A guest review by Jenre
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.
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.