Idaho Battlegrounds

IdahoBattlegroundsTitle: Idaho Battlegrounds
Author: Sarah Black
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link:
Genre: Contemporary m/m romance
Length: Novella (108 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Feliz

Summary Review: A cheesemaker who’s also a lawyer and a sheriff who’s also a lieutenant with the National Guard find something with each other that’s worth making concessions to in this soft-spoken romance story.

The Blurb: Sheriff Grady Sullivan returns to Canyon County, Idaho, after his second tour in Afghanistan to find his department in disorder and his authority undermined. He’s determined to restore discipline, but he soon finds himself fighting for his job. The bright spot in his life is kindred soul Edward Clayton. But Edward isn’t just raising dairy cows, and Grady is soon pulled into Edward’s Underground Railroad for illegal kids.

As noble as Edward’s work is, it’s illegal, and Grady is suddenly faced with losing everything he’s worked for and everything that matters to him as he’s forced to choose between Edward and the work that has always defined him.

The Review: Sheriff Grady Sullivan has left his department in good order when he was commandeered with his Army National Guard Unit – which consisted mostly of his own deputies, or so it seems –  to Afghanistan.  Now he’s back, and he finds that the old leeway is prevailing again. What’s more, his temporary replacement, Barry, refuses to surrender the sheriff’s desk and pushes through a claim for a new election, to be held two weeks from now.

Grady is tired. He has fought for his country  – and gladly so – for four years only to return and find himself on a different battleground yet again. He doesn’t feel like carrying through with an election campaign, and he doesn’t care much for politics. What he cares for, though, is upholding the law and fulfilling his oath to protect the safety and security of the people in his county.  On a completely different note, Grady finds himself also tired of living alone. He knows exactly what he wants in a partner, and Edward Clayton, a former lawyer and new dairy farmer, looks like his perfect match. Putting out some feelers for Edward, Grady learns to his delight that the interest is mutual. But things aren’t quite as golden as they seem. For one, Edward is an out and proud San Franciscan while Grady, although not exactly in the closet, tends to be careful about his sexuality. For another thing, Edward tends to see the law as subject to interpretation, at least when it comes to help illegal immigrant children. Both men have to rethink their positions in order to find what they both soon come to place before anything else in their lives: a working, lasting relationship with each other.

I liked the way Grady and Edward complemeted each other. The common ground they started from, their shared love of books, made their relationship more solid. Being no spring chickens, they went about it in a very conscious way, taking their time in getting to know each other despite the attraction which is there from the very beginning.
This is reflected in the description of sex scenes, which are fade to black without exception. Yet there is more than a little eroticism, and the way the two men pay attention to each other is also  marked by lovingly described details, like Grady’s reaction to Edward’s pink clawfooted bathtub, or that Edward is ready to make concessions to Grady’s perceived need for keeping their relationship under the radar.  Grady has this endearing habit of stowing away good memories for savoring them later. He is desperate for making it work with Edward and yet denies himself to hope for a future together, going about it the pessimistic way. We don’t get Edward’s point of view, but from his actions it becomes clear he’s pretty much the opposite. He’s always encouraging without getting pushy, making clear to Grady early on he’s interested, but giving Grady time to make up his mind.  Both were absolutely believable and grew on me very fast

The characterizations in this book are excellent down to the secondary cast. Barry, Grady’s adversary, would have been easy to mess up into a mean homophobic redneck. Instead, he is well – rounded, an ambitious man full of his own importance, levelheaded enough to make a serious opponent, but smug enough that he fails to realize when he goes over the top. Grady’s deputies and fellow Army National Guard soldiers were real men with real problems, and the author had me almost in tears over Valentina, one of Edward’s illegal immigrants, who was as deluded, egoistic and vain as only a teenager can be.

This was a very well – written story about two men who, after deciding  that they want to be together, work together to make it work. It had angst, but not too much,  some funny scenes which had me laughing out loud, and some fast-paced action. I greatly enjoyed it and was reluctant to leave Grady and Edward behind.

P.S. I think the cover art on this one is worth extra mentioning, since this is one of the rare books where the cover art actually reflects the main characters perfectly. And isn’t it simply delicious?


Aside from owls, I love all kinds of birds, particularly the odd ones. Also dogs, Queen (the band), motorbikes and books.


  • I really loved this one. Mature characters, who do not do idiotic breakups when they could be avoided, lovely lovely romance and CHEESE AND BOOKS. I melted when I saw that they loved books and perfect cover, yes. Great review, thank you 🙂

  • I picked this book up the other day, even though Sarah Black is a new to me author. I’ll have to move it up my TBR mountain after reading this. Thanks Feliz

  • I just finished this today and really enjoyed it. I thought the characters were really well done and the plot moved along pretty nicely. I loved both Grady and Edward. In fact, my only complaint is that I’m craving good cheese.

  • Great timing with the review as I have only just discovered Sarah Black, and will definitely get this one .

    I read Tootsies a few days ago, chosen on a whim as I was freezing cold and wearing many socks.I found Tootsies delightful, unusual and charming, but I know other readers who didnt get it!

  • I don’t think I’ve read anything by Sarah Black. It seems like it’s time to start and this might be just the book. 🙂

  • One day, when I overcome my English-related shyness, I’ll write ode to Sarah Black’s writing. From the little I know about her (mainly from her blog), our life experiences are quite different, but her writing speaks to me in a way rarely achieved by other m/m writers. Sometimes I thing that if Sarah Black publishes a TV manual – I would read it.

    I loved how she kept angst to minimum even when the characters (Grady in particular) experienced life-changing events. Still, the parts of the story were very touching. You are right, the scene with Valentina in the hospital was heartbreaking. I also love how she always throws something new at us, like pottery in Anagama Fires – here it was cheese making. Lovely, just lovely.

    • LadyM,
      write an ode to Sarah Black? Didn’t you just now? 😉
      Not many authors can work in “useless” knowledge without showing off (oh look, I DID research) and in a way which isn’t boring. Sarah Black can.


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