Chase the Stars (Lang Downs #2)

Title: Chase the Stars (Lang Downs #2)
Author: Ariel Tachna
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Western, Australia
Length: Novel (250 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by jeayci

Review Summary: This was a good sequel to Inherit the Sky, almost as much as it was a good story about new characters I really liked.

Blurb: Sequel to Inherit the Sky
Lang Downs: Book Two

Lang Downs Series

Twenty-year-old Chris Simms is barely keeping his head above water. After losing his mother and his home, he struggles to provide for himself and his brother. When homophobes attack him, he thinks his life is over, but then he’s rescued by jackaroos from a nearby sheep station. He’s as stunned to be offered a job there as he is to discover both the station owner and foreman are gay.

For Chris, Lang Downs is a dream—one that only gets better when Chris realizes the jackaroo he’s crushing on, Jesse Harris, is gay and amenable to a fling. Everything goes well until Chris realizes he’s falling for Jesse a lot harder than allowed by their deal.

Jesse is a drifter who moves from station to station, never looking for anything permanent. Convinced Chris is too young and fragile for a real relationship, he sets rules to keep things casual. Watching the station owner and his foreman together makes Jesse wonder if there are benefits to settling down, but when he realizes how Chris feels about him, he panics. He and Chris will have to decide if a try for happiness is worth the risk before the end of the season tears them apart.

Review: I liked both Jesse and Chris, and the slow build-up of their relationship from friends to lovers to romantic partners. I was impressed with Chris’ maturity and understanding when he realized he had stronger feelings for Jesse than were reciprocated. I really loved Chris and loved seeing him really grow into his own on the station. He’d been so determined to pull his own weight, and he did. And in the process he really made a wonderful home for himself and his brother.

However, there were a few things that confused me and pulled me out of the story at times to try to figure out. Early on I got confused about exactly how long Jesse had been on the station before meeting Chris, whether he’d been there for a while or was a new arrival. He was clearly an experienced hand when it came to working on stations in general, but there were a few things that seemed to contradict each other about how long he’d been at this particular station before Chris arrived. That was a minor niggle, especially when I got more engrossed in the story, but it did confuse me a bit at first.

I also never understood why Jesse had such a low opinion of himself as a prospective romantic partner (as opposed to someone to have fun, casual sex with), or why he was so certain a future for himself and Chris was impossible. I’m sure those opinions were related, but I never quite sorted out their source. At one point Jesse realized Chris wanted a real relationship with him, and “The thought clawed at Jesse’s brain, making him crazy with panic. That wasn’t his life, his future. He couldn’t have that. He didn’t want that. He never had.” Okay, got it, but why? Such a big deal was made of it so consistently, I truly couldn’t believe it when I reached the last page. I flipped back and forth for a few moments, sure there must be at least another few pages hiding from me. Because the book couldn’t really end without answering that question! Could it? Sadly, it did.

It was wonderful to revisit Caine and Mac, and even nicer to see their relationship continuing to develop. There were a few moments I felt like maybe there was a little too much focus on them, considering this was Chris and Jesse’s story, but I enjoyed their presence and thought it was pretty well balanced. There was a moment when Caine answered one of my questions from the first book. I’d wondered why he was so sure a career wasn’t an option for him, and in this one he explains that although he had the education he lacked the confidence. Okay, I can totally see that.

I especially loved when Caine’s parents came to visit, and their interaction with Macklin. There was one scene in particular that made me teary. Good tears, but tears all the same. This book is definitely worth reading if you liked the first one and want to see more of how Caine and Macklin’s relationship developed. Although this wasn’t technically about them, they were very strong secondary characters. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the first to be able to enjoy this one, it just adds an extra layer to appreciate if you have.

So although I enjoyed the story very much all the way along, I was left feeling a little disappointed in the ending. But I think that was a result of my desire for an explanation for Jesse’s assumptions, so anyone who simply accepts that that’s the way he is would probably be perfectly happy with the ending. I loved the opportunity to revisit Lang Downs, and would be delighted to go there again if the series continues. Not that it needs to because anything is lacking (aside from that explanation about Jesse), each book has been solidly complete unto itself. It’s just that I enjoy the world and the characters enough to be eager to spend more time there.

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