disbelieved him when he told her what happened and she did not seek even the most basic therapy for her son, so he grew up without any professional help.  He left home at 18 and never looked back. As a result of his childhood trauma Jaime was afraid of personal contact with anyone except his dog Dolly, and he couldn’t stand to be touched, which seemed strange in view of his career choice as a massage therapist. When Levi met Jaime he tried his usual line for a quick conquest but he could not make a dent in Jaime’s armour, and after a few weeks of his aggressive pursuit Jaime refused to continue seeing him professionally. In the meantime, the pressures from Levi’s family to change his lifestyle were increasing and compounded with no sexual relief for those weeks he was pursuing Jaime,  Levi became so tense and angry he had a meltdown and decided to prove to everyone that he was just as self destructive as they thought. This morphed into a blowout which made him realize afterwards he couldn’t continue the way he was living. After a lot of begging, Jaime allowed Levi to come back for treatment but he imposed certain conditions, and from then on they became best friends, something Jaime sorely needed although Levi still hoped for a different relationship because he was falling in love with his friend.

The protagonists will grab on to your heart especially Jaime who was vulnerable and scarred from his past experience. He was a complex character who was so fragile it seemed as if he would break at any moment, but he was by no means weak and he proved to be the catalyst throughout the story. Levi’s family fell for him despite his being gay which went against everything they believed in, and he showed them at last what a wonderful person Levi was and how he had changed his life for the better. Levi’s love for Jaime was unselfish, and he was so tender with him you will fall for him too. Both characters grew exponentially throughout the course of the book and the development of the plot to its conclusion was well crafted. This plot could have become a quagmire because of the themes of faith, homosexuality, rape, and a family in crisis, but the author wove them into a tapestry for a wonderful and moving story that will make you admire the way it unfolded and how the family conflicts were resolved without taking the easy way out.

The characters were all flawed, including Levi’s parents who wore blinders and initially could not see any viewpoint but their own, but Jaime opened their eyes and hearts to another path and showed them that if you truly loved someone you would accept them unconditionally. This story is by no means a quick fix for religious prejudices and hate, and at times it was hard for me to understand why for 10 years Levi was treated like a pariah even though his family did acknowledge reluctantly that homosexuality was not a choice.

The author integrated a lot of information about the Mormon religion into the plot without making me feel that it was an info dump. The doubts each member of Levi’s family experienced about the path they had chosen, and the impact their decision had on Levi seemed realistic as they tried to balance their love for him against their faith.  To her credit Marie Sexton didn’t demonize the Mormons or make Levi’s family into selfish unfeeling people, instead they were portrayed as sincere believers whose lives were governed by strict religious principles. But faith can be a two edged sword and this was a thread that was woven throughout the story in a non-judgmental way.

Between Sinners and Saints could have been a downer because of the emphasis on religion and how people’s faith and beliefs affect their lives, but it was actually fun. Jaime’s dark sense of humour emerged and some of the supporting characters rationalized their own departure from the strict teachings of their faith while still hoping to enjoy the benefits of a heavenly afterlife . 🙂 The characters were all fully fleshed out and the family dynamics were complicated as expected, but there was also a lot of love and friendship.

If you read my reviews you know that I’m not fond of overpowering angst but I realize that some of you love angst.  However, although there was angst here because of the themes, it was not overwhelming and the well written characters trumped everything else. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

60 comments

  • I don’t know if I have ever posted before so I just have to say how much I love your review site. I visit here dailly and buy way too many books because of your reviews.
    I’m dying to read this one. I have a Kindle and evidently I am not tech savvy enough to figure out how to buy a book from somewhere other than amazon to get it on my Kindle. I have tried, it was not good! So I guess my questions is this? Any idea how long before this is available on Amazon?

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea
      Thank you for writing and I really appreciate that you visit the site daily. The guest reviewers also appreciate your visits. 🙂

      I’m not sure when this book will be available on Amazon (usually the publishers hold on to new releases for at least a month before sending them to re-sellers). If you write me and explain your problem with buying Kindle books from sites other than Amazon I may be able to help or at least ask an expert on the Kindle to help you. I’m not technically savvy myself but have managed to buy a lot of Kindle books from places like ARe and publishers and I download them to my Kindle without any problems.

      Reply
  • I read this fantastic book this weekend and could not and would not put it down. It was just amazing. Normally I love when my husband comes home to spend the weekends with me. But when he asked whether it would be ok to make a long tour with his racebike I immediately agreed – all I could think about was: Yes! Nine hours reading time without annoying interruptions.

    Reply
    • Hi Suzanne
      Thank you for coming back and letting us know how you felt about this book. I absolutely loved it and I’m so glad you did too. 🙂

      I hope your husband appreciated all the affection he received when he returned home. lol

      Reply
  • I just finished reading the book and it is now my absolute favorite book and that’s saying something since I’ve liked all of Marie’s books that I’ve read so far. Although it didn’t bother me at all, I felt that the religious overtone of the book could be off-putting to some readers.
    It is such a coincidence that I finished reading this book the same day I watched a video of an 80 year old woman from Iowa speaking in support of her gay son and his partner and gay marriage in general. I can picture Nancy Binder doing that some day!

    Reply
    • Hi Rosesarered
      Thanks for coming back and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book as much as you did. You’re right about the religious overtones in Between Sinners and Saints – they are pretty heavy. However, I suppose in order to be realistic Marie couldn’t just skim the issues. I didn’t find it off-putting because I had just finished reading a book about the Roman Catholic faith 🙂 (The Visionary by Jaye Valentine and Reno MacLeod) and I’m not into organized religion.

      Nancy Binder was something else. Talk about being tough. lol

      Reply
  • I waited to read the review until after I read it. Just finished it and WOW. Yup, instant DIK for me, too. :hearts01: I think it just may be that she really does get better and better with each book. :god:

    Her representation of Levi’s family was incredible. Many years ago I dated a bitterly former Mormon heterosexual man whose family loved him but viewed him as a miserable, disappointing failure because he drank alcohol and caffeine, and engaged in premarital sex. Despite all the horror stories he shared, and how deeply scarred he obviously was, this book made me almost want to marry into a Mormon family. 😯 Or at least appreciate what a blessing it was for Jaime. :bravo:

    Reply
    • Hi jessica
      Thank you for coming back and letting us know your opinion about Between Sinners and Saints. I never knew anything about the Mormon religion before and that even caffeine was forbidden. WOW!

      Like you, I think Marie is getting better and she did an excellent job on all the characters, including the parents. While I am no longer religious I’m happy the Mormons weren’t demonised in the book which would have been so easy to do. 🙂

      Reply
  • No, but yes 1000 is a lot. Are your buttons still responding to your touch? LOL.
    I have 500 books but Ive got 30+ waiting to read. ARE had 50% off this weekend so I bought more from my wish list. Great sale.

    Reply
    • So far my Kindle is working but I think it’s time to delete some of the okder books that I’ll never re-read. 🙂
      I saw that sale but I have so many books that I haven’t read I decided to pass.

      Reply

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