Title: Covet Thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs #4)
Author: L.A. Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/48K words
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: A tough topic that was handled very well and I really liked the way Seth and Darren resolved a major issue that continues to tear apart families today.
Opposites attract, but heaven help these two.
Tattoo artist Seth Wheeler thinks he’s struck gold when Darren Romero rents the apartment across the hall. The new guy is gorgeous, witty, and single, plus he’s just the right blend of bold and flirtatious. Perfect.
Except then Darren reveals that he moved to Tucker Springs to take a job as the youth pastor at the New Light Church. Seth is not only an atheist, but was thrown out by his ultra-religious family when he came out. He tends to avoid believers, not out of judgment but out of self-preservation.
But Darren doesn’t give up easily, and he steadily chips away at Seth’s defenses. Darren is everything Seth wants in a man . . . except for that one massive detail he just can’t overlook. Is Darren’s religion the real problem, or is it just a convenient smoke screen to keep him from facing deeper fears? It’s either see the light, or risk pushing Darren away forever.
As someone who gave up on religion a long time ago for many reasons I wanted to see how L.A. Witt would handle this very controversial topic in a romance, something that has divided families for generations and started major wars. I think she did a more than credible job.
Seth, who I was first introduced to in Where Nerves End, and Darren met when Darren was looking over the neighbourhood just before moving in next door. There was an instant attraction between them – pure lust – an itch they were quite happy to scratch. I had no problem with them jumping each other’s bones immediately as they were both young, gay and single, but before anything got going between them it stalled when Seth found out what Darren did for a living. He definitely did not want to pursue a one night stand with Darren because of his religious beliefs, however as they were hot for each other he was willing to overlook Darren’s profession just this once. 🙂 The next morning, the typical morning after, was an uncomfortable eye opener in more ways than one for Seth as he couldn’t face Darren who was just as uncomfortable, and he had a lot of internal dialogue going about why this should not happen again. All of his past hurt came to the fore and embodied themselves in Darren, although he was as far from Seth’s parents and their ideology as anyone could get. Regardless, no way could Seth continue to have sex with a pastor who, in his mind, represented everything that was wrong with christianity and therefore was his enemy and the reason he was estranged permanently from his family who had screwed him over royally.
What I love about this author are her characters and the intense emotional connection between them that is palpable throughout her stories. Covet Thy Neighbor is told from Seth’s first person POV and took me on a journey of his beliefs, his current state of mind and his past. He is incredibly conflicted because he wants Darren with a passion that can’t be abated, even though he keeps fighting it, but ultimately his past and Darren’s religion collide, causing him to break it off because he couldn’t deal with a lover who was both a christian and a pastor.
Darren was a youth pastor who worked with at-risk GBLT teens and kids, most of whom had been thrown out of their homes by parents who could not and would not accept the fact that their children were gay. He had his own hurts and had suffered a major personal and professional setback mainly because he was gay, which ultimately resulted in him leaving his previous position and moving to Tucker Springs. When Seth rejected him it was a double blow. Although we didn’t get as full a picture of Darren’s backstory until almost the end of the book, he was fully three dimensional. I loved his attitude towards religion and the scriptures and that he was able to laugh at life and himself and was aggressive with Seth when he felt it was needed. His humour made the story even more enjoyable and fun and added a light touch on a serious subject.
Covet Thy Neighbor is mostly about beliefs, personal integrity and the ability to see someone for who they are rather than what they are. It’s also about being able to hold fast to your own beliefs and having the strength to not want to change the other person to fit your idea of what/who they should be. From the beginning of their relationship Darren was very tolerant of Seth’s personal beliefs, something that was very difficult for Seth to believe and embrace until it was almost too late. He had been carrying around his resentment for so many years regarding what his parents and their church did to him that it was difficult for him to give up his feelings of being wronged by the entire world and accept that Darren loved him for who he was.
I love the worlds created by L.A. Witt as evidenced by the number of her books that I’ve reviewed which range from politics to cheating to religion and many other serious topics. Her writing always makes her characters seem alive, just like real people, and their problems also seem to be believable if at times the scale is massive as in Where There’s Smoke. In Covet Thy Neighbor Seth had good reason to hate believers as his own family kicked him out and stopped his tuition at college when they found out that not only was he gay, but he was also an atheist. However he wore blinders where Darren was concerned and almost let the best thing in his life go because he couldn’t tell the difference between a good man and his family.
L.A. Witt has explored many controversial topics in her books and I have enjoyed her attempts to put them in perspective. If you’re deeply religious this is probably not the book for you as some of your beliefs may be shown in an uncomfortable light, and especially a youth pastor having sex with someone to whom he is not married might be repellent to you. However, as Darren said in the book, while heterosexual ministers can marry he is not allowed to do so. Some readers may be put off by a minister who is openly gay but the world is definitely changing and this is a reality in many countries, my own (Canada) is an example.
If you’re looking for a book that explores religion with a deft and sensitive touch you might like this story as much as I did but be warned, there are no pat answers to be found here even though the protagonists’ discussions ranged from the Big Bang Theory or evolution which explains scientifically the genesis of our world, to creationism, a christian theory of how the world began.
I loved the ending and I hope you will too. This book is part of the Tucker Springs series but you can read any of the stories as standalones even though many of the characters from previous books make occasional appearances.