Title: Inherit the Sky (Lang Downs #1)
Author: Ariel Tachna
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (210 pages)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: Coming from different backgrounds and having to work together, our heroes develop mutual liking and respect for each other, eventually falling in love and living HEA. There is some external tension, but for the most part what they have to overcome are their own doubts, fears, and past experiences (or lack thereof), making them believable and relatable.
Blurb: Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle’s sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won’t hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge.
Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine’s biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine’s American accent than they are moved by his plight… until they find out he’s gay and their amusement turns to scorn. It will take all of Caine’s determination—and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor—to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.
Lang Downs Series
Review: Caine didn’t really have anything holding him back home, so he grabbed opportunity with both hands to make a new life for himself in Australia. His intrepid spirit, humility about his ignorance, and his eagerness to learn made him a character I could admire and relate to. I also loved that Caine had a stutter, as too often in romances (m/m or otherwise) the characters are unbelievably perfect. So it’s always a pleasure to find a romance that has characters who struggle with some of the real-world issues we all deal with. One of my mother’s good friends when I was a child had a severe stutter.
Because I knew my mother’s friend, Carl, and because he was a Very Important Person at his company, I never really understood why Caine felt so limited in his career possibilities. People knew that what Carl had to say was worth hearing, so they’d wait as long as it took for him to get it out. Thus Caine’s inability to advance beyond the mail room, especially with a Business degree, made no sense to me at all. I was also a little frustrated with the dissemination of information, as I was questioning Caine’s degree and training long before we were finally told it was Business.
It never occurred to me I’d have a problem having a career, so I never learned a trade I could do instead. It didn’t occur to me either, Sweetie. And especially now that I finally know you got that degree in Business, I really don’t understand why you couldn’t have a career. Caine’s Business degree eventually turned out to be useful when it came to running the Station, and we got to see him blossom into a savvy Station owner who made sure he didn’t ask of others anything he was unwilling to do himself. I appreciated seeing the character growth, I just would have appreciated it even more if I understood why it had been stunted in the first place.
Once Caine got to Australia, two of his first friends were the cook and a 13-year-old boy, both wonderful secondary characters. Macklin started out understandably leery of this ignorant new boss, but he was won over fairly quickly and the two became friends. I appreciated the development of their relationship over a prolonged and believable time-frame. I also enjoyed how much they actually gasp talked to each other. When Caine realized Macklin was gay, he made his interest in a relationship clear. Macklin, in turn, was forthright about his reservations. Because they talked about it, Caine was able to offer a viable solution, and the hanky-panky began.
There was further conflict, as Macklin was apparently unable to give Caine exactly the relationship he wanted:
“I haven’t the slightest idea how to give you what you want because I’ve never done it before, but the fact that I’m trying, the fact that I want to give it to you in the first place, should tell you how different this is from anything in my past. You’re asking me to change overnight, and that’s not an easy thing to do.”
But that conflict was fairly quickly – and very conveniently – resolved through an over-used trope, and they lived Happily Ever After. Maybe I’ve just read too many romances, but I find this particular trope to be too common, too convenient, and too pat. So although I was glad for them to get their HEA, I was a little frustrated by the plot manipulation that got them there.
There were also occasional statements that confused me and pulled me out of the story as I tried to make sense of them. They were trivial, so they didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the story. But they were also a bit frustrating because they were so trivial; it would have been so easy to either cut them entirely or give a one-sentence explanation. Two examples:
He had always prided himself on using public transportation when it was available, but he had two huge suitcases and a hiker’s backpack. Why was using public transportation a matter of pride? I could see using it to do your part for the environment (and maybe that’s what was meant here, and he prided himself on doing so?). Or to reduce traffic congestion; was that the source of his pride? Or a few other possible reasons, but “pride” by itself made no sense to me. Furthermore, I couldn’t come up with a single possible explanation that would have anyone hesitate or feel the least guilty to get a taxi when lugging as much as he was here.
Then there’s another scene in which he got some lunch, and asked for a cup of tea. He knew better than to ask for iced tea. Why? Do they not ice their tea in Australia? I know that in the U.S., if you ask for “iced tea” in a Southern state it will come sweetened unless you explicitly request it unsweetened. In the rest of the States, iced tea comes unsweetened with sugar available to add to taste. It seems like it would have been simple enough to explain why he knew better, because I sure don’t!
Ariel Tachna’s books tend to be hit or miss with me, but hit often enough to always be worth a try when the blurb sounds appealing. This didn’t turn out to be a “hit” in the same league as Seducing C.C. (reviewed here) or Overdrive (reviewed here), both of which I really loved. But it definitely wasn’t a “miss” like Her Two Dads (reviewed here), which frustrated me too much to enjoy. This is a quiet, slow-build sort of story, about a relationship developing between “regular” people with regular issues, doubts, and fears. The characters are likeable and I enjoyed spending time with them. I also really enjoyed the virtual visit to the Australian Outback. Even if most of us don’t inherit or run sheep stations in Australia, I think this is a story most people will find easy to relate to their own lives.