Warriors and Healers

Title: Warriors and Healers
Author: H.J. Brues
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 262 Pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

THE BLURB

When Dr. Daniel Ugarte arrives from Spain to work on the Apache reservation, he meets Jeff Redbear, a Native American social worker, and Sean McCallum, the local sheriff. The men come from three different worlds, and they have little to no common ground until an immediate, unexpected attraction sparks between them.

Facing the growing desire is just the beginning of the obstacles they will face: Daniel’s past makes him blind to Jeff and Sean’s feelings for him and terrified of standing in the way of their love for each other; Sean has to fight his present worry of not being strong enough to protect the men he loves; and Jeff’s pride and fear of future rejection make him push Sean and Daniel away before they get too close to his heart.

But the strength of the love that blooms between them is the worst of their fears, because it will take as much courage to run from it and go on living empty, meaningless lives as it will to fight for the happiness they might never reach together.

THE REVIEW

There were a few things which attracted me to this book. I’d quite enjoyed this author’s story in the Games in the Dark anthology (reviewed here) and wanted to see whether that quality of writing would be sustained over a longer book; I like m/m/m stories; and the setting of this book – a Native American reservation – was unusual and I was intrigued how that setting would play a part in the story. In the end, this book was well written with the three men being flawed and complex characters but overall the story suffered from trying to deal with too many themes and ideas, many of which ended up being glossed over or forgotten about.

The story begins with the arrival of Dr Daniel Ugarte, a Spanish doctor who is taking a few week’s secondment from his busy job in Madrid, to volunteer at a clinic in a Native American reservation. The social worker who has arranged the secondment with him is Jeff Redbear. There’s an attraction between the men, but Daniel firstly believes he is straight and secondly has an abusive past which has lead to feelings of low self-worth. Jeff has abandonment issues as his father died and his mother left him with an aunt and uncle when she moved to the city with his sister. Both men start a friendship with Sean McCallum, the local sheriff. When Daniel returns to Spain, Jeff and Sean start a relationship but it’s not long before they realise that they need Daniel in their relationship too.

Those of you who don’t like angst will not like this book. All three of the men are suffering in some form or another which often leads to them shutting down and withdrawing, causing problems in the relationship between the men. Daniel has been physically abused as a child and as a result still has regular screaming nightmares plus a fear of being restrained. Despite being a successful doctor in Spain and fully estranged from his abusive past, he is unable to get close to anyone and remains cold and aloof at all times, throwing himself into his work in order to avoid all close friendships except for his Spanish friend, Raul. Jeff suffers from extreme low self esteem after being abandoned by his immediate family to live with his uncle and aunt. This was one aspect of the story I found difficult to understand as Jeff is brought up in a loving environment as the son his aunt and uncle could never have, and yet he behaves like he was an unwanted child. The extremes of feeling that he has about his childhood just didn’t tally with what we see in the way his uncle and aunt love him, and so I found myself unable to understand Jeff’s feelings. Sean also has issues in that he comes from a large family and so felt lost amongst all his other siblings. The rejection of Daniel and Jeff hits him hard as he is a natural protector and wants to look after both men and heal their wounds.

We find out all the above information through the internal monologue of the characters. They inwardly moan and gripe about their lives, the perceived and actual hurts that others have done to them, their worries about the other men, and their feelings of self-loathing and hatred. This goes on for pages and pages of navel-gazing introspection which made me rapidly lose patience in the characters. Most of the problems in their relationship would be solved very quickly if they just talked to one another rather than exist in their own miserable sphere.  There’s actually very little page time when the men are together, talking or interacting in any way and a lot of their time together is told to us ‘off page’ by one of the characters.  This had the effect that I was distanced from them as a threesome because I rarely saw them together.  In fact, it wasn’t until near the end of the book when they finally started telling each other what they were thinking that I began to have any sympathy for them or their situation and after that point I grew to like them more and was happy that they got their HEA.

Apart from the relationship between the three men – which is the only real focus of the story – there were a number of other themes or ideas thrown into the mix which could have been interesting but were only dealt with on a superficial level. The setting of the NA reservation and the people who lived there was one of these. Jeff is supposed to be a social worker but we never see him doing anything except for asking advice about a drunken man in the town. There are hints that drugs and alcohol are rife in the community, and that Jeff’s mother and sister are victims of this, which concerns Jeff, but then nothing ever comes of that. Other things were thrown in too like the odd BDSM scene in Sean’s office late in the book; Jeff’s aunt and uncle who play a prominent role in the beginning of the book but then disappear from sight; Jeff’s uncle Jack who crops up late in the book to condemn Jeff but we’ve not heard of him before or after that point; The fact that all the men seem to have an awful lot of spare time, given their stressful jobs; the way that Jeff and Sean’s relationship is so violent during sex yet that too seems to tail off without explanation; Jeff’s inferiority complex about being a Native American which doesn’t tally with the respect shown generally to him. The book would have been so much better if there had been some consistency with all this jumble of ideas, if the book had been pared back with some themes discarded and others allowed to flourish.

So despite my love of angsty, character based books, Warriors and Healers didn’t really work for me. I found myself getting impatient with the main characters and bemused at all the different themes and ideas thrown seemingly randomly into the story.  Having said that, the writing was good and I will definitely be looking out for more of this author’s books in future.

15 comments

  • The cover also puts me off. All three of them have their shirts rucked up admiring each others abs. It puts me in mind of those m/f historicals where on the cover the heroine has her skirt rucked up to her waist.

    • I think my main problem with the cover is that the faces are in shadow so you are drawn to the stomach area instead. It makes the relationship seem more about sex than it actually is in the book.

  • Thank you Jen. Maybe it’s me, but it sounds like there were just too many threads for such a short page count. I wonder if a sequel is planned…

    • Hi Orannia
      I think that’s true. There were lots of great ideas in the story, but I think that some of those ideas could have been saved for a sequel. I don’t know if there is one in the pipeline. I tried looking for the author’s blog/LJ to see whether she mentions writing a sequel, but couldn’t find it.

  • I think I’ll skip this one. I never found the m/m/m book I really liked. Even if I like the characters, in the end I never completely believe that the relationship will work. With all other problems you mentioned and angst… Too bad. It’s an interesting setting and I like the stories with cops and doctors. ^^

    • Hi LadyM
      It’s very difficult to write a believable HEA to a m/m/m book. I’ve read a couple that I thought did manage it, but I can’t say I was wholly convinced at the ending of this book.

  • I’m sorry, what’s with the cover, with the one guy’s hand on the other guy’s stomach. Is he pregnant? LOL. It just looks wrong to me.

    L

    • He’s a Dr. you know. LOL I just realized all three of them have their shirts rucked up. Kind of unusual now that you draw my attention to it.

      • Hi Leslie
        During the story Jeff often focuses on the contrast of his darker NA skin next to Daniel’s pale skin – Daniel is from the north of Spain where the skin is paler than those from Southern Spain. I think the illustrator was possibly trying to show the darkness of Jeff’s hand on Daniel’s stomach in the picture. I know what you mean though. Usually I love Paul Richmond’s covers but this isn’t one of his best.

        • Ah, thanks for the explanation, Jenre. We talk a lot about covers and do they influence you to buy or not. In this case, the sort of dopey cover along with your review has put this on my, “Eh, not going to bother with this one” list.

          L

  • Sounds too angsty despite my love of m/m/m. Ah well, maybe another time because I did like that short by the author. Nice review.

    • Hi Tam
      It was very angsty, even perhaps a little too angsty for me. I don’t mind broken characters but there has to be a genuinely good reason why they are that way and I just couldn’t see it with Jeff. The writing was good though and I’m definitely going to read more by this author.

  • I agree with your review, though I did like the story. My problem was that that I felt the story was really beginning just when it ended.
    *
    It could have been so much more if there was a little more together time and not a lot alone “oh-whatever-shall-I-do” time.
    *
    Great review! 🙂

    • Thanks, Larissa :).
      *
      Like you I think I would have liked the overly emotional stuff to have been dealt with quicker so that we get to see some of how the relationship works between them, rather than leave them just as they got their act together and started out in the relationship.

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