A guest review by Jenre
When Daniel Seaton inadvertently trespasses on Tyler Edward’s land, things almost go very, very wrong. It’s bad enough that Dan’s a runaway, but when Tyler nearly shoots him on sight, Dan knows he’s in trouble. Tyler’s got a lot of years under his belt, and his past doesn’t let him accept strangers easily. Dan’s situation is dire enough that Tyler takes him home, at least for a little while, and that turns out to be a good decision when Dan decides to stay on and help out with the chores.
Tyler might be learning to trust, and Dan might be settling in to a new life, but things are not always what they seem. Between interfering friends, injuries, and their attraction to each other, Tyler and Dan have plenty of troubles. More trouble turns up in the form of Tyler’s past, which catches up to them with a vengeance, and they decide to start a new life together, one that requires them to leave everything behind. Can they overcome what lies in the past to have a future with each other?
I’ve been meaning to read a Jane Davitt book for ages. I loved her story in the Animal Attraction 2 (reviewed here) anthology but somehow never got around to picking up one of her longer books. Wild Raspberries was one of those books that seemed to have been liked overall, so I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did as this turned out to be delightful, if slightly angsty story featuring two opposite heroes.
The book begins with one of heroes, Dan, on the run. He’s left home in a hurry after he was discovered with another man. By the time we get to meet him he’s been travelling a while and it hasn’t been a good time for him. His possessions and money have been stolen and he’s been forced to turn tricks in payment for rides from disreputable truckers. After one particular nauseating experience, Dan decides to cut across country. He’s at his lowest ebb, starving, tired and depressed when he stumbles upon a patch of wild raspberries in the woods. The raspberries turn out not to be wild at all when Dan is discovered by their owner Tyler with a mouth full of his fruit. After almost shooting Dan on the spot Tyler sends him on his way, only to have to bring him home after Dan collapses. The pair then strike up an odd friendship forced upon them when Tyler hurts himself and Dan offers to take care of him. The sparks fly between them, but Tyler is so closed off that Dan has a hard time getting him to open up to him.
The strength of this book lies in the characters of Tyler and Dan. There’s a bit of an age gap between them, but this worked in the context of the book. Dan is literally ‘straight off the farm’ having led quite a sheltered life with his widowed father. His naivety was quite charming and also what led him into trouble in the first place. My heart ached for him as he explained the circumstances of his flight from home and his experiences on the road yet I also had the same reaction as Tyler – a certain amount of incredulity that he didn’t see that he was being used. However, Dan is no twink, despite his age and slender looks. He’s willing to work hard, has the gumption to stand up to Tyler and quite a temper on him when he gets started. It was the combination of innocence coupled with the ability to stand up for himself that made me like Dan a great deal. He could also be incredibly manipulative on occasion, keeping Tyler on his toes.
Tyler was the opposite to Dan in many ways. An ex-soldier, who has seen and done much, perhaps too much and has now settled as a paranoid tinged recluse, living in the middle of nowhere. When Dan comes into his life he fights and fights to get rid of him, saying and doing anything to force Dan on his way. Dan is just as stubborn as Tyler though, and sticks with him, even when he’s left feeling unwanted. As the book progresses Tyler becomes increasingly frightened over his growing feelings for Dan and tries to keep them buried. Fortunately, Dan sees through all that and gradually works his way firmly into the centre of Tyler’s life. The journey that they take together, the push and pull, the stress and strain, made this a compelling read as I devoured the book, desperate to get towards what I hoped would be a happy ending.
The setting of the book is quiet static, with most of the scenes happening within the confines of the small house or the garden, with only a couple of scenes in town to break up the setting. This gave the book a slightly claustrophobic air and added to the intensity of the emotion running through the story. There are very few secondary characters and only one, the local doctor and friend of Tyler who gets any decent page time. I found her to be well drawn and sympathetic in her role of advisor. The lack of other characters in the story meant that we are focused entirely on Tyler and Dan. I really like books where most of the story is concentrated on the main characters, especially when the problems that encounter come from within themselves. It was no wonder then that I enjoyed Wild Raspberries so much.
Overall, this was a pretty marvellous book. If I have any complaints it was that the way the book ended felt slightly forced, especially as it was a sudden burst of action after a long period of slow burning character based story. Other than that slight niggle, then I would wholeheartedly recommend Wild Raspberries, especially to those who like stories high on emotional intensity. There’s a sequel to this book, Wintergreen, which is already on my TBR pile and I’m looking forward to revisiting these interesting characters again.