Title: Jacob’s Ladder (St. Nacho’s #3)
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Maxfield Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: Novel Plus
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
The third book in the St Nacho’s series is a delightful romance which sympathetically tackles the serious issue of partner abuse.
Jacob “Yasha”” Livingston is having a bad day. First there is the head cold. Then the orgy, the fight, and the hospital. Between that and the bus driver who ejects him — after accusing him of transmitting the Swine Flu — the rest of his day seems fairly vague. Now he’s stuck in a small town called Santo Ignacio and he has a whole lot of thinking to do.
One thing is, when fate speaks in the form of an EMT, maybe it’s time to listen. One man in particular, EMT Jason “JT” Lents, with his shy smile and jade green eyes, seems more like an angel than a paramedic. But Jason has a date with a newer, prettier girl every night, despite the fact that he seems to return Yasha’s interest.
What will make JT happy? If JT is afraid of his feelings it might be Yasha’s chance to heal the healer. For this couple to find their way, it’s up to Jacob, his new friends, and the magic of St. Nacho’s.
St. Nacho’s Series
Reading a new book in a well loved series is like sitting down to dinner with an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while. There’s lots of comfort to be had with the familiar, but also lots of new stuff to catch up on. It the case of the St Nacho’s series (which started with St Nacho’s reviewed here and then Physical Therapy reviewed here), it’s the place and the people which are familiar, and in this book the new stuff being the heroes, Jacob and JT.
The story begins with our first person narrator Jacob being sent home from work when he develops the flu. He arrives at home to discover his boyfriend in bed with three other guys. Illness and being confronted with solid proof of his boyfriend’s, only previously suspected, infidelity, loosens Jacob’s sarcastic tongue which turns out to be a less than wise move when his boyfriend beats him and leaves him unconscious on his kitchen floor. Desperate to escape LA, Jacob gets on a Greyhound to visit his brother in Santa Cruz. Jacob’s day only gets worse when the bus driver, fearing that Jacob has the swine flu, kicks him off the bus at a small coastal town, Santa Ignacio or St Nacho’s. Whilst staying in the town, Jacob has an opportunity to take stock of his life and make a few positive changes, especially to do with his self-esteem and the sort of man he seems to attract.
Jacob’s Ladder is one of those books which draws you in from the start and never lets go. There’s such a wealth of different themes and characters packed within its pages, that I found it very difficult to put down at all.
The main theme is that of partner abuse. This is a tricky theme to write about without making the person who is being abused seem too much like a victim and a doormat. I thought the author had done a good job in showing that abused people are not doormats, that they are strong in their own way. This was done in two ways. In the case of Jacob, his self-awareness and sarcastic exterior make him seem confident, something reinforced by his military history. However, as the book progresses, the reader is shown another side of Jacob, one where his laid back personality and longing for love means that he lets others take advantage of him, especially JT. The second way the author looks at those in abusive relationships is through the small group of women, all previously abused by their partners, who work in the bakery where Jacob finds a job. The bakery is run by Mary Catherine, the mother of Jordan from the previous book. These women show the range of different consequences for those who are abused, from those, like Mary Catherine, who are outwardly confident, but inwardly insecure, to characters like Analise who lives her life in fear. Partner abuse is a serious theme, and one which could have overwhelmed the book, making it depressing. This wasn’t the case at all, as much of the focus is on the characters moving on, putting their past behind them and stepping out into a hopeful future.
Another theme in the book is that of struggling with homosexuality. JT, like Jacob, is Jewish and unlike Jacob tries to be true to his religion. This means that JT struggles with the idea of being gay, so much so that he dates women in a desperate attempt to change his sexuality. I personally felt rather sorry for JT, but I can see how some readers will not find him sympathetic as he leads Jacob on only to then ignore him. In many ways this was perhaps the only niggle I had with the book. The first person narration made it difficult to like JT on occasion, and we only see his struggle through the eyes of Jacob, who understandably feels bitter and perhaps a little ashamed of the way he allows JT to treat him. I would have liked to have seen some of the book from JT’s point of view, to take the journey with him as he wrestles with coming out. Perhaps then JT’s actions, especially towards the end of the book would not have seemed quite so abrupt.
One final thing to say about the book was how much I loved revisiting some of the settings and characters from the previous books in the series, this time through the eyes of Jacob. I smiled as he describes the characters of Cooper and Ken, and the way that the sleepy town of St Nacho’s grabbed hold of his heart. Like the other books in the series, the evocative use of smell is important within the descriptions, as is the wide range of characters, some very minor, others more important, but all well drawn enough to come alive in my mind as I read about them. There’s lots of other great things, little minor touches, such as bright flashes of humour, pathos, drama and emotion contained in this book, so much so that there’s not enough space in this review to cover it all.
For those of you who, like me, have fallen in love with this series, Jacob’s Ladder is an absolute must. For those who haven’t read any of the books in this series yet, it is possible to read this book as a stand-a-lone, although you will probably want to read the rest of the series once you read this one! I highly recommend Jacob’s Ladder and I’m greatly looking forward to the next book in the series, as the two men who I’m assuming are going to be the heroes, already intrigue me.