Author: Erin O’Quinn
Cover artist: Sara York and Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Allure
Amazon buy link: Merry Christmas, Utah
Genre: Gay, Western, Contemporary
Length: 7,000 words
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Guest review by Orion
Review summary: A wonderful mashup of Western and Christmas tales.
Utah is a solitary Native American man who lives on the verge of nowhere, a huddle of tiny trailers in the foothills of Nevada’s highest peak. He is a medicine singer, a Paiute truth-seeker who thinks he’s happy. Mostly. He also knows he’s gay. So true happiness lies just beyond the reach of his Spirit Song.
One day, injured, he is rescued by a stranger who soon begins to teach him the nature of healing and of physical joy. The stranger, who calls himself Kris, is a throwback to the 70s’ hippie culture Utah has only heard about. And he begins to heal Kris in ways the young man has never even dreamed of.
Utah awakens on Christmas Eve to find his mysterious new friend missing. The man has only a thumbnail of a trailer, and no pickup, so his disappearance is alarming. What will happen when Utah sets out to find Kris in the dark, in a snowstorm, while the children of the world wait for Santa?
Erin O’Quinn has turned out a wonderful Western story with Merry Christmas, Utah. How wonderful? Well, I’ve never been a fan of Westerns, whether in the form of movies or books, but I couldn’t put this one down until I finished it. So it’s pretty good.
In just a few, efficient sentences, Ms. O’Quinn establishes the main character, Utah, as well as the setting and tone of the story. The writing has a playful, almost lyrical feel, conveying a world of information and emotion in a minimum of words. A striking example is this paragraph, occurring after Utah has suffered a severely twisted ankle.
He was a Native American, damn it. He was a red deer on the trail, a bighorn on an unsure ledge, a wildcat hunting along a narrow branch. He simply couldn’t be lying here like a cripple, waiting for night to fall.
Kris, the man who comes to Utah’s rescue, is painted with the same economy. Kris nurses Utah back to health. A bond is forged between them and deepens as Kris introduces Utah to man-on-man sex. The sex scenes are erotic without becoming overblown, and the Christmas angle of the story is rendered nicely without too much sweetness. There is, arguably, instalove here. However, given what we know about Utah’s relationship with his former wife, and the fact that, at 28, he has just shared his first gay sex experience with Kris, I felt the instalove was appropriate to the circumstances.
This story was a true pleasure. I’m actually tempted to try a few more Westerns. Happily recommended.