Title: Earth and Sun, Cedar and Sage (Well Traveled Stories #2)
Authors: Margaret Mills, Tedy Ward
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Earth and Sun, Cedar and Sage
Genre: Western, Historical
Length: Novella (77 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This Christmas – themed sequel to “Well Traveled” had one of the most tender love scenes I’ve ever read and managed to fit an impressive amount of character growth into 77 short pages.
Well Traveled Stories
The Blurb: Gideon Makepeace grew up in Bill Tourney’s Traveling Wild West Show, so he knows Indians better than a lot of folks of his day. He and his half-breed lover, Jedediah Buffalo Bird, are traveling east to New Orleans where Gideon hopes they’ll find a home together, safe among the crowds of the big city. But it’s winter in the desert and a storm is blowing in, so when they run across Kingman, Arizona, just before Christmas, they decide to take their chances and hunker down for the holiday.
The Review: Gideon and Jed are on their way from the Pacific coast to New Orleans where Gideon’s folks, who are traveling with a Wild West show, have set up winter camp. As they pass through Kingman, Arizona, a few days before Christmas, winter forces them to seek shelter. The town isn’t too welcoming to an Indian like Jed, though.
While Jed takes the townspeople’s rejection calmly, accepting it as a given, Gideon has a hard time putting up with it. As a traveler, he’s experienced his share of disaffirmation, but he’s a white man, after all. Now, Gideon is expected to take responsibility for Jed’s behavior, as if Jed was his ward, even though Gideon has always thought Jed the better man. He can’t really understand how Jed can cope with that kind of constant humiliation, even though he realizes that Jed can’t very well fight back since, as an Indian, he’s most likely to end up in jail or worse at the slightest faux pas.
That night, bedded down in a hayloft, Gideon feels safe enough to ask Jed for sex, but Jed, fearful of being discovered, denies him. But Gideon is too needy to listen; he only stops when Jed almost bodily rejects him.
Gideon knows he has overstepped, but he can’t quite understand what has made Jed so mad at him. Jed tells him in the end, after they have set up camp in an abandoned settlement away from Kingman, revealing a piece of his past which explains many of his fears. Which also makes Gideon see just how immensely wrong he has done by the man he loves. It is through this realization that Gideon takes another step towards growing up, as a man and as a lover. But sharing his past nightmare with Gideon also does something for Jed. Seeing how Gideon reacts and grows makes Jed grow too, makes him able to build another layer of trust in his young lover. Their deepened mutual understanding finds its completion and consummation in their very special, meaningful way of honoring Christmas, the celebration of love.
Although we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, I wouldn’t have taken up this one either, only based on the front picture and the blurb. There’s another saying, you eat with your eyes first, and this is obviously true in m/m fiction, too. There’s a lot to be said to the power of covers… Then again, better an unassuming cover that hides a precious little gem of a story like this one does, than a “holy hell HAWT” cover when the story can’t live up to it.
This book takes up a few days after Well Traveled ends. (It was published as early as December 2009 as a part of the DSP “Mistletoe Madness” series). Thus, it has a bit of background info on Gideon and Jed that isn’t necessary for those who have read Well Traveled, but just enough so this book could be read as a standalone. I wouldn’t really recommend doing so though, since by reading this first you’d miss out on a lot of what was and is going on between Jed and Gideon, and what makes the few short days pictured in here so important for them.
This book didn’t quite live up to the epic qualities of Well Traveled, of course, but it still was a remarkable read. In here, I found the concept of showing, not telling exercised to perfection. Because of the shortness of the format, the characters coldn’t be that fully worked out, but the authors still did a great job in making them three – dimensional and real. Only one example: While Gideon says “I love you” several times, Jed doesn’t, not once. But in his words and actions he conveys the sentiment so clearly I didn’t need him to, and I absolutely bought that Gideon didn’t need Jed to speak the words either. The secondary cast wasn’t as colorful, but given that the gist of this story was the progress Jed and Gideon made as lovers, this didn’t bother me overly much.
Sometimes I find epilogues superfluous, at times even annoying. This one provided an important step forward in Jed’s and Gideon’s relationship, which was still so fragile and new after the end of Well Traveled but now seems firmed, so much so as to be able to withstand a whole lot of obstacles after this. I’d really love to see more of those guys and can only recommend this book warmly, not just for Christmas time.